Carrollwood Players bring scenes of Broadway to Tampa
CARROLLWOOD - For more than three decades the Carrollwood Players has brought scenes of Broadway, Las Vegas, Paris, London, Hollywood and Miami to audiences in North Tampa. After 32 years and hundreds of casting calls, auditions, rehearsals, costume fittings and scene changes, the theater troupe – it’s just past the midway point of its September-August season -- has more to accomplish. Established in 1981, Carrollwood Players is a not-for-profit group that stages everything from drama to comedy to popular musicals. About 200 registered members, volunteers staffers and 60 actors keep the action flowing at the Players’ 100-seat theater in Plantation Plaza, 4333 Gunn Highway. The Players now is presenting Neil Simon’s “Chapter Two,” which runs until May 4. The next production will be Ken Ludwig’s “Lend Me a Tenor,” playing May 17 to June 8.During a recent evening rehearsal at the theatre, Jim Johnson, the Players’ publicity chairman and a board member, said the group averages nine shows a season and has some new programs in place for 2013-14. He said a partnership with the improvisational group “Nine and Numb” will help with fundraising through use of the theatre, and a monthly “Black Coffee Staged Reading Series” has been implemented to allow for the reading of local playwrights’ shows. Johnson, 41, who does some acting, said the troupe is looking for ways to give audiences and members more theatre experiences. “We’re trying to give Carrollwood more entertainment options as well as raise more proceeds for the theatre,” he said. “We don’t want to just entertain the public; we want to promote creative opportunities for artists.” The Players’ volunteer members range in age from 5 to the late 70s and have a host of backgrounds; President James Cass is a photographer, Treasurer Frank Stinehour is a banker and Johnson is a software consultant. Among the actors are novices with no stage experience and professionals who have been with touring companies and performed on Broadway. Penni Willen has directed the group for 14 years. Nathan Sakovich, a 28-year-old actor who has performed since age 6, recently joined the Players. He said the quality of the talent and staff is remarkable, and the stage sets are phenomenal. Sakovich “George Schneider” in “Chapter Two.” “The quality of the directing staff is well-experienced. They know precisely what they’re doing and I have complete faith in them. The Players are on par with any group in Florida and they really step it up a notch,” said Sakovich, who works as a legal administrator. The Players also do community outreach shows such as one for the Northdale Older Wiser Lively Seniors (OWLS) group, as well as productions for youth, including this summer’s planned production of “Fame Jr.” Cass, who has been with the group for eight years, said as the seasons go by, the talent seems to grow stronger. He wants to ensure people are in the seats to enjoy the shows. “It’s difficult to get the word out we’re here. We’re trying to get people in the seats and things are picking up. We have a lot of good actors and crews behind the scenes; that gives everyone great shows to come and see,” he said. For information, call (813) 265-4000 or see www.carrollwoodplayers.org.