Monday, January 17, 2011

Tampa Bay Area Writers AND Readers in Paradise

Serious writers from around the country gather this week at Eckerd College' Writers in Paradise for eight days of parsing poetry, dissecting dialogue, scrutinizing screenplays, and fine-tooth combing fiction. Daytime workshops, led by noted writers in their genre, are so intense Eckerd offers college course credit to their undergraduate and PEL students who complete the conference.

Readers benefit, too. Each evening, following a wine and cheese reception beginning at 7:30, one or two authors read from their works, answer questions, and sign copies of their books. Readings begin at 8 p.m., and books are available for sale.

The readings and reception are held in Miller Auditorium at Eckerd College. Best of all, they are free and open to the public. No tickets or reservations are required, but if you need more information contact Christine Caya at 727-864-7994 or email her at

Who will be reading this year? Check out the authors below:

Saturday, January 15, 2011
Richard Russo

Sunday, January 16, 2011
 Les Standiford and Sterling Watson

Monday, January 17, 2011
Jane Hamilton and Peter Meinke

Tuesday, January 18, 2011
Julianna Baggott and Ann Hood

Wednesday, January 19, 2011
No Readings

Thursday, January 20, 2011
Michael Koryta and John Dufresne
Friday, January 21, 2011
Laura Lippman and Tom Perrotta

Saturday, January 22, 2011
Dennis Lehane

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Happy 100th! Waterfront Parks Centenniel Celebration & Photo Contest

Photos are courtesy of the City of St. Petersburg.

It was 1902, and the term "city" as applied to the City of St. Petersburg wasn't much more -- in the larger scheme of things -- than hyperbole on the part of the residents.

After all, the town, still in its teens , was at the lower end of a peninsula with no egress except by sea. Railroad and steamship service had brought in tourists and far-thinking investors from the North. But the building booms that created most of the buildings we visualize when we think of historic St. Petersburg were still almost two decades away.

Something else was booming, however. A mighty stench was beginning to rise from the waterfront area where the town's garbage mingled with waste from fish processing plants and other dockside businesses and washed up on shore.

People began to worry that the smell would drive tourists away. Other people were concerned that the garbage made the whole area unhealthy. Still other people saw the smell as the price of economic growth that came with having a commercial port.

Voters elected waterfront park supporters to the City Council in 1906, and the Board of Trade (later the Chamber of Commerce) began acquiring waterfront property for the city to create parks as funds became available. After another back-and-forth struggle over the use of the property, the first waterfront park was dedicated in December 1910. Seawalls began to be installed in 1911.

Today, the chain of eleven city-owned parks extends 23 blocks from Albert Whitted Airport in the south to Coffee Pot Bayou in the north. They are the site of major events throughout the year -- and afford residents and tourists an anytime green-break and unimpeded view of the bay.

The Waterfront Park Centennial Celebration has been a year-long birthday party for the parks. Upcoming events include a Photo Contest (deadline is October 1 -- submit your entry on the Web site), October Movies & Music in the Parks (October 7 & October 14), and a Party in the Parks mega-celebration on November 6.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


Mille Fiore by Dale Chihuly at the new Chihuly Collection in St. Petersburg. Photo courtesy of (Downtown St. Pete on Facebook).

Dale Chihuly's gargantuan glass sculptures explode with color -- and the Tampa Bay area is now home to the only permanent installation of Chihuly works in the world (see more photos on The Chihuly collection, part of the Morean Arts Center, opened this past weekend at 400 Beach Drive in downtown St. Petersburg with appropriate pomp and ceremony, but without Dale Chihuly. The artist, recovering from some minor surgery, couldn't attend. Architect Albert Alfonso, who designed the building to frame his friend's room-size glass art, cut the ribbon in Chihuly's place.

Some people want to go beyond just the visual experience of glass. They want to know how the glass was formed, what techniques were used, the chemistry and physics behind it. Some even want to know how it feels to gather a glob of molten sand on the end of a long rod and tease it into a life of form and color all its own.

For such people as these, another facet of the Morean foray into glass opened last week. The Hot Shop, located next to the Glass Studio at the Center's 719 Central Avenue location, celebrated its arrival with glassblowing demonstrations, a street festival, and an open house at the Morean Arts Center. The Hot Shop features bleacher seating in the performance studio. Local glass artists provide running commentary on the glassblowing process as they work their magic.

Creative Loafing sees the Chihuly Collection and the new hotshop as "a foundation for the launch of St. Pete's nascent glass community," noting the number of glass artists making their way to this area.

Want to give glass blowing a try? That's what the Hot Shop is all about -- and the Tampa Bay area is richer for having both the Hot Shop and the Chihuly Collection here.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

All the World a Stage

Eckerd Theater Company actors Gi Sung and Jack Holloway portray all the characters in this story-theater retelling of C. S. Lewis' The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (adapted by le Clanché du Rand). Photo courtesy of ETC.

 Shakespeare meant, perhaps, that every moment of our lives is played for a cosmic audience.

Eckerd Theater Company, on the other hand, reads those words as an invitation to perform wherever -- library meeting rooms, school gyms, auditoriums. While they love having a full stage with lights and sound, give them a few square yards of bare floor and -- poof!

Suddenly, George Washington, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and other historical characters parade through a teenager's rec room when she questions why she should bother casting her Vote! Or a fairy tale village appears with its inhabitants learning about cooperative economics by making Stone Soup & Dragon Dumplings.

Or we glimpse a child's-eye view of Terezin concentration camp where about 15,000 children under the age of 15 were interred -- and only about 100 survived. One of ETC's most requested productions is I Never Saw Another Butterfly, which tells the too-seldom-told story of these young Holocaust victims.

This week, ETC -- resident theater company at Clearwater's Ruth Eckerd Hall -- presents an adaptation of C. S. Lewis' The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe to Tampa Bay area audiences (see schedule below) -- for free! Which makes it a doubly good offer. ETC performs locally only a few times each year. Most of their time is spent touring schools and libraries in other towns and cities along the East Coast.

ETC, like many other non-profit organizations, has struggled with recent funding cuts. Tax-funded public grants have shrunk along with the economy. Private donations haven't always filled the gap. Nevertheless, Ruth Eckerd Hall's governing boards have affirmed their support of ETC, and the troupe is preparing for the 2010-2011 season.

ETC isn't the only professional theater company in the Tampa Bay area. American Stage Theater Company, The Gorilla Theater, Jobsite Theater, Inc., Salerno Theatre Co., Inc., Spanish Lyric Theatre, and Stageworks Theatre offer various types of theater experiences. Additionally, we have a strong community theater base (see pp. 135 for a list), including the St. Petersburg Little Theatre, Florida's oldest, continually operating community theater.

But ETC is the area's only children's theater company, and therein lies the proverbial rub because children's theater, like children's literature in general, sometimes is seen as less than "real" theater. Make no mistake: While sometimes minimalist in setting, ETC distills classic writings from Aesop, Poe, and others into potent productions that do not just introduce children to theater but also recall adults to the essence of theater.

See ETC's The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (recommended for ages 8 and up -- 40 minutes plus Q&A afterward) this Thursday through Saturday at:

Saturday, June 5, 2010

From "A Kick in the Grass" to World Cup?

 No. 32 Takuya Yamada during the May 29th game against the Puerto Rico Islanders. The Rowdies won, 2-1. Photo by Matt May, courtesy of Tampa Bay Rowdies.

Before the Bucs, before the Lightning, and before the Rays, we had the Rowdies. Tampa Bay's first major professional sports team --not counting the many Grapefruit League teams who have made us their winter homes -- won the North American Soccer League title in 1975, the same year they debuted. The original Rowdies played in four different leagues between 1975 and 1993 when they disbanded. Check IGTB p. 178 for more history on the original "Kick in the Grass" Rowdies.

After almost 17 years, professional soccer returned to the Tampa Bay area last month when the new FC Tampa Bay Rowdies beat Baltimore in their first game in the United Soccer Leagues.

And, while we may have lost out on our most recent bid for the Super Bowl, which we have hosted four times now, Tampa Bay is in the running to host a FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) World Cup game or games in 2018 or 2022.

Want to show your support? Go to Visit Tampa Bay or the Go USA Bid Web site for more info. Or click the online petition below.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Da Bucs: Doin' it Right . . .

The Bucs practice at One Buccaneer Place in 2009. (Photo by Anne W. Anderson)

This past summer, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers came home.

Not that they had deserted us ala the Los Angeles Rams (does anyone besides me remember the Rams before they moved to St. Louis?) or any of the other traveling sports teams.  The Bucs have been our football team -- for better or for worse -- since their first game in 1976.

For several summers, however, the Bucs held their summer training camp out of town. Far from the madding crowds, perhaps. But also far from the fans who loved them.

They came home this past summer. Home to One Buc Place with its multiple practice fields rimmed on three sides with up-close shaded bleachers. The Bucs opened those bleachers to their fans -- free -- for most of their summer practices.

It was a smart move.

The day IGTB went, several grandchildren in tow, only a couple of the fields were being used. But the bleachers near those fields were full. A few Bucs cheerleaders got the crowd whoopin' and hollerin'. We watched the players and coaches run through various drills. We spent a lot of time explaining the game to the kids with us.

The facilities were super clean (my daughter-in-law raved about the restroom); the concessions were very modestly priced. And at the end, they passed out free icee-pops to everyone in the crowd.

Talk about building a fan base.

Thursday April 22, the Bucs do it right again. This time they're inviting fans -- free -- to come for a Draft Party (OK, it's sponsored by Miller Lite) from 5-9 p.m. at Raymond James Stadium. Yes, of course, they'll be hawking team merchandise and tickets and whatnot. But they'll also be showing off new HD video walls (!) on which they'll be airing live coverage of the draft. And Bucs players and cheerleaders will be there to meet and greet.

My guess is the place will be crawling with die-hard Bucs fans. But my guess is that at least a few people will be borderline fans or even the merely curious, waiting to be wooed.

Ya gotta start somewhere.

P.S. The Bucs' Web site says they're "actively seeking" local talent to sing the National Anthem or present colors before home games. Could be you they're seeking?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

IGTB at Art-in-the-Park This Saturday

IGTB makes its first public appearance this Saturday, April 24, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the City of Oldsmar's 2nd Annual Art-in-the-Park.

Held at R. E. Olds Park -- yes, named after the same Ransom Eli Olds who developed the Oldsmobile and Reo cars in the late 1890s and early 1900s -- overlooking the beautiful upper end of Tampa Bay, Art-in-the-Park features area artisans and crafters demonstrating and selling their works, plus live entertainment, a children's area, and food concessions.

Special guests this year include Paper Airplane Artist Dean Mackey and Comic Book Illustrator Mark Pennington. Entertainment will include art lectures and demonstrations, poetry, dancing -- with a special appearance from the Indak Pambata Philippine Dancers -- and more. 

Look for Insiders' Guide® to the Greater Tampa Bay Area at the Clearwater Pen Women booth, which will be next to Formed & Fired: Creations in Clay . . . which will be next to the food concession! Sounds good to me . . .

The park is located at 107 Shore Drive W. in Oldsmar. Take SR580 from either Hillsborough or Pinellas County to St. Petersburg Dr. (there is a stop light).  Turn RIGHT (coming from Pinellas) or LEFT (coming from Hillsborough) -- either way you are turning toward Jack Willie's Tiki Bar & Grill. Follow St. Petersburg Dr. to Bayview Blvd. and turn RIGHT onto Shore Drive W. You should see the park. Warning: The marker on the Google map shows the park southeast of Bayview instead of northwest.