A new arts space in a historic part of Tampa is thriving.
Simply called The Space
, a restaurant turned performing arts venue in West Tampa, is now in its fifth month of business, which is booming. The Space is an innovative concept where round tables and couches replace typical theater seating, and performers sit in the audience and perform on raised platforms around the establishment as opposed to a traditional stage.
What is also unique about The Space is its location. While other owners may have looked for locations in downtown, Westshore or Hyde Park, Jared O'Roark and co-owner Erica Sutherlan chose West Tampa
and the community has embraced them.
“So far the community has been so great to us,” says O'Roark. “There are several local gentlemen in the area who help with parking, and reassure people who are not familiar with the area that this is a safe area. When you make that turn on Main Street, some people may perceive the neighborhood as dangerous, but believe me, I live around here and it is not dangerous.”
Currently at The Space, "Elegies for Angels, Punks & Raging Queens,''
is playing through April 24th
. The musical is an innovative production in which each actor plays five to six characters -- each sharing his or her experience with death from AIDS.
So what is it like for performers in this unique theatrical environment?
'It's much more intimate and more challenging in a good way,” says Actor A.R. Williams who plays multiple roles.
“It has made me a stronger artist because on a traditional stage with all the lights you can't even see the audience. Here, you can see and even feel what the audience is going through as they watch the performance. To feel the emotion and that energy just makes me a better performer.”
Tron Montgomery, who plays everyone from a homeless man to a flamboyant gay man to a horrific character who seeks to infect as many as he can with the virus to a war vet, states that bringing The Space to West Tampa is important for the community.
“Where I grew up is basically what you see outside,” Montgomery says. “I love the idea of bringing the arts back to change the community. To bring the arts to this neighborhood gives people a new aspect of life. It changes you, it certainly changed me. I could have easily ended up a completely different person, but theater saved me.”
"Elegies for Angels, Punks & Raging Queens''
will be playing its last show this weekend, April 22-24. For ticket information, visit the theater's website