Local actors put on 2nd festival in downtown Tampa

Drawing on its debut success last year and added star power, the Tampa Bay Theatre Festival is calling on area actors and theatre enthusiasts to attend the three-day event Sept. 4-6, 2015.

Festival events will take place at the Straz downtown, Stageworks Theatre in Grand Central at Kennedy in the Channel District and at Hillsborough Community College (HCC) Ybor Main Stage. The Festival is packed with original plays and workshops, including quite a coup for such a new festival: master acting class with Broadway, TV actor/director and NBC’s Blacklist co-star Harry Lennix.  

“My goal is to empower the local actor,” says Festival Founder Rory Lawrence, a Tampa resident who founded his own theatre companies, RQL Productions and RL Stage, about six years ago and will present his latest comedy, “Hour Confessions,’’ at the opening events of the festival. Lawrence says he started the festival here because he had attended theatre festivals in other parts of the country, and realized, “Man, we don’t have a festival here!” 

He believed local theatre actors needed more support and networking opportunities. “There are so many actors here that don’t know how or where to go,” says Lawrence.

With much nail-biting leading up to last year’s first Tampa Bay Theatre Festival given the event’s meager pre-sales, he was thrilled when, by his most conservative estimate, more than 1,200 people attended, with several events sold out. “Plays were packed, workshops filled.” Lawrence says this year, they have expanded and are hoping to double attendance.

Thanks to the venue sponsors and the event’s premier sponsor, local law firm Maney Gordon, the festival is reasonably priced and accessible – with professionally taught workshops priced at $10, or $45 gets you into all of them throughout the weekend with discounts for other activities (the Lennix master class is charged separately). Several events are free of charge. 

In addition to the workshops and networking, there will be short- and long-form playwriting contests taking place as well as a monologue contest. Five full-length original plays written by local playwrights will be presented over the course of the weekend. Winners will be announced at the concluding awards ceremony, which is already sold out, though Lawrence may open more seats closer to the event. 

Advance tickets to the festival may be purchased through its website

Read more articles by Kendra Langlie.

Kendra Langlie is a feature writer at 83 Degrees Media in the Tampa Bay region of Florida.
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