Shaping the local theater scene: Avery Anderson at American Stage

At 45 years of age, American Stage might be St. Petersburg’s oldest theater company, but it hasn’t lost any of its youthful bite and taste for fun. 

In April, the company partnered with the Florida dog magazine The New Barker to stage their “Pets in the Park” night, with an outdoor production of “Footloose, The Musical.”

“The show was free for dogs but humans had to pay,” says Avery Anderson, American Stage’s director of marketing and communications.

The company has been staging outdoor shows in Demens Landing for thirty years, an activity that’s just a small part of the professional theater company’s community outreach. That outreach includes bringing plays to local schools, hosting summer theater camps, reaching out to the deaf community and putting on staged readings of plays throughout the community.

However, the advent of COVID-19 brought American Stage to a screeching halt, at least temporarily. 

“The end of March 2020 was an interesting time,” Anderson says. “It was opening night of the world premiere of ‘The People Downstairs’ and we had to shut down the live production. It was very sudden. We never took down the sets. And we had to adopt health and safety actions. The live show came back in September 2021. We had to furlough a lot of staff and turn to virtual programming. It was a waiting period. We did ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ on Zoom. But people were never really excited.”

American Stage reopened in September 2021 and kept health and safety regulations requiring either proof of vaccine or a negative COVID test to attend an indoor performance in place until late April of this year.

“We are back to a new normal but we are being just a little COVID conscious,” Anderson says. “State grants helped us move forward in a healthy way.”

Anderson held earlier roles before becoming American Stage’s director of marketing. American Stage Director of Marketing and Communications Avery Anderson.At one time, he was a morning show producer on CBS Channel 10. Before that, he was a theater critic in Denver, Colorado. He was always torn between theater and journalism. 

“I loved theater as a kid but never as a career,” he says.

Now he gets to be close to his love of theater by overseeing American Stage’s marketing efforts. That role includes promoting an upcoming season full of productions that look at the recent twists and turns in the American social scene today.

The 2021-2022 season winds up with the “Dutchman,” an Obie Award-winning play about the political and psychological struggle between African-Americans and White Americans, which is slated to run at the theater from June 29 through July 31.

American Stage then kicks off its 2022-2023 season in September with the musical “Green Day’s American Idiot,“ which runs from September 7 through October 2.

Here is a look ahead at the remainder of the 2022-23 schedule:

- “The Colored  Museum,” George C. Wolfe’s play “redefining our ideas about what it means to be African-American in today’s America,” is scheduled to run from November 2 through November 27, 2022.

-Beth Henley’s “Crimes of the Heart” runs from January 11 through February 5, 2023.

-The musical “Ragtime” will be staged in the park from April 12 through May 14, 2023.

-“Disgraced," a Pulitzer Prize-winning play about a Pakistani-American lawyer who has to function in American society while distancing himself from his cultural roots, will run from May 31 to June 25, 2023.

-"La Gringa," the 1996 Obie Award-winning play about a young woman's search for her identity, wraps the 2022-23 season and runs from July 19 to August 23, 2023.

For more information, call the American Stage box office at (727) 823-7529 or follow this link American Stage.

This is the fourth in a series about local theater directors. To read more follow these links:
Emilia Sargent at Tampa Repertory.
David Jenkins at Jobsite.

Karla Hartley at Stageworks.

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Read more articles by Joanne Milani.

Joanne Milani is a Tampa-based freelance writer and former art and theater critic for The Tampa Tribune. After leaving the Tribune, she served as the executive director of Tampa’s Florida Museum of Photographic Arts and remains a member of the International Art Critics Association (AICA). She graduated from Vassar and worked in New York museums before moving to Tampa.