Tampa Bay August arts roundup: Countdown Improv, Tampa Fringe festivals return to Ybor City

A comedy duo from Brooklyn named for an infamous “American Idol” spin-off movie launch an improv festival in Ybor City.

The story of the Countdown Improv Festival sounds off the wall enough to be the basis for an improv routine. But it has worked out just fine so far. The improv extravaganza returns to Tampa and the Hillsborough Community College Ybor Performing Arts Building for its sixth year August 11th-13th, with 67 acts from Tampa Bay, around  Florida, across the U.S. and even parts of Canada.

How did it happen? In a video on the festival website, co-founder Justin Peters, half of the improv duo “From Justin to Kelly,” jokes that they were looking for a place where chickens roam free and cars drive the streets blaring music until the morning. In an interview, festival co-founder Kelly Buttermore, the other half of “From Justin to Kelly,” expands on her comedy partner’s explanation.  

“The original intention, what we thought the festival would be back in 2017, was a pop-up festival that would travel from one year to the next,” Buttermore says. “But we just loved being in Ybor so much that we decided to put down roots and build this here.”
Justin Peters and Kelly Buttermore, comedy partners in the Brooklyn-based improv duo "From Justin to Kelly," decided to launch an improv festival of their own six years ago.
Countdown Improv sets itself apart from other festivals by focusing on small group solo, duo and trio improv acts. 

“When you get groups of one, two or three, there’s nowhere for anybody to hide,” Buttermore says. “You just have to make it work. It lends itself to some innovative and boundary-pushing, fun work because you’re just up there. It’s a little riskier and a little more daring, but it also gives more room for creativity and innovation within the piece.”

A sample of the acts in store includes “Solovela,” a solo improvised telenovela in which one woman, improv comedian Diane Jorge from Plantation, plays all the characters. There’s “I Am the Show,” where the audience picks a movie that will play without sound and improviser Chris George of Chicago makes up the dialogue, sound effects and music. In “Cuzzins,” a duo of real-life cousins, David H. Hepburn and Alex Taylor from Miami,  provide comical group therapy via audience questions and stagings of potential solutions.

With the large lineup, performances will run simultaneously on three stages at the HCC Ybor Performing Arts Building.  

There are also workshops to learn and hone improv skills, including a free workshop on  Saturday, August 13 for beginners.

For more information go to Countdown Improv Festival

Tampa International Fringe Festival

Countdown Improv is not the only fun-loving, irreverent festival hitting Ybor this month. The sixth annual Tampa International Fringe Festival is underway and runs through August 7th at the HCC Ybor Performing Arts Building.

The Tampa event and other like-minded gatherings around the globe are inspired by a group of artists in Scotland who, in 1947, performed on the “fringe” of the city’s curated festival as an act of rebellion against the event. The eclectic lineup has cabaret, burlesque, uncomfortable comedians doing storytelling instead of jokes, a clown/magician from Brazil, theater, opera, kids events and more.

For more information go to Tampa Fringe.

 Carrollwood Cultural Center releases 2022-23 schedule

The Carrollwood Cultural Center has released its 2022-23 theater schedule. Titled “A Season of Classics,” the upcoming season begins with “Miracle on 34th Street: A Live Musical Radio Play,” which runs December 2-11. The holiday-themed show is adapted from the 1947 Lux Radio Broadcast by Lance Arthur Smith and features original songs and arrangements by composer/arranger Jon Lorenz.

The season’s diverse selection of classics continues with Tennessee Williams’ “The Glass Menagerie” (February 17-26, 2023); and the musical “Gypsy” (April 28-May 7, 2023), featuring music by Jule Stone and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. The season wraps up with “Monty Python's Spamalot,” a musical comedy based on the film classic “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.” The outrageous retelling of the legend of King Arthur features book and lyrics by Monthy Python member Eric Idle and music by Idle and British conductor and composer John Du Prez.

For more information on the 2022-23 season and ticket sales go to Carrollwood Center.

 Community Stepping Stones mural at Port Tampa Bay

An environmental-themed mural by students from Tampa’s Sulphur Springs community is on display at Port Tampa Bay Cruise Terminal Six. Students in the Community Stepping Stones program made “One Waterway One Tampa Bay” from recyclable materials collected during beach clean-up events and community clean-ups in Sulphur Springs. The mural was initially created nine years ago, restored this year by students in a Community Stepping Stones art camp and hung on World Oceans Day. 

“Teaching environmental stewardship through the arts and giving our students firsthand interactions with nature is an important part of Community Stepping Stones programming. We are proud to be exhibiting at the Port,” Community Stepping Stones Executive Director Georgia Vahue says in a press statement.

For more information on the organization’s programs for youth in Sulphur Springs go to Community Stepping Stones.

“MULTIPLE: Twins Seven-Seven” at Museum of Fine Arts. St. Petersburg

The opening night for the Museum of Fine Arts St. Petersburg exhibition “MULTIPLE Twins Seven-Seven” by the late Nigerian printmaker, painter and sculptor Prince Twins Seven-Seven is August 13th. The opening night for an exhibition by the late Nigerian artist Prince Twins Seven-Seven is August 13 at the Museum of Fine Arts St. Petersburg.

Drawn largely from the museum’s own collection, the exhibition “blends abstracted images of the physical world and evocations of the spirit world,” according to a description on the MFA website. The exhibition includes early-career prints as well as textile paintings and a drawing from the 1970s that are part of the MFA collection. Prince Twins Seven-Seven’s work mixes traditional Yorùbá art with his own “sense of color, pattern and evocations of spirits and dreams,” the MFA exhibition description says.

For more information go to MFA St. Petersburg Prince Twins Seven-Seven

Rodin Exhibit at Polk Museum of Art

The works of legendary 19th Century sculptor Auguste Rodin are on display at the Polk Museum of Art at Florida Southern College in Lakeland in the exhibit “Rodin: Contemplation and Dreams.” The exhibit features more than 40 of Rodin’s bronze sculptures, making it the largest sculpture installation in the museum’s history. The Rodin exhibition is on display through Sunday, October 30th and admission is free.

For more information go to “Rodin: Contemplation and Dreams.”

Gobioff Foundation announces microgrants

The Gobioff Foundation has announced microgrant awards for four local artists’ upcoming projects. Amanda Sieradzki’s “Chorus Novae” at Plant Park on the University of Tampa campus “will give local choreographers a platform to showcase their dance works outdoors in a non-traditional venue in celebration of National Dance Day,” according to a press release.

Susan Henley Fredricks’ “Fading Florida” at the Firehouse Cultural Center in Ruskin will display portraits of Florida through a series of photopolymer intaglio prints.

Sarah Walston’s “Ghost in the Black Jacket” at All That Dance in Tampa is a modern ballet that will shine a spotlight on a “shifting sense of personal identity and mental health.”

Alicia Campos’ “100 Female-Artists in Art History by 100 Female-Artists from Florida” is putting out a call for female artists from Florida to be part of an art exhibition promoting the work of gifted but often overlooked female artists from around the world.

The Gobioff Foundation’s current grant application cycle closes on September 1 for projects that will happen between November 1, 2022 and April 30, 2023.

For more information go to Gobioff Foundation microgrants

“An Artful Home” at Atelier de SoSi

St. Petersburg art studio Atelier de SoSi debuts the new show “An Artful Home” in its gallery space on August 12. The gallery will turn into a residential living space to show how table settings, glassware, furniture, lighting, textiles and other art in the home can be functional and beautiful. 

For more information go to “An Artful Home.”

Read more articles by Christopher Curry.

Chris Curry is a freelance writer living in Clearwater. Chris spent more than 15 years as a newspaper reporter, primarily in Ocala and Gainesville, before moving back home to the Tampa Bay Area. He enjoys our local music scene, great weather, and Florida's wealth of outdoor festivals.