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Opening night in sight for New Tampa Players

The community theater group, which will hold a membership gala Thursday, plans its first production in the fall.

By MELIA BOWIE, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published June 23, 2002

NEW TAMPA -- The venues are set, casting calls are scheduled, and a membership drive is debuting this week -- community theater has arrived in New Tampa.

"It's been a long time coming," said Doug Wall, artistic director for the recently formed New Tampa Players. "People are excited."

The theater company has named six people to its board of directors and "we have a number of members who have joined committees; we're getting numerous calls," Wall said.

The group will launch its first formal event, a membership gala, at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the Bank of Tampa on Amberly Drive.

The evening will include entertainment, door prizes and a silent auction. Dessert, coffee and wine will be provided.

"We are on our way; we hope tons and tons of people will come to check us out," said Wall, who left his board position with Masque of Temple Terrace after 11 years to help lead the New Tampa company's efforts.

Auditions for the troupe's first performance, the musical They're Playing our Song, a Marvin Hamlisch-Neil Simon collaboration, should begin the second week of July, organizers said.

The show is expected to premiere in late September or early October at Tampa Palms and Hunter's Green country clubs.

"We're going to be doing dinner theater," Wall said, adding "the clubs want to take a more active role in the community, so it's going to be open to everyone, not just members."

New Tampa Players president Jennifer Barnekow said a youth theater group is also in the works.

"It will be under adult supervision," she said, "but the kids will do everything" from performing to props.

Children 3 and older will be eligible to participate in the group, organizers said.

"We'll probably do a youth show this holiday season if we can find a space for it," said Barnekow, who has been involved with community theater on and off for the last 15 years.

A permanent home remains a top priority for the new company.

While "we need a couple more board members, what we really need more than anything is space to do shows," Barnekow said.

Until the New Tampa Cultural Center becomes a reality "we'd like to be able to get into some of the schools and churches," she said.

In the meantime, "we are starting some major work and having a great time."

For more information on New Tampa Players, call 386-6NTP.

-- Staff writer Melia Bowie can be reached at 269-5312.

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