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Sizable gift shows area's 'real desire' for theater

The New Tampa Players acting troupe gives $20,000 to a fund to help build a cultural center - but a lot more cash is needed.

By MICHAEL VAN SICKLER
Published May 9, 2003

NEW TAMPA - Don't order tickets just yet for opening night at the proposed New Tampa Cultural Center.

But a $20,000 grant this week goes a long way toward building the center, supporters say.

The New Tampa Players, an acting troupe that formed last year, chipped in the twenty grand on Monday from money it had raised during an April performance. Last year, the company of actors gave $8,000 to the center.

Supporters say the gift is seed money toward a fundraising campaign that needs to find at least $7-million.

"We're a gypsy theater company," said Doug Wall, the artistic director for the New Tampa Players. "We take space where we can get it. This gift symbolizes our support for what we know New Tampa needs, and that's a cultural center that can showcase this community's talent."

City Council member Shawn Harrison pitched in another $3,000 from his campaign coffers three weeks ago. Harrison won re-election in March, and state law allows candidates to donate unspent campaign cash. He said the gift from the New Tampa Players is the strongest endorsement yet for the center.

"This movement has reached critical mass," Harrison said. "It's almost inevitable that something will have to be built. This is more than a symbolic gift. It's evidence that there's a real desire in the community for some sort of facility."

What sort of facility is a good question. Organizers envision a 50,000 square-foot theater that would include an auditorium, space for work shops and plenty of parking. But beyond those general guidelines, it's a little fuzzy.

A $28,000 feasibility study, which the Tampa City Council approved, should be done by June, said Graeme Woodbrook, the president of the New Tampa Cultural Center. The study will determine the types of activities the center can support, Woodbrook said. Once organizers have the study, and a location, then it will begin the campaign to raise money.

Woodbrook said the New Tampa Cultural Center board is considering several locations, including a site along County Line Road and a city-owned slice of land behind a Tampa Fire and Rescue station along Bruce B. Downs Boulevard.

Organizers also are talking with the Joyful Servants Lutheran Church on Bruce B. Downs Boulevard about land next to the church. Woodbrook said the church owns about nine acres of land the center could use. Once the facility is built, the church could use part of it for Sunday services, Woodbrook said.

With many unknowns to work out, Woodbrook said the gift from the New Tampa Players was helpful because it showed that the center had support from the New Tampa arts community.

He had but one minor wish about the gift: "I'd like to see more of them," Woodbrook said.

- New Tampa reporter Michael Van Sickler can be reached at 269-5312 or mvansickler@sptimes.com

[Last modified May 8, 2003, 11:31:55]

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