The Alley Cat Players leaves Seminole Heights for more spacious, weather-proof theater space in downtown Tampa.
By MARTY CLEAR
Published June 3, 2004
[Photo: Alley Cat Players]
The Alley Cat Players will present Mollie Baileys Traveling Family Circus Featuring Scenes From the Life of Mother Jones, starring Noreen Maier-Hartley as Mollie Bailey, Clare Ward as Mother Jones and Ned Averill-Snell as Gus Bailey.
TAMPA - Ever since it was formed four years ago, the Alley Cat Players has been an adamantly Seminole Heights-based company.
A lot of Tampa's actors and musicians - including Alley Cat's board members - live in Seminole Heights, a few miles north of downtown Tampa. One of the company's missions was to boost the neighborhood's burgeoning artistic scene by performing there, first at Covivant Gallery, then in the courtyard of Viva La Frida! Cafe y Galeria.
But now the company has moved downtown, into spacious new digs in an arts center that was once a nightclub called Club 911.
It was tough to leave the Heights, Alley Cat co-founder Jo Averill-Snell said, but there was a tradeoff the company couldn't resist.
"It was a wonderful opportunity, starting with having a roof over our heads," she said. "We won't have to worry about climate. We won't have to say, "July is too rainy, so we can't schedule anything then, and January is too cold so we can't do anything then either.' "
The Alley Cat Players' new home is an arts center called the NT Village Music Garden, at 911 N Franklin St., two blocks north of Tampa Theatre. It's an enterprise run by the National Trust for the Development of African-American Men.
Alley Cat is just one of the performing arts groups that will call the building home. The company's upcoming production, Mollie Bailey's Traveling Family Circus Featuring Scenes From the Life of Mother Jones, will be the first public event in NT Village Music Garden.
The play was written in 1983 by Megan Terry and JoAnne Metcalf, and as far as Averill-Snell knows it has never been staged in this area.
"As is true with most of our shows, it's not often produced," she said.
Although at its core the play concerns real people and real events, it's not a documentary. It revolves around two women, labor organizer Jones and circus impresario Bailey, who were contemporaries but probably didn't know each other. In the play, as the title implies, circus performers stage a show about Jones.
"It gives this wonderful juxtapositioning," said Averill-Snell, who is directing the show. "It's all spectacle and ostrich feathers one moment and labor riots the next."
Mollie Bailey's Traveling Family Circus Featuring Scenes From the Life of Mother Jones runs Friday through June 27 at the NT Village Music Garden, 911 N Franklin St., Tampa. 8 p.m. Fri.-Sat., 5 p.m. Sun. $10 general admission, $7 for students and seniors. Artist's Night production June 13, $5. On Friday, a Producers' Party will offer an Asian buffet and a show ticket for $30. 813 231-8478 or www.alleycatplayers.org