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Stageworks warms its new home with heartfelt musical review

Tribune correspondent
Published:   |   Updated: March 20, 2013 at 04:58 PM
TAMPA -

Finally, after years of theater-hopping throughout the Tampa Bay area, Stageworks' "homing pigeons" have a permanent place to roost.

Anna Brennen, Stageworks' founder and producing director, and her team have toes and fingers crossed for the grand opening Thursday of the theater company's new home. No pressure or anything, but after 28 rootless years, Brennen has high hopes for 1120 E. Kennedy Blvd. – a potential brick-and-mortar haven for artists, children at risk and the general community.

"I know the outreach kids will love it. They've asked us over and over for a place to meet. I hope, and I keep saying this, we become a sanctuary for artists to congregate, create and produce, and a gathering place for Channel District residents, where they are proud to be associated with an artistic entity that welcomes them by including their groups or gatherings in our space," Brennen said.

Grand Central at Kennedy co-developers Ken Stoltenberg and Frank Bombeeck of Mercury Advisors donated the 8,000-square-foot space. Renovations there have been a four-year labor of love. It's fitting that composer David Friedman's musical review "Listen to My Heart" opens those newly crafted doors.

"Listen to My Heart" is a compilation of Friedman's extensive body of work, which is articulated in themes of spirit and connection. The show features Friedman on piano and five actors who represent the voices in his head. Each voice personifies the internal machinations fueled by life experiences.

"Trust the Wind" is the opening song, and Friedman said the words came to him in a burst of creativity after the death of cabaret singer Nancy LaMott. Friedman produced her albums and was devastated when she died of uterine cancer in 1995.

"The song says you can let go and trust the way the universe is sending you. I want people to get that everyone has those voices in their heads. If everyone listened to those voices, they could understand that challenges in life are part of growth and can be taken joyously," Friedman said.

The cabaret's first part represents the fledgling years of independence, when we think that happiness comes from finding the right love partner, the right friends, the right job, the right shoes. Then the audience sees the dissolution of these structures and material wants segue to the realization that "what you are is inside you already," said Karla Hartley, director of "Listen to My Heart."

The show "is a lovely journey through possibility. It really tells everyone's heart story. What I've always liked about opening the new space with this piece is that the space itself has been on Anna Brennen's heartstring. It's near to the show in a number of different ways," Hartley said.

'LISTEN TO MY HEART'

Theater preview

When: Aug. 11 through Aug. 28; 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday; 2 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 21

Where: Grand Central at Kennedy, 1120 E. Kennedy Blvd., West Building, Ground Floor, Tampa

Tickets: $24.50; (813) 251-8984 or visit www.stageworks

theatre.org

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