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Tuesday, Sep 02, 2014

Venue Theatre loses longtime business venue


Hollywood heartthrob Mark Consuelos, the epitome of cool on screen, isn’t the type of man who seems to lack confidence.

But it wasn’t always this way for the Spain-born Consuelos, a University of South Florida graduate who attended Bloomingdale High School and is married to former “All My Children” co-star Kelly Ripa.

Just ask Corrine Broskette, longtime executive director of Venue Theatre and Actors Studio.

On the morning of an audition for “SeaQuest 2032,” a futuristic TV series starring Roy Scheider and produced in Orlando in the early 1990s, Broskette helped prepare the little-known Consuelos by videotaping him reading dialogue.

“When we played it back so he could watch it, he thought he was awful and that he would never get the part,” Broskette said. “He was far from awful, but he did need to work on the lines. So that’s what we did all morning.”

Through a unique combination of acting classes and community theater that has produced 20 plays over the years, Broskette and the Venue Theatre have also furthered the careers of other aspiring actors, including Brittany Snow, of Tampa, who starred in the 2012 film “Pitch Perfect.”

Now the future of the 22-year Pinellas Park operation is in doubt. Venue Theatre has left its location at 9125 U.S. 19 N. for financial reasons.

Broskette temporarily will teach acting classes from a conference room she is renting.

Problems began when the cost of rent went up and Broskette faced the prospect of higher ticket prices and tuition.

She tried to make up the difference with fundraisers instead, but support was limited.

She planned a summer show — “A Bench in the Sun” — and hoped it would lure investors.

Then her lead actor dropped out for family medical reasons. And a theater manager she hired quit.

“It’s just been one shoe dropping after another,” Broskette said. “It’s a lot for a theater company run by one person to handle. Some people like to think I am Superwoman. But I’m not.”

She remains optimistic she will find a new center to house her theater shows, noting she twice has lost locations and each time found a new one within a year.

“Venue means place,” Broskette said. “And ironically, that is what Venue Theatre seems to always be seeking.”

Longtime student Rory Lawrence hopes she finds one soon.

Lawrence learned the acting trade through Broskette and continues to study. He runs a successful community theater company of his own — RL Stage, which has produced eight plays since it was founded in 2009.

“Tampa Bay needs Corrine. She is an inspiration,” Lawrence said. “So many people I know owe their careers to her.”

Broskette said hers is the rare community theater with an educational component. Her students hone their craft in classes and showcase it on her stage.

Venue Theatre also provides an outlet for playwrights. Last season, six of its 11 main stage shows were works by local residents.

“Other than one-act play festivals, I don’t know any other theater that does that,” she said. “I continue to believe the area needs something like Venue Theatre.”

Cinda Snow, mother of actress Brittany and a Hollywood talent agent, agrees. She said whenever she discovers young talent in the Tampa Bay area, she recommends Venue Theatre.

“Corrine and her Venue Theatre staff offer aspiring actors of all ages an opportunity to learn and grow in the pursuit of their acting career,” Cinda Snow said. “I am sorry to hear that the theater is closing.”

In the long run, Broskette also worries that the market for actors in Florida may dry up soon. The Legislature this spring failed to renew state incentives for film and TV producers to do business in the state.

“Some actors who don’t want to go to Hollywood were able to find work in Florida,” Broskette said. “But I see them moving to Louisiana, Mississippi or Georgia now. When that happens, my students will be among them.”

And she notes that aspiring actors are just part of the clientele of acting schools. The best actors continue working with coaches throughout their careers.

Broskette isn’t closing the curtain yet on Venue Theatre, she said.

“We have at least one incarnation left in us,” she said.

“As author John Steinbeck once wrote, ‘The theater is the only institution in the world which has been dying for 4,000 years and has never succumbed.’ ”


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