CWP Blog

Springing Forward at CWP

By Jen Martin
Carrollwood Players has been very busy over the last few months! We’ve streamlined, scrubbed and organized! If you haven’t been here in a while, then you should come by and see how much work we’ve done to improve the appearance of our lobby. There is excitement in the air as we look to the future!
But we aren’t even close to finished yet! We are converting our former storage area to a new “black box” inspired performance space for special monthly events, including improv weekends, staged readings, musical revues and even some alternative theater selections.
But wait – there’s more!
Spring is a time for new beginnings and growth, and Carrollwood Players has its sights set high! What we need more than anything is a nice, new place to live. The Board of Directors and Fundraising Committee have set some very specific goals for our future, and they are exciting! We have two main goals, one short term and one long term.
Our short term goal is to find a nice, new temporary home in the next year or so. We estimate this move will cost at least $50,000. We have a short term goal of raising that $50,000 in the next year, so that we can move to a location that has a better appearance than our current location, and hopefully costs us less (we know it may have to be a bit smaller).
You should know that paying retail rent is highly unusual for a non-profit community theater. I know it seems like we should have plenty of money based on our ticket prices, but to be perfectly honest, our operating costs are almost exactly the amount we bring in each year (if we are lucky). Our rent costs us almost 70% of what we bring in, which is high by any standard. Can you imagine if your mortgage cost you 70% of your paycheck!? You wouldn’t have much left over, and we are trying to turn that tide.
So for the short term, we want to find a nice, new place to live that costs us less while we then focus on our long-term goal: constructing a new building from the ground up in a great North Tampa location. Imagine fly space, wing space for set pieces, a shop room where we can build, better dressing rooms for our actors and a gorgeous, luxurious lobby space where we can serve you with a smile. A classy place where you can be comfortable and relaxed in a beautiful theater setting.lobby

A custom built theater won’t come for free. We’ve gotten quotes and estimate that it will cost $1.5M to build a theater in North Tampa. We do not have $1.5 M dollars! Yet! So, over the next few years we are going to have fundraisers that will directly contribute to the newly created Building Fund of Carrollwood Players Theatre! Yes, this little non-profit, 501(c) 3 community theater has a goal to raise $1.5 MILLION dollars!
Our next fundraiser is a very special one. We are honored to be a part of Give Day Tampa Bay this year.

Give Day Tampa Bay is a 24-hr, online fundraiser to be held on May 5th, 2015 (you’ll also be able to contribute via check, more details will be posted as they are available). We will be competing for monetary prizes from foundations, too, and you could help us win an additional $10,000 of funding on May 5th, just by donating! We will also have exciting contests for helping us spread the word on social media! If you’d like to be sent an email reminder on May 5th, please sign up here:

Every day we are taking steps to make positive changes at Carrollwood Players Theatre. Every day is a new chance to make it better for our community, and we are working hard to make it happen! We are excited and motivated to create the bright future that CWP deserves, and will make a reality! We hope you will join us on this amazing journey!
We are Springing Forward full force and hope you will join us!

A Small Moment in Time


Marc Sanders and Julia on the set of Babes in Toyland

by Marc Sanders

Having participated in local community theatre for close to 25 years, much of the experience has become old hat and routine. Auditions are always nerve racking. Memorizing lines is always a struggle. Fellow actors for one reason or another need to drop out, and thus set us behind. Sometimes “divas” need to be tolerated. Still, the aspects of satisfaction define the true profit I usually earn from the experience.

I think I consistently return to theatre for that summer camp vibe. That sense of belonging where I can veg out on an old sofa in the dressing room or the lobby. The uncontrollable laughter you wish you could get rid of as you learn a new dance routine or strive for a face to face dramatic moment. The Sundays I spend helping to take down flats, just to put up new ones and then paint them all over again.

No matter how old you are or who you are, a theatre to work in is a place where your parents aren’t watching over you so closely, where you might have free reign to goof off with your fellow cast mates (maybe letting the expletives fly and laughing about it), savoring a greasy pizza dinner before getting into character, or simply taking some time to escape the stressful realities we all have to endure.

I love my daughter Julia like nothing else. She lights me up whenever I see her. If you have a person in your life who unconditionally runs to give you a hug as soon as you walk in the door regardless of how her day has been, then you should consider yourself in pretty good shape. When Julia is in your life, you’re not in pretty good shape. You’re in excellent shape.

Still, as wonderful as Julia is, there is stress that goes along with being her dad. My child isn’t sheer perfection. I’m not going to fool myself. She doesn’t always finish her dinner. Getting her to do her homework can be a challenge. Must she turn on the TV at 7 on a Saturday morning and thus disturb my slumber? Most importantly, though, I’m always questioning my own self-worth as a loving parent which feels like a stress beyond comparison. That is why when Julia finally shared with us that she wanted to be part of a show (but with me involved), I worried that my “summer camp vibe” would no longer be apparent. Would my daily stresses invade my theatre world? Forget Julia. How am I going to handle this?

Now that we have worked together on “Babes In Toyland,” I see I had nothing to worry about.

Over the years, on any given show there would be times where I’d come home frustrated with myself, or some of the other typical hang ups that can regularly occur; especially if it is getting closer and closer to performance time. I’d share such tales with my wife, Adrienne, who carries the talent of talking me down and being my greatest listener.

This time around, though, I’d end my recollections with how astonishing Julia is. The facial expressions are there. The sassiness is all over the stage. The projection of her voice is at full blast and the fun that I felt when I first started in theatre is there for me to see all over again; this time as an outsider looking in.

To truly understand if I’m enjoying the rehearsal phase of a show I am in cast in, or directing, is if I come home at 10 o’clock at night following an 8 hour work day and a roughly 3 hour rehearsal period, and despite how physically exhausted I might be, I’m just full of so much pep and energy that I just can’t sleep. I’m jittery. I get high off the experience. The feeling must be hereditary.

Julia might have only two songs, two lines, two dances, one costume change and a dog to keep track of, but you would think she was wild with excitement at the prospect of meeting Anna and Elsa from her favorite movie Frozen the next day. It didn’t matter if she had to be up for school at 6:30 the next morning. Julia just couldn’t sleep. She would be absolutely wired. Julia just had to sing her song one more time before brushing her teeth or she had to tell mommy that she needed a new pair of black stockings for her costume. This is the sign of a child bitten by the acting bug, and savoring every morsel of the rehearsal experience.

Even if it meant that she had to wait another 45 minutes before we got to her part in the rehearsal, nothing phased Julia. I loved watching her meet new friends. I loved knowing that she could turn to the older cast members for help with her makeup. (I am no makeup expert.) I cherished watching her sit on Serena’s or Lisa’s lap each night during director’s notes. This wasn’t just a bond with other people. This was a bond with her show, and a bond with her theatre. This was Julia treasuring something she naturally loved. She grew to love this all by herself, and now her theatre was loving her back for it.

I might be playing a clownish villain in “Babes In Toyland” with the crazy costume, and the song and dance routine, but that’s not what set this show apart from all the others I’d done before.

What made this experience unique was riding over to the theatre together with Julia. Practicing the songs in the car. Going over lines together. Wondering if Ms. Carlyn would be upset at us because we are running late for call time.

Little things I treasure. Telling Julia I’ll be there in one second as I want to make a quick stop at the neighboring comic book store, and then watching her to open the door to the theatre to walk in and meet up with our castmates. I didn’t have to walk her in and stand by her side. She didn’t have boundaries to observe, or strict rules to live by. Familiarity had set in for Jules. Carrollwood Players was no longer my theatre. Carrollwood Players became our theatre.

She’s 7. Who knows how much she’ll remember of this experience when she’s in her teens? Who knows how much she’ll reflect on it when she’s in her twenties? Who knows if she’ll even show the DVD recording of the show to her own children one day? None of that matters to me. What matters to me are the moments we shared together during this small window of time in our lives.

I lost my mother this year, suddenly and unexpectedly. It’s still crushing me on a daily basis. I don’t think I’ll ever get over it. What I earned in return, however, was a daughter who, beyond any influence, learned to love something on her own that just happens to be something I’ve always loved.

For this small window of time, could I be any luckier?

Cumulative Transformation

by Deborah Bostock-Kelley

It had been (covers mouth) years since I’d stepped on a theatre stage and to be perfectly frank, I was terrified. While I was a reporter for AOL Patch for three years, I was able to interview the incredible actors who called the theatre home, and do my best to give a surprisingly little-known gem in Carrollwood well-deserved accolades. But after a while, reviewing the shows felt incomplete; I wanted more.

I’d seen the talent that performs at Carrollwood Players Theatre and though I thought I’d be much better writing the articles to promote their performances, I dusted off an acting resume and proceeded to hyperventilate as I grabbed sides to audition for the 2012 One Acts. 

I figured if I was going to ease my way back into acting and get involved with community theatre, a one-weekend showcase with performances no more than 15 minutes each would be the way to do it.

You see – one of the wonderful side effects of CFS/fibromyalgia is called fibro fog, so I was seriously petrified that I would get on stage and stare blankly at my fellow actor. Words lost and mind numb.

But as I was determined to not let an annoying affliction control my life, I read for a couple of roles.

I was deeply concentrating on stopping my hands from shaking and hoping the casting directors wouldn’t notice the flush spreading down my face, neck and chest. I knew I forgot to enunciate or even talk loud enough for the guy in the sound booth to hear me. I didn’t honestly expect much. I just wanted to be able to say I did it, despite the outcome.

But later that week, I got the call.

And so it began. 

When you have memory issues, the best way to compensate is to record the other actors’ lines on your computer, (I love Audacity for this), leaving space for you to say your own lines and simply play back repeatedly.

It was a life-changing experience going from reading the script in street clothes at the director’s house to being completely off-book, in costume and performing on the stage in front of a live audience.

There is nothing in the world better than audience reaction.  When they laugh at a line you thought was funny, it is euphoria, plain and simple.

And behind-the-scenes is as much fun as on the stage. The camaraderie, the unexpected friendships, the food, the silliness, the bonds that form when you work together side by side, especially when you share a dressing room. I’ve been blessed with an extended family that I would never have discovered had it not been for Carrollwood Players Theatre.

Deb Kelley backstage with a fellow cast member Dennis Johnson at the 2014 One Act Weekend

Deb Kelley backstage with a fellow cast member Dennis Johnson at the 2014 One Act Weekend

My goal is to continue in small supporting roles that don’t have tons of lines, but are still integral to the overall performance.

And I’ve branched out.

Performing here gave me the confidence I needed to produce my own charity variety showcase Life Amplified that raises funds for worthy nonprofits. I’ve tackled human trafficking, bullying, PTSD, and sexual violence at events at Tampa Pitcher Show. In May, my kid’s only showcase Life Amplified KIDZHELPINGKIDZ found its new home at Carrollwood Players Theatre and Life Amplified was recognized as Fox TV’s Hometown Hero. The kids took on cancer, raising funds for Bricks for the Brave (formerly Legos for Leukemia.) In September we performed for Animal Coalition of Tampa and raised funds for their facility destroyed by arson. In January 2015, Life Amplified EMPOWERS will benefit Equusolutions who uses equine therapy to help military women suffering from PTSD or MST (Military Sexual Trauma.) In May 2015, a special after-hours showcase, Life Amplified MASQUERADE will benefit Carrollwood Players Theatre – as many people forget they, too, are a nonprofit.

I don’t think without the experience of this theatre under my belt, I would have even attempted to produce one two-hour showcase, much less be celebrating my third year anniversary.

When staged readings came to the theatre last year, I began submitting my scripts to Black Coffee and several were accepted in 2013 and 2014. I love Black Coffee Staged Readings because there is no line memorization required. You become a character and still have the safety net of reading (and in some cases singing) from a script. You handpick your cast and if anyone has ever seen ANY performance at the theatre, you know that is one heck of a talent pool. And the feedback you get from the audience can completely change the way you look at your words. The talkback after the reading is a gift of give and take. The audience gives, and I took away so much insight my head was left spinning.

Having my work read and performing in Black Coffee gave me the courage needed to submit my short plays to be reviewed for the 2014 One Act Weekend. And in April I got the call that my play, Cradle Robber, about a loving lesbian couple facing not being able to adopt a baby due to homophobia, was selected to be performed. I had my directorial debut with a brilliant cast and was honored to share the playbill with seven other amazing directors and playwrights.

Hearing and seeing my words come to life is the most gratifying and incredible experience I’ve ever felt in theatre. Hearing the audience sniffle because a line that came out of my imagination moved them to tears is something I had never experienced before.

On the last night of One Act Weekend, I was emailed that Cradle Robber was also selected for the inaugural competition at the Tampa Bay Theatre Festival.

And now I am addicted.

I’ve since gotten more deeply involved with Carrollwood Players as a chair of the publicity committee and was voted on to the Board of Directors.

I want other people to know about this magical place and this is best way to be able to do it.

So if you ever wondered about getting involved in theatre, but thought you were too young, too old, too busy, or like me, simply scared you’ll forget every single one of your lines and make a fool out of yourself, this family has your back.

Trust me. You will be glad you did and you’ll never look backward…. Except at the transformation you experienced, the show selfies you posted, and the many new friends you had to add to Facebook.