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St. Pete Bar Hopping Chronicle. NYE 2013

The evening kicked off with me politely declining all of the normal and traditional invitations from my friends—food, frolic and frivolity, doused with plenty of libations to keep the night fully-lubricated and in motion. I had a plan—something that’s been tugging at me to do, and last night was the right time to do it. I robed myself in festive attire and committed to bar hopping down Central Ave, just what was in an easy walking distance from my downtown apartment, stopping short of slithering around on the high ticket Beach Drive locale.

Early in the evening, I stopped for a small bite at Ricky P’s before I embarked on my adventure, where the bartender is always friendly, cheeky and warm. But, the crowd around the bar was not the usual set of eclectic masses whom I have come to expect, haphazardly sitting in the round, trading stories of bad plays and worse lovers. Instead, a group of young men crowded there, flexing their wisdom of “life experiences,” because they, of course, know it all at the ripe age of 26. Funny how we knew so much more then than we will ever know again. The good news is that if you ever need the answer to a daunting life question—you can always resort to hypnosis, because certainly, your 26-year-old self knows the score!

Photo: Nye emerald barSo, I ate, and then I prepared to take on the night. I knew that I would be writing, and I contemplated which tools I was going to bring along: my trusty notebook and pen? My small tablet computer? No—just my phone. I decided to chronicle the occasion via Facebook status updates, just taking note of observations and winding thoughts and how those all tangled up in my brain. Then, off I went to the first stop on my list—The Emerald Bar.

At the Emerald, I knew I’d be visiting the seedier side of St. Pete drinkeries, and I was looking forward to it. This is where professional drunks, the restaurant crowd and all those who just like a good sip of alcohol without frills and pretense settle in. Here people watching was elevated to an art last night, and the tunes melded with the scene in a disturbing but alluring amnesiac scattered recollection. Salt n’ Peppa was resurrected through the Juke Box in its nostalgic glory: “Don’t know how you do the voo doo that you do… Shoop.”

Between what was securely planted in place, followed by what poured in the door was a garden of regulars, drunkards and escapees from the Beach Drive scene—a mixture of weeds in a lot. A single stand of multicolored holiday lights and a fat guy in a cardboard Happy New Year hat sparkled in the dark landscape… “Oh baby you got what I need…” blared in the background.

A brief stumble next door, and I felt like Alice going through the looking glass. Things could not have been more different if these bars were on other ends of the globe. I found myself in a techy, not-quite trendy, trying to be a concept but not committed to it, Photo: Nye saki bombbecause that would be lame, so we’re just here… vibe. I’m at the Sake Bomb. There’s no liquor here to adorn their shelves, so they’ve displayed beer bottles in an underwhelming fashion.

A smaller, younger set of loiterers have congregated here, jamming to 80s new wave, which is oh so Not New. Collectively, they are decidedly much more sober than the hanger-outers next door. And far less entertaining. I intended to blow the joint as soon as possible, and possible occurred right after I finished my beverage. The youngish, horny mid-rent crowd didn’t intrigue me at all, possibly because that sort-of described me. So, I chugged my tasty Stella Cidre and bounced. But, wait! Just before I roam along to the next watering hole down the street, it happened! Seated at a table outside the Sake Bomb is an older man preaching the 12 steps of sobriety to four younger people, fully engaged in the topic over a bucket of beer! Noteworthy people-watching—score!

Oh, Cycle Brewing… you are everything I’ve come to expect from St. Pete’s string of craft beer joints. While I am partial to The Ale and the Witch, I stopped there last night, so tonight, you’re on the map. At Cycle Brewing there was a livelier, more animated, younish crowd. A very cool thing about the atmosphere created by the people here is that each grouping of beer drinkers is fully engaged in energetic conversation. Eves dropping tells tales of traveling plans and experiences, strange loves, troubled relationships and goals for the New Year, whilst somewhat cranky about the one soon to pass.

Photo: Nye cycle brewThe groupings were a cultural construct of couples, friends and small crowds. Like tended to be with like, representing minimal age diversity—lots of 30-somethings with a few older and younger mixed in. One would do well to go quantity surveying here—it wouldn’t be challenging, and it might be a bit dull, but so is the concept of quantity surveying. It was heartwarming to see  familiar face, though–here’s to a brilliant New Year, Frank Wells!

While strolling down Central Ave to my next watering hole I made a startling auditory observation—really bad live music! May I insert a plea to local eateries to please use a little discretion when choosing live entertainment: scaring your customers with off key tunes, featuring weird playlists is not good for anyone. Please stop it and hire wisely. We have very talented musicians in town. Book the best talent early, and don’t hand the mic and the amp over to your special niece.

“Take me away from here. Tell me about someplace else,” she said.

He said, “We’re always someplace else. Wherever you want to be.”

That gorgeous conversation I passed by was soon interrupted by St. Pete’s finest waking up a homeless man on a bench. The guy was a little combative, and his smart-assed mouth nearly got him arrested. I was hoping he wouldn’t end up bringing in the New Year at the 49th Street Hilton. Quickly the guy got ahold of himself and moved along as instructed without incident. Be cool, St. Pete!

Photo: Big crowd, cover charge, low key performance. First show I saw here was Betty Fox and she killed the venue, people dancing, blues rocking, and I became a groupie of sorts. Ethers Betty rocking tonight, I wonder.I wandered off of Central Ave. just for a minute to check out a spot that has great personal meaning to me: Ruby’s Elixir. When I quit my job and went freelance full time, it took me a while to realize how free I really was from the tyranny of nonprofit grant writing. Unless you’ve been there, don’t mock me. It can be life-consuming, and yes, my particular brand of pathology made it much worse than it needed to be. Anyway, that’s not the point… when I finally claimed my freedom and took ownership of it, I was here, drinking gin at Ruby’s. Here I was again at Ruby’s Elixir on NYE to find a big crowd, cover charge and a low key performance. The first show I saw at Ruby’s was Betty Fox and the Dirty Bastards (AKA The Betty Fox Band), and she stormed the tiny venue! I was lured there by the powerful sound of her meticulously tuned voice, rocking blues like nothing I’d ever heard! People dancing spellbound by the music and her presence, and I became a groupie of sorts. Where’s Betty rocking tonight, I wondered? Anyway, I strolled back onto Central.

Crowley’s Downtown seems to have been brought to you by a GAP commercial. Clean-cut, or rather an antiseptic version of a downtown dive (read: The Emerald). The patrons donned a higher-rent, near hipsters appearance tossing in a casual older affluent congestion of bodies, squeezing by one another in the doorway. Outside its doors, the street shots down Central are far more colorful than what’s on the inside of the joints. Early intoxication has made several pedestrians directionally challenged while Suite Six neighbors quickly shuffle their trendy clientele past the roped entry. There’s usually more affect than fun found behind those doors, I’ve learned through experience, so I didn’t bother to enter.

The sidewalk was so thick with people at one point, I decided that I’d either have to wait patiently for a clearing to be on my way our just charge through NYC style. Since I’m not usually fond of touching strangers, I waited for a clearing. I passed by the Oyster Bar, which does indeed have fabulous oysters and featured a cool guy with a guitar playing familiar tunes, and I decided then that I wanted to end my night there. I passed it up and would circle back as I had more bar hopping to do!

Photo: The breakfast bar! Bar hopping #5The breakfast bar! Mastry’s… A walk by Mastery’s in the a.m. will delight you with scenes of early morning drunkenness. If you care to imbibe yourself, you’ll find a quiet, mumbling welcome. By night, breakfast drinkers are forced to mingle with loud younger people who claim the space as their watering hole. Imposters! It belongs to the breakfast drinkers. You are merely visitors who lay out heavy change. As for NYE, I sat at the very crowded bar where a frantic bartender poured then spilled my Diet Coke all over the counter—the good news is that I got a free Diet Coke (which would have cost me the same as a beer), but the bad news is I had to drink it crammed next to a good looking fellow who reeked of rotten salami and stale wine. I drank my soda quickly!

Once I emerge from Mastry’s our hero appears from the streets. Thank goodness!! I have been instructed by a man in an SUV and a bull horn to: “Repent sinners! This is your wake up call! Time to get right with God.” Gladly, sir. Let me just finish my bar hopping first mmmmkay?

Next stop: The Pelican Pub—a momentous occasion for me. “This is not the Pelican Pub I knew from my childhood!” I exclaimed with sadness in my head. Yes, my childhood. Okay, let me explain…

My dad, he drank. A lot. He also was a prolific visual artist—a painter. Murals and commissioned works from designers, mostly. Some of his work can still be seen around town such as the lobby in the Bayfront Tower, but this story isn’t about art. It’s about the Pelican Pub. Back in the day (early 80s), The Pelican Pub defined dive bar, but with a twist. Occasionally, you’d find the Yacht Club set slumming at there, and my dad was no exception. In fact, I think he actually started the trend, bringing his fellow Club members over for a drink or many. Anyway, where dad went, I went. As a child, I vividly recall the smells of stale beer and piss from the back of the pub, wafting in from the alley. It had this wood bar with photos of regulars polyurethaned into the surface. There even was a photo of me sitting on Santa’s lap there… maybe at age eight. Thankfully for my dad, my mom’s sense of humor was twisted enough to find it amusing… Following about 6 months from her initial rage-filled eruption, touting one of many soliloquies she presented to my father on his irresponsibility, their standing in the community, what it means to raise a child, and whatnot. I think she had the script carefully blocked and memorized, fully prepared for an impromptu performance anywhere any time. No matter, I always had fun there, knew the bartenders and owners through Dad, along with several of the regulars such as “Tom the sail maker.”

And now… I found that it wasn’t the same place at all. The Pelican Pub has not even a fraction of the character that it had. It’s been cleaned, and it appears so have its guests. It’s good for a walk-through, a drink and to jolt some old memories, like the time I was hungry, so dad took me across the street for a Slim Jim at a convenience store, because it was protein and perhaps healthier than bar pretzels. Oh don’t worry… he wasn’t malnourishing me. Later that night we had dinner at the Yacht Club. We had to eat there often because he never had any money. True story. Oh, the irony of my childhood…

Then it was time to start heading back to the Oyster Bar for me to bring in the New Year. I wanted a plate of oysters and hoped to meet a few cool folks and engage in a bit of lively conversation, which I almost always do sitting at the bar there. I guess if there was a bar that attracts people I most gravitate towards—it’s the Oyster Bar. Casual but headed towards the upper-scale without the pretense and social-climbing urchins too often clamoring around the Beach Drive spots. At the Oyster Bar, I usually find intelligent, engaging, delightful company there along with tasty food and good drinks.

What I experienced there was more perfect than I had hoped for. I planted myself on the only stool left vacant at the bar, and I was seated between two friendly chaps. On the left side was John, and on the right, well, we’ll just call him smiley, because he had this cool beaming smile. Smiley had a date with him, who also was a friendly lass, but they had other plans to bring in the New Year, so they were just finishing up their drink and soon left for their final event. John and I talked a while. He told me about his kids, his condo, where he’s lived, how he should be dead after being run over by a tractor… look you can’t make this stuff up. We talked about art, the changing St. Pete, culture and dreams. Eventually we were invited to dance with a small group—played with balloons and such, then started chatting with a whole other small crowd nearby that were Coast Guard families and a really fun couple on the other side of me. Eventually I ended up bathed in spilled Champaign… twice! While talking about art, goals and dreams. We toasted to the New Year, made lots of noise and smiled, kissed and laughed together as we welcomed in 2014.

That’s my city, and I love her. Thank you, St. Petersburg. Here’s to a magical, dream-making 2014!

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Run-down on St. Pete Pier topics–prep for tonight’s ‘input meeting’

I have rarely seen a modern issue as divisive in the City ofSt. Pete as the one that exists now regarding the St. Petersburg Pier. As a native to this town, I am torn between wanting to honor tradition and wanting a symbol for the city’s future and progress. After all, my father,Thomas H. Street, was a prolific artist—mostly a muralist—inSt. Petersburg, and one of his best-known murals rests steady on a circular wall, overhead from the first floor, depicting the many faces of the St. Petersburg Pier through its history. Apparently, its concept was a short-sighted history; it seems a panel should have been left blank, allowing room for the future. Yet, when the demolition begins, I suppose it won’t matter much.

History and sentiment aside, I also am as confused as many are about what facts are really facts. With so much contradictory information floating about, I found myself having difficulty keeping everything straight. Today, another “public input” meeting is set (Tuesday, June 12 at6 p.m.at EnochDavisCenter,1111 18th Ave. S.), and in honor of this, I wanted to put together a rundown of content on the Pier issue. Here are some highlights for review:

“The ‘Lens’ contract was approved at the St. Petersburg City Council meeting yesterday by a 7 to 1 vote, but that likely won’t be the last you hear of this. A local group has formed—you may have heard of them – voteonthepier.com. It appears that the group is well on its way to collecting the 16,000 signatures needed on their petition to meet the threshold. While that may sound intimidating, as though City Council should be shaking in their boots that the people are going to rise up in numbers and could potentially vote to undo the years of work, beginning in 1996 followed by 68 specific meetings and public hearings, that lead to where we are today, finally signing a contract for a new Pier. However, City Attorney John Wolfe said that the language used in the petition from votefothepier.org would not require the city to offer this issue up to a public vote no matter how many signatures they collect.”

“Below is my Twitter feed from yesterday’s St. Petersburg City Council meeting about the Pier issue, using “Storify.”

“Before we get to the fact-checking of Foster’s “facts”, we wanted to share some of the details we learned after filling our brains with pier task-force information, and other related data on the pier: The $50 million that has been earmarked was intended to address the Pier approach and the Pier head, but the not the Pier building itself (City Council instructed the pier task force in 2008 to consider all options, including demolishing the pier)”

“Mayor Bill Foster released some more “Pier Facts” today in his sometimes-weekly weekly forecast email, so we thought we would go through these and see if he was any more truthful on these new facts than he was on the “facts” he released last week in his shiny “facts” brochure. If you haven’t read our post from Monday, please take a few minutes to read it, there is a lot of good background information in there. “The Pier Approach… and the Pier Head were built in 1926. According to engineering assessments, these portions of the Pier are continuing to diminish in their ability to bear weight, and will have to be closed within two years.” We haven’t seen anyone anywhere debate you on this Mayor Foster, everyone agrees that the pier approach and head need to be replaced.”

“Today, the City of St. Petersburg awkwardly launched a fancy new website dedicated to the new Lens Pier design, and wouldn’t you know it, a few of Foster’s misleading “pier facts” and some new revisionist history appears(and then was deleted) on the new website too. We say “awkwardly launched” because they didn’t check to see that the new website was working before announcing it, so for the first couple of hours, people that went to the new website only saw these two words “Under Development”, and they even managed to send everyone five copies of the City’s weekly email newsletter today which also announced the website, just another PR stumble for the Mayor we guess. Also, it looks like they removed the link from the city’s website to the original pier competition page, so we’ve included that link for you here so you can go look at the critique and analysis of how their Lens Phase 1 proposal was over budget and inadequate in several ways.”

“We would like to thank the people behind voteonthepier.com for giving us (the Bill Foster Watch) the exclusive on this story. Through their research they have contacted a former reporter from the St. Petersburg Times from back in 2009. Cristina Silva coveredSt.   Petersburgpolitics for the Times back then, and when she was told about Mayor Foster’s current push to demolish the Pier and not hold a referendum, and how that conflicts with this article that she wrote during the 2009 race for Mayor, she had the following to say…”

“St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster has drawn the line in the sand for voteonthepier.com supporters—a group that has collected over 14,000 petitions to have a public vote to help save the St. Petersburg Pier in its full inverted pyramid style. By June 11th, Foster says the group must submit the nearly 16,000 petitions necessary to have the vote included on the November 6th ballot. The June 11 date was determined by working backwards, said Foster. It includes the time needed for the petitions to be processed and for the City Council to consider an ordinance to put the measure on this November’s ballot.”

“For the Mayor to arbitrarily come up with this deadline is ridiculous,” Lambdon said in an interview with Patch. “It’s clear why he wants to do it. To try and promote an ill-conceived and unsupported “Lens” pier.”

“Public input on the fate of the St. Pete Pier seems less likely now that organizers of a petition drive failed to deliver the 16,000 signatures required to have the issue possibly put on November’s ballot. In a letter dated May 24, Mayor Bill Foster set June 11 as the deadline for votethepier.com founder Thomas Lambdon to turn in the petitions to the city clerk. “I am trying to give them the best possible chance of getting this in front of council members and on the ballot,” said Foster.”

“According to Mayor Bill Foster’s calculations, Monday was the beginning of the end for the group trying to force a vote on the Pier, which is set to be replaced. Foster had given voteonthepier.com a June 11 deadline to submit the almost 16,000 petitions needed to get on the Nov. 6 ballot. But Monday came and went without a single petition delivered to City Hall. Wengay Newton, who is the sole council member against the new $50 million Pier and who signed the first petition in 2010, called Foster’s deadline arbitrary.”

Credit for the format of this piece goes to Peter Schorsch of Saint PetersBlog–I borrowed liberally from his style. Full disclosure: I am a freelance writer often published through Saint PetersBlog–some of my articles are included in the listing above.

Nonprofit Org: Rebuilding Together Tampa Bay gets a thumbs up from the City

Link to Full Article here: http://saintpetersblog.com/2012/01/st-petersburg-city-council-approves-community-contribution-tax-credit-to-benefit-rebuilding-together-tampa-bay/

At the St. Petersburg City Council meeting held January 12, 2012, the council voted unanimously to approve the Community Contribution Tax Credit, allowing an additional 50 percent state tax credit for those who make contributions to the Rebuilding Together Tampa Bayorganization.

Rebuilding Together Tampa Bay (RTTB) reports that its purpose is to repair homes of those in need. And that it intends to preserve and revitalize houses and communities, in the Tampa Bay Area, assuring that low-income homeowners live in warmth, safety and independence.

It’s great to see the City of St. Petersburg support great organization such as RTTB. According to RTTB spokesman Mario Farias regarding the city approved Community Contribution Tax Credit, “We are using this to entice more corporations to donate to RTTB in their mission to rehab the homes of low income home owners. Our focus is always to help the elderly, disabled and veterans in making their homes safe, healthier and more energy efficient. RTTB is a great organization. We have some big plans for the Campbell Park area in 2012.”

Thanks Mario, and thanks to RTTB and The St. Petersburg City Council for prioritizing the rebuilding, revitalization and development of our community!

St. Petersburg, Florida–City government sets goals, but actions will speak louder than words

This is my first publication in my new affiliation with SaintPetersBlog: a well-respected political blog in St. Petersburg, Florida. This first post is my introduction to the local political sphere. A getting-to-know-you type post, making use of my small introductions to a few local politicos such as the Mayor of St. Petersburg, Bill Foster; St. Petersburg Police Chief Harmon and a couple of City Council representatives. I also have had significant professional relationships over the years through my workings in the nonprofit sector with other branches of the city government. These relationships I continue to value and hope to continue to foster as mutually beneficial ones through my ongoing work communicating on locla politics.

Anyway, I’ve said all of this to introduce you to my very first political blog post. I have had the privilege of speaking with some of our city’s leadership, of whom I genuinely respect. I do not always agree with them. I may sometimes wish things were different and that they would have dealt with issues differently, but I believe, truly believe that these individuals do bring a level of integrity and accountability to their local community that does demonstrate strength in leadership to our city. And I am grateful for their contributions. What this also means is that I expect much from them. As I expect much from this city of my birth. And I will work with the community to voice our appreciation and concerns in concert and will hold these leaders accountable. For more than praise, high expectations are the greatest compliment, and criticism is critical to this end. Therefore, as I introduce this article to you, the people… the locals, the tourist and those considering to be locals or tourists, I urge you to communicate your thoughts with me. Together we can help these leaders in strengthening our community and increase transparency and accountability.

Here is the link to the post where I list the St. Petersburg City Council’s goals for the year and provide a little insight as to what some of these goals entail through the eyes of our local leadership: http://saintpetersblog.com/2012/01/st-pete-city-council-sets-goals-for-upcoming-year-but-actions-will-speak-louder-than-words/

St. Petersburg City Council met yesterday, January 12, which marked the first City Council meeting of District 1 elected Councilman Charlie Gerdes. I had the opportunity to speak with Councilman Gerdes that evening during the Mayor’s Night Outevent, hosted in the Councilman’s district at the J.W. Cate Center.

Gerdes expressed that he was genuinely optimistic despite many challenges ahead for the city. In addition to the City Council meeting held that morning, Council Members participated in a goal-setting session later in the day where several initiatives were put to the forefront of concerns that the Council intends to address in the year.

These goals include: 1) public safety; 2) job creation and economic development; 3) codes enforcement, emphasizing neighborhood association support; 4) the new Pier and St. Petersburg waterfront district; and 5) homeless initiatives.

. . .

Some ideas and plans are on the table to address some of the goals determined by City Council, but funding some of the ideas still needs to be secured along with consensus and implementation to see them come to fruition. Action always speaks louder than words, and St. Petersburg needs to see much more action to believe the many good words.

Guardians ad Litem Provide a Voice for the Children

 

In my latest Patch.com article, I  began recalling my time working at the Pinellas Juvenile Assessment Center–my first job ever with Operation PAR, Inc. in 1999. I spent a lot of time hearing stories from youth–some funny, many tragic and others wildly disturbing. Over the years, some of these stories never leave you. One of these I highlighted in this article. Children need voices, they need someone to look out after their rights. When parents and caregivers fail them, who is there to look out for these kids?

The answer: often it is a volunteer, a dedicated member of the community assigned by the court–a guardian ad litem.

I recently interviewed Maria Costa, community outreach coordinator for the Guardian ad Litem Program in the 6th Judicial Circuit.

“A guardian ad litem is an independent voice, advocating for the best interest of the children,” Costa said. “The guardian ad litem has no other agenda than to see the child in a safe, stable and permanent home.”

Check out the full article here, and please leave a comment or just say hello on the website. Until next week…

http://largo.patch.com/articles/guardians-ad-litem-provide-a-voice-for-the-children

Not into burials and cremation isn’t “green” enough–get liquified (and have your liquified remains drained in the municipal water supply!)

This one is hard to believe, but not only has the BBC reported on it, the story is featuring a St. Petersburg, Florida iconic funeral home: Anderson McQueen. It’s local folks. Here’s a quote:

 “Body tissue is dissolved and the liquid poured into the municipal water system. Mr Sullivan, a biochemist by training, says tests have proven the effluent is sterile and contains no DNA, and poses no environmental risk.”

Source: BBC News, Science and Environment. Link to full article: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-14114555

My personal perspective on this one: intellectually, I’m quite certain that this method is greener than cremation and perfectly safe for the environment. However, I’m a big fan of horor/sci-fi movies like “Night of the Living Dead,” “Resident Evil” and “Soylent Green.” So, I’m just suggesting that, well, this is how these things get started.

*Limbers up and cracks open a bottle of water*

 

The Cardboard Stories: community theatre brings messages of hard truths about homelessness with inspiration and hope

The Pinellas County Coalition for the Homeless (PCCH) in partnership with Joyeous Productions premiered its first theatrical production, The Cardboard Stories‘ “Blissful Turmoil”, in November of 2010. The brainchild of PCCH Director of Development and Performance Evaluation George Bolden, its mission was to instill hope and inspire action, telling a story of the true faces of homelessness. A bold mission, and I must admit, from the very first show: mission accomplished!

From the Palladium Theatre in downtown St. Petersburg, the setting of the play transported us all right down the street. Down the street and just around the corner to nearby William’s Park. I was struck by the scenery, from the busses to the park benches that had armrails installed down the center to make it difficult for St. Petersburg homeless to stretch out. Then, the people started filling the stage. The homeless, police, a familiar mix.

This scene brought me back to my childhood–memories of attending church at the Cathedral Church of St. Peter, right across from William’s Park. Countless interactions with the homeless who have always seemed to be a part of the park’s landscape as far back as I can remember. I remember feeling uneasy around them, watching the uneasiness of the adults around me, watching them avert their eyes, watching them take effort not to acknowledge these humans, no smiles, no hellos and not a word about them following the experience.

It’s as if they were ghosts. Some supernatural entities that we are not to mention for fear that then, if they were to be acknowledged or to come up in conversation, we would ultimately have to face our individual responsibility to do something. Something helpful. Something kind. Something outside of our familiarities.

Children learn through example, but all along, I knew this behavior was wrong. Averted eyes, speeded gates, tugging on their children’s hands to move them swiftly by. Wait!  These are people. We should smile at them. We should say hello. We should be kind. We should acknowledge humanity.

Then, the characters started to come alive on the stage, telling a profound tale of an all too common scene: a young mother who recently aged out of foster care to find herself homeless with a baby, living on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida. An original stage play written by a local playwrite, Marvia Joye Watkins “Joye”brought a difficult story to her audience in a balanced fashion that wasn’t too uncomfortably hard yet moving and real.  

Blended into the story was original music brought to us by recording artist and The Cardboard Stories Music Director September Penn. Tears welled up in many eyes as the message came home to us all: Faces of Hope… what about us, we know you see us… we were displaced now we’re searching for faces of hope… For the full song, click here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=upmf56NP87w 

Keeping it real was a primary focus of the production from day one. Several key figures responsible for shaping this production spent Labor Day weekend living as homeless persons on the streets and in shelters in St. Petersburg. They came back with an altered, realistic perspective that influenced the production. Some of the cast members were homeless themselves. The Pinellas County Coalition for the Homeless provided well-research statistics of homelessness in Pinellas County, which was integrated within the play (about 65 percent of homeless persons are women and children; less than 40 percent of homeless have issues with addictions). Theatergoers were provided with the facts and some of the realities of homelessness, yet with an overarching message of hope and inspiration.

A closing message: may we remember to at the very least acknowledge humanity. Do not invert your eyes any longer. Just take a moment and have the courage in your heart to look, smile and say, “hello.”

The Cardboard Stories is actually a series of four plays. The curtain has closed on the first, though the production is receiving invitation to take the show on the road and perform encore productions! Meanwhile, the cast and crew are back at work, producing the next in its series, “Sweet Atrocity” to be premiered in the Spring of 2011. I invite you all to stay posted by “liking” The Cardboard Stories on Facebook, and sharing this inspirational story with your family, friends, coworkers and faith-based communities.

For more information on The Cardboard Stories, please visit:

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/The-Cardboard-Stories/106224186099865

Web: http://www.thecardboardstories.com

Media (St. Petersburg Times): http://www.tampabay.com/features/humaninterest/cardboard-stories-play-about-homelessness-opens-eyes-at-palladium/1137969 

Media (Bay News 9): http://www.baynews9.com/article/news/2010/november/174292/Plays-goal:-Raise-awareness-about-homelessnesso

Slideshow (Tampabay.com): http://www.tampabay.com/specials/2010/audio_slide_shows/cardboard_stories/

Photos: http://hornphotographyanddesign.blogspot.com/2010/11/cardboard-stories.html

PSA: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hkWs2yYPSjE&feature=related

Promo Ad: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tV-PrXGxk84&feature=related

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