The New Tampa Players’ fall production of “Violet” takes a mid-20th Century bus ride through the American southland, stopping at cheap hotels and honky tonks and gaining personal and social awareness along the way.
Based on author Doris Betts’ short story, “The Ugliest Pilgrim,” “Violet” examines themes of religious faith, pursuit of freedom and acceptance of oneself and others for who they are.
Principal performances in NTP’s production of “Violet” include Bri Filippelli in the title role of 26-year old Violet, who is introduced in the play as a teenager, portrayed by Olivia Carr. Violet’s father is portrayed by Matthew Melenas.
The younger Violet suffers a disfiguring facial injury in a wood-chopping accident that sets the play’s narrative in motion and its cast and audience on a trip back to 1964 America — with the music oscillating between blues and bluegrass. G. Frank Meekins is the music director.
Violet starts out from her home in the mountains of North Carolina with Tulsa, OK as her destination, where she’s counting on a renowned TV faith healer (played by Ryan Farnworth) to dissipate the physical scars she’s incurred. On the bus ride she becomes friends with two young soldiers, one black and one white, who provide reasons for the story to delve into the hot topics of that time: civil rights and the Vietnam War. Kyle Billington and Cody Carlson portray the two conscripts, Flick and Monty, respectively.
Community theatres like NTP offer an opportunity to see local productions of award-winning works like “Violet,” which had its 1997 premiere Off-Broadway and won the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Best Musical award. A revised, Broadway production received several Tony Awards nominations in 2014, including Best Revival of a Musical and Best Direction of a Musical.
“Violet” is NTP’s Volunteers Choice show for the 2018-19 season. That annual selection is made by the community theatre’s volunteers, who accumulate the number of votes they get to cast by the number of hours spent volunteering for NTP.
This year’s production is co-directed by Frank Stinehour and Nora Paine, who also is NTP’s president. Paine says that there is plenty to consider and enjoy from attending one of the performances.
“It’s a very beautiful show with a very important message,” Paine says. “It addresses many things that a lot of people face personally, in a very creative manner.”
Performances of “Violet” will be performed at the University Area Community Center (14013 N. 22nd St., just south of Bearss Ave.), which is NTP’s home stage, the weekends of Oct. 19-21 and 26-28.
The curtain rises at 8 p.m. for Friday and Saturday evening performances and 2 p.m. for Saturday and Sunday matinees. NOTE: On Saturday, Oct. 20, the matinee of “Violet” will begin at 2:30 p.m.
For more information, call (813) 644-8285 or visit NewTampaPlayers.org, where you also can purchase tickets for $25. There is a $2 discount for students, seniors and military members, and a $5 per ticket discount for groups of 10 or more.