After years without a permanent home, the New Tampa Players could soon have two homes — at the University Mall, where the theatre troupe celebrated signing a lease (above), and at the forthcoming New Tampa Performing Arts Center in the new Hunter’s Lake development.

Although the New Tampa Players (NTP) have big plans for when their permanent home at the New Tampa Performing Arts Center (PAC) opens behind the Village at Hunter’s Lake plaza (off Bruce B. Downs Blvd.), the theatre troupe isn’t missing a beat in the meantime, as it brings the performing arts art to the community in and near New Tampa.

Last month, NTP officially cut the ribbon on Uptown Stage, its black box theatre at the University Mall on E. Fowler Ave. 

Moving from space to space is nothing new for the local community theatre troupe, which is made up of performers from all over the Tampa Bay area. In the nearly 20 years since New Tampa Players were founded in 2002 by Doug Wall, it has never had a permanent home. 

While NTP signed a lease for the Uptown Stage in early 2020 and began performances and activities there earlier this year, the troupe held off on an official ribbon cutting until September 14.

“We used Covid to remake the space,” which used to be a Radio Shack, says Nora Paine, NTP’s producing artistic director.  “We did a soft opening through the summer, just to get our bearings and get used to producing stuff in that space. Then, we scheduled the ribbon cutting for September so more people could attend after summer vacations.”

Paine’s role as producing artistic director is new. After serving as NTP’s volunteer president since 2017, and volunteering for the organization for 13 years overall, NTP named her its first official employee.

Because of NTP’s growth and expanded vision, the organization agreed to a governance change and chose Paine to serve in a role that functions as both the troupe’s CEO and artistic director.

She oversees all of the activities at Uptown Stage and is looking forward to when NTP can move into the PAC, as well.

“We will keep Uptown Stage even when we move,” says Paine. “It’s a good space for small shows.”

She says the PAC will be a big stage with 350 seats, allowing NTP to bring back big musicals that are loved by the community, such as “Annie” and “The Little Mermaid.”

At the Uptown Stage ribbon cutting, Hillsborough County commissioner Ken Hagan said the PAC will be ready to open sometime between Aug. 2022 and Jan. 2023.

“But, if we want to do smaller shows with less name recognition, or do some things that are normally not done, Uptown Stage will be a great spot,” says Paine, “so we intend to keep both going.”

The Uptown Stage space also allows NTP to stage smaller productions, where people who have never been in a show and would like to try can gain a small experience to help them develop their acting “chops.”

Uptown Stage keeps NTP close to the audience they’ve developed while performing at the nearby University Area Community Center the last few years. As the Center’s own programming grew, however, the performances could no longer be supported and NTP had to find a new location.

The first show at Uptown Stage was held in May. For NTP’s summer season, small groups performed “The Amish Project,” “Motherhood Out Loud,” “Bloom” and “Polka Dots.”

The space also is used for Saturday morning arts classes for students at nearby Muller Elementary. These often bring in guests to connect kids to the arts, and range from puppet theatre to acting to painting.

“Uptown Stage allows us to continue to pursue our mission to give as much access to the arts to as many people as possible in Tampa,” says Paine.

More than a half-dozen additional shows remain for NTP’s 2021-22 season. In January, for example, the troupe will present “Black Butterfly, Jaguar Girl, Pinata Woman and Other Superhero Girls Like Me,” in cooperation with Tampa City Ballet, combining the arts of theatre and ballet for the audience. Tampa City Ballet’s Paula Nuñez will choreograph pieces especially for the NTP production.

Coming up next is a production called “The Laramie Project: 10 Years Later,” which is a follow-up to “The Laramie Project,” a show about the 1998 murder of gay University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard. “10 Years Later” is from the same creators, looking at what happened in the decade after that tragedy.

“Lots of people do ‘The Laramie Project,’” explains Paine, “but I haven’t seen ‘10 Years Later’ done anywhere in this area.”

“The Laramie Project: 10 Years Later” opens on Friday, October 15, at Uptown Stage. Tickets are available at /tickets.

In addition, this fall will mark Season 2 of NTP’s “Amazing Arts Challenge,” a reality show modeled after “The Amazing Race” on CBS-TV. It sends teams all over Tampa as a way to bring arts organizations together and share with the community all the “cool arts stuff” in the area. 

Last season featured well-known spots like the Tampa Theater and Straz Center, along with lesser-known murals, dancing companies, and more.

“We were looking for a way to brings arts organizations together during Covid,” Paine explains. “We wanted to be outside and not have people packed closely together, and give people the opportunity to watch from home but not be sitting in front of a computer for hours.”

Last season’s Amazing Arts Challenge can be viewed on the website, as well.

Anyone interested can learn more on the NTP website at or by emailing

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