The day of reckoning has come and it’s all going down in Tampa. Lab Theater Project proudly presents “Cleave,” a new, original play from screenwriter Vicki Peterson. The show is preparing to run for its second weekend, Mar. 31 through Apr. 3, at the Silver Meteor Gallery, located in the middle of historic Ybor City.
“Cleave” tells the story of Rachel, the troubled wife of a self-proclaimed prophet known only as The Founder. Rachel is burdened with a glorious purpose: bearing The Founder’s son, a new prophet to lead the next generation of true believers. The catch is that Rachel’s baby is expected to arrive on the very day that the world is predicted to come to a horrific end. Already fighting to maintain her faith in the face of such dark times, Rachel’s world is turned upside down when she meets Berta, a young girl struggling with her own beliefs while searching for her proper place in the world. Berta’s unexpected arrival causes Rachel to question all of The Founder’s teachings and everything she believes in.
The story is gripping, and intense portrayal of the characters from the talented cast induces goosebumps. The cast includes professional Bay area actors Caitlin Eason (Rachel) and Michael C. McGreevy (The Founder) and, making her professional debut as Berta, the University’s own Kayla Bryant.
“Owen called me and said ‘hey, we have a part, and I think you’d be perfect for it’,” Bryant said. “He sent me the script, I read for the part, and got it right away!”
This is her first professional role, but Bryant is no stranger to the stage. She was in last spring’s University production of “Goodnight Desdemona, Good Morning Juliet.” Bryant has only been interested in acting for the past year.
“I discovered acting by accident,” Bryant said. “I didn’t know that I had any knack for it. I had no extracurricular activities, so I decided to go for it.”
After reading the script, the character of Berta was enough to attract Bryant to the story of “Cleave.”
“Berta is totally me,” said Bryant. “Portraying this character isn’t even really acting for me; I naturally just act like her.”
Kayla offered some helpful advice for the aspiring actors and actresses.
“If it’s your first gig, try to play a character that naturally fits you” Bryant said. “Then, when you get more into it and get awarded more professional roles, then try to find your comfort zone. Don’t push yourself too far too soon.”
Don’t be expecting to see Kayla on the big screen in the near future. Her current goal is to become a high school history teacher, but she would still like to continue acting in her spare time.
Owen Robertson, an adjunct professor and leader of the fine arts program, is the founder of Lab Theater Project. Robertson has directed more than 30, and appeared in more than 20, productions in the state of Florida. He started Lab Theater Project in order to help aspiring actors and actresses learn the tools of the trade.
“Lab Theater project is the culmination of several years of being a professional actor,” said Robertson. “I came to realize that the Tampa Bay community lacks a safe place and creative environment for playwrights. It was kind of that impetus that lead to the creation of Lab Theater Project.”
Much like Kayla Bryant, Robertson fell in love with the art of acting accidently.
“I got asked to audition for a show by a friend in astronomy class in college,” Robertson said. “I auditioned just to get her to stop bugging me. But since then, I’ve never looked back.”
There were several aspects of the story that drew Robertson to “Cleave,” but what struck him the most was the aspect of worshipping false idols.
“It was the notion of taking men and making them into idols; following them blindly,” said Robertson. “There’s a lot of that that resonates with our world today.”
Robertson had some helpful advice for aspiring thespians.
“Seek out as much professional exposure as you can,” Robertson said. “You won’t learn everything in a college environment.”
The theater and film industry are tough to break into, and Robertson urges any students planning on entering this field to have a survival job in their back pocket.
“Cleave” will be ending its run in the Tampa area soon. Be sure to catch it at the intimate Silver Meteor Gallery, located at 2213 East 6th Avenue in Ybor City. Tickets are $15 cash at the door. For more information, visit the Lab Theater Project Facebook page.