After 20 years, Tampa Theatre’s marketing and community relations guru, Tara Schroeder, is leaving Tampa Theatre in a few weeks to move back to her home town of New Orleans to be with her family. While the axiom that “everyone can be replaced” is true, of course, it is equally true that everyone is unique, and some things about certain people just cannot be duplicated. So let’s just say, there’s something about Tara.
I first met Tara years ago when I had become involved with a group of historic theatre operators through an organization called the League of Historic American Theatres. Tara was on the small but intrepid staff of LHAT, and I observed how hard she worked, how passionate she was about historic theatres, and how she had this uncanny ability to quickly make friends with total strangers. When an opportunity to bring her to Tampa Theatre came around, she was ready for a change and we were lucky enough to hire her away. I’m not sure the League has ever truly forgiven me for poaching her, but they still let me come to their meetings.
In her time here Tara has done so much that it’s hard not to name an area where she hasn’t had an influence or made a difference. I often counseled her that her biggest problem was that she didn’t know how to say “no”, which resulted in her taking on more projects than I can count. Looking back, of course, it’s one of the things that also made her so valuable.
Her knack for making friends translated beautifully into building the community’s ties to the Theatre. It’s no coincidence that during her time here the Theatre has become somewhat of a media darling. No matter what all the public relations experts may say in workshops about generating publicity, if the press doesn’t like you personally, you’re not likely to get much press. The press loved Tara.
Rosa Rio, the legendary organist who passed away at age 107 just a few years ago, became best friends with Tara. It wasn’t surprising, given that they were both from New Orleans and both shared a passion for people and Tampa Theatre. Aside from helping Rosa during her silent film performances, Tara spent a great deal of time with her as a friend and spent more than a few wine-fueled and laughter-filled evenings at Rosa’s home. The key to their friendship was that Tara did not treat Rosa like she was a 107; she was just one of her gal pals.
One of Tara’s lasting legacies will be the creation of our award-winning summer film camp. Nine years ago it was Tara who decided that Tampa Theatre should invent a film-making summer camp to teach the creative process of film-making to children. Tara knew that the camp would do more than teach a child how to make a short movie. She knew the process would teach them valuable social and communications skills, too, like collaboration, compromise, and teamwork. She accomplished this feat by forging a perfect partnership with the University of South Florida’s Department of Education, and today the Tampa Theatre Film Camp is the hottest summer camp ticket in Tampa.
We have no shortage of great applicants to fill the position, and I know we will find someone great who will be eager to step in and make their own contributions to the Theatre’s service to the community. It’s healthy for organizations to look forward to new ideas and an infusion of fresh thinking. Still, Tara’s contributions will be long remembered.
So, Tara Schroeder, thank you for making Tampa and Tampa Theatre a better and happier place. We will miss you. And, as we sang way too many times during a certain sing-a-long, “So long, farewell, Auf Weidersehen, goodbye.”