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Posts Tagged ‘Tara Schroeder’

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 sayImage, 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.”

Bon chance.

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We awoke this morning to the sad news that Hollywood legend Tony Curtis passed away over night.  It’s safe to say that he was one of the great iconic actors of his day, and he enjoyed his work and his celebrity immensely.  We had the pleasure of hosting Tony Curtis here at Tampa Theatre in 1996 when we screened “Some Like it Hot” as part of a series of films from the National Film Registry.  

Tony Curtis on stage at Tampa Theatre (1996), with daughter Alex and twin granddaughters Dido and Elizabeth

Some Like It Hot” still sits atop most polls and surveys as the #1 most enjoyable comedy ever.  Whenever we’ve shown it, we’ve always enjoyed great crowds – most of whom have already seen the film several times.  In that regard its like “Casablanca”  . . .  there always seems to be an audience eager to see it in a great setting.  

My remembrances of my brief day with Tony Curtis always bring a smile to my face.  About a month before his appearance at Tampa Theatre, my phone rang at my desk.  I picked it up and on the other end of the line was Tony Curtis who with great gusto said “Johnny, Johnny, Johnny!!  This is Tony, Tony, Tony!”.  Now, I’ve personally dealt with celebrities from time to time (from Ben Vereen to Vincent Price), but I can tell you I became a babbling idiot on the phone during that first phone call.  I mean, it was Tony Curtis on the other end of the line talking to me like I was an old friend. 

Over the next few weeks leading up to the event I got more phone calls from him, as did staff member Tara Schroeder who was handling all of the press relations for his visit.   Her phone would ring, and she would hear “Tara, Tara, Tara!!  This is Tony, Tony, Tony!”   He became personally involved in making sure his appearance worked for us, and we really looked forward to hosting him in person.

On the day of the event, we wanted Tony Curtis and his family members travelling with him to arrive at the Theatre in style.  We made arrangements for a friend who had a Rolls Royce to pick him up from his downtown hotel and bring him to the red carpet in front of the Theatre.   Tara and I waited with anticipation with a throng of fans in front of the Theatre for his arrival.  We became excited when we saw the Rolls pulling up Franklin Street.  The Rolls got to the front of the Theatre and, aghast, I realized that no one but the driver was inside.  He had a look of shock on his face.   

Thinking the driver either got lost or had lost Tony Curtis, I ran over to him and asked “Where is he?!!!??!”  He replied that Tony had a few more people than expected and he didn’t want to take separate cars, so he called for a cab. 

Tony Curtis arriving at Tampa Theatre in a cab, not a Rolls.

About that time, a beat up station wagon taxi pulled around the corner, screeching tires with smoke billowing out the tail pipe.  The taxi’s back end looked like it needed suspension work because it appeared overloaded and dragging.  The taxi skidded to a stop, the door opened, and Tony and six others came pouring out of the cab.  The crowd roared its approval, and my heart rate returned to something resembling normal. 

Over the course of the evening, he could not have been more gracious.  He mingled with the crowd, signed every autograph asked of him, posed with guests for picture after picture.  Once he stepped on stage to introduce the film and again afterwards for a Q & A, he became every bit of “Tony Curtis, the movie star” and the crowd couldn’t get enough of him.  Off stage with me, Tara and the Tampa Theatre crowd, he was simply “Tony”, a guy who seemed to enjoy making friends everywhere he went. 

We had him for just a day, but it was enough for us to appreciate his spirit and how much joy he found in living his life large.

All of us at Tampa Theatre extend our heartfelt condolences to his family. 

Tony, Tony, Tony:  Bravo, Bravo, Bravo.

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Swing by the Tampa Museum of Art tonight to see art inspired by Rosa Rio – and lots of other cool art at this month’s Art after Dark shingig, “Cause an Effect.”  About 20 local artists were invited to create a piece for the show based on a local cause or charity of their choosing.  TMA selected local artist Daniel Mrgan who chose Tampa Theatre. 

“Since Tampa Theatre has always been one of my favorite places in the world,” said Daniel, “an almost perfect little oasis for quenching my cinematic thirst, my choice of a cause was a no-brainer – I would love to create a piece that will celebrate Tampa Theatre in some way.”

Until recently, the effervescent Rosa accompanied our silent films at the Mighty Wurlitzer Theatre Organ.  I’m going to see her tomorrow and she’s sure to get a kick out of seeing photos of Daniel’s artwork.  By the way, Rosa has been a little under the weather, but recovering.  If you’d like to send her a get well card or email, send to: Tara Schroeder, Tampa Theatre, 711 N. Franklin Street, Tampa, FL 33602 or tara@tampatheatre.org.

Tampa Museum of Art
Art after Dark – Saturday, April 16, 8-11pm
Free for members; $10 non-members

See you tonight!  I’m wearing a goofy t-shirt with a photo of a Tampa Theatre statue photoshopped with running shorts and shoes.  (Yep, there’s a story.)

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Tara SchroederNo info here yet, but starting next week, Tampa Theatre’s programming and marketing director Tara Schroeder will be blogging from the Sundance Film Festival!

In the interim, check http://www.tampatheatre.org for all the fun goings-on at at Tampa Theatre.

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