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Jax Daily Record Thursday, May 6, 201012:00 PM EST

Florida Theatre finishes busiest time of the season with a flurry

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by Joe Wilhelm Jr.

Staff Writer

Bandmates surprise some lucky fans

Attention may have been focused on the opening of the Beaches recently, but the pulse of Downtown nightlife kept thumping right along last week.

That thumping could be felt on the doors and walls of the Florida Theatre most of the week as the Downtown venue offered three musical performances in five days. The Theatre is coming to the end of its busier time of year, normally October to April, according to marketing director Kendall Barsin. The three shows may have had one day between them, but the staff at the Theatre has been on tighter schedules in the past.

“We can have performances or events every day of the week sometimes,” said Barsin. “During Nutcracker season, there are six performances within three days.”

The Theatre hosts afternoon performances for schools as well as evening shows for the adult crowd. It is also home to graduations, awards ceremonies, lectures, business meetings and charity events that support the community’s schools, churches, hospitals and civic groups.

It opened in 1927 and reopened in 1983. It reports drawing about 250,000 customers Downtown a year.

Having the right people in place to produce quality entertainment on tight deadlines makes it easier to make each show a success.

“We are blessed with an awesome stage crew who has it down to a science and is willing to put the time in, having very abnormal hours sometimes,” said Barsin. “Also, we have an amazing building maintenance staff able to have the Theatre ready for each show with a very quick turnaround.”

The crew accomplished a seamless display of Elvis Costello and the Sugarcanes on April 27, Ben Harper and the Relentless 7 on April 29 and Flogging Molly on May 1. Each show drew about 1,300 people to a theater that seats about 1,900.

One fan said she attended because of a friendship struck after a trip for cigarettes went wrong.

After Katelyn Wise handed Danny Farmer, head of security for the Ben Harper and the Relentless 7 show, a small white envelope, she talked about what was in that envelope.

“It was a thank you note to some of the guys in the band,” said Wise.

She said that she went for a drive to buy cigarettes with a girlfriend the Wednesday before the concert. The two had $3 dollars between them. They ran out of gas on University Avenue and had to walk to a gas station at about 2 a.m. with gas can in hand.

She said that when they approached the gas station, a taxi driver parked at the station and asked them what had happened. As they were telling their story, the passengers in the cab got out of the car.

She said they told the girls they were in town to play with Ben Harper and after hearing their problem, they decided to help. They gave Wise money to fill up the gas can, bought cigarettes and gave them a lift in their taxi back to the car. She said they exchanged phone numbers before splitting up and, the following afternoon, discovered a voice message on her phone explaining that she had tickets for the show waiting for her at the box office.

“It was totally unexpected,” said Wise. “They were just awesome.”

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