From the ministry to make-up, Rick Criswell brings a fresh perspective to the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center.
Photo provided by Rick Criswell
A minister in drag? As Artistic Director at
the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center,
Rick Criswell, an ordained minister,
sometimes performs in drag.
With the stage lights highlighting every curve and shadow of his body, adrenaline rushes through his veins like a swift wind gushing in a storm, creating a high that can only be produced on stage. It is opening night for the play “The Fabulous ‘50s” at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center.
Behind the red velvet curtains, chaos resides as the crowd calmly chatters amongst themselves. Actors and actresses rigorously throw on costumes and wigs. Costume designers make sure everything fits perfectly. Make-up artists touch up foundation, while stage managers, directors and assistants weave in between them. The production of the show takes a plethora of talented individuals coming together to work synchronically, all headed by one individual, Rick Criswell.
As the guests are ushered in to their seats, the last minute details are checked – in a corner alone is Rick Criswell, the artistic director of the Jaeb Theater at the TBPAC. Criswell sits calmly concentrating on nothing but his role. Even the slightest look from someone could interrupt his “centering.”
“I am such a perfectionist, I don’t want anybody to look at me,” he says.
Criswell’s credits range from Fox Sports with Cal Ripkin Jr. to Kit Kat Candy Bars to “A Christmas Carol: The Musical.” With a resume like Criswell’s, it is hard to imagine that he has gone from a starving artist living out of a suitcase to an accomplished artistic director.
Criswell, raised in a family of hairstylists, knew from a young age that one day he too would shine in the spotlight with his raw talent.
“I never stopped believing I was going to do this,” he says with the look of passion that cannot be faked.
“All my friends know this about my life. I don’t have a family, friends, plants, animals or fish, anything that would tie me down. I can pack up and go whenever I want.”
Criswell grew up in the 1980s when drugs led people on windy paths, interfering with lifelong goals and dreams, and acting was for people who never quite fit in with the crowd.