BROOKSVILE — Martha Velez doesn’t drop famous names haphazardly. When she mentions reggae music icon Bob Marley or guitar hero Eric Clapton, she speaks of them as dear friends.
In fact, she is somewhat surprised when reactions include wide eyes and fanfare excitement. To her, icons in the entertainment business are people first.
But the ease at which she brings their names into the conversation stems from the fact that Velez, a singer, songwriter, actress, playwright, and director, is very much their equal.
She spoke of them and others during a casual conversation in her cozy waterfront home on Hernando Beach. The topic centered around her upcoming production, “Amazing Wild Knights,” set to debut at Stage West Community Theater beginning Nov. 9 and continuing through Nov. 19.
“It is a musical comedy that is hilariously funny,” Velez said. The made-for-stage live production compiles many of Velez’ recordings, along a comedic storyline that Velez promises will have lots of twists and surprises.
Velez’ theater group, ProCOMM Theater Troupe, has performed four original screenplays, written and directed by Velez. “American Heartbeat,” “The Jolly Corks,” “Christmas with the Jolly Corks” and “Amazing Wild Knights” were each nominated for the Tampa Bay Theater Festival. All have been performed at the Straz Center, in Tampa. And each is a rendering of her finest work, in writing, directing and crafting original productions that hint at the enormity of her talent.
According to her website, marthavelezphd.com, Velez has spent a majority of her life perfecting a memorable career as a singer songwriter, actress, screenplay author and director. She released six solo albums backed by Clapton and his former Cream bandmate Jack Bruce, and Christine McVie of Fleetwood Mac. She also released a solo reggae album, “Escape from Babylon,” which was produced by Marley.
In addition, she toured with singer-songwriter Van Morrison and recorded with Lennon and Yoko Ono. She also played the lead role in “Hair” on Broadway in addition to acting in several movies and television series.
But all those high-profile collaborations, along with Velez’ exceedingly talented resume, did nothing to ruin her humble and approachable demeanor. Her enthusiasm is indeed infectious.
“It’s the energy that drives me and my spirit,” she said. “It’s about staying alive in the energy of creation.”
One of her biggest fears, she revealed, is “waking up one day and not having an idea.”
She and her husband retired to Hernando Beach, where her focus is now on ProCOMM Theater Troupe. She founded the production company in 2013.
“I sat down and said, ‘I have this body of work and songs that I’ve written and screen plays that I’ve written and what if I could merge them together?’ ”
And she got to work.
“It’s really about doing something that is exciting and new for actors to create a character from what I’ve written and see it happen for them,” she said. “To see the actors really fulfill what’s written on the page is incredibly exhilarating for me. It’s also fulfilling for the actors themselves.”
Melody Craven, a local actress and singer, plays the part of Marlena in “Amazing Wild Knights.” In fact, Craven has acted in all four ProCOMM productions.
“That is the blessing as an actor,” Craven said, “to have someone like Martha create these great characters.”
Craven has been in the theater for 38 years, but “This is a first for me to work with the playwright, the composer and the lyricist.”
It is a little intimidating, she added. “Martha has earned every bit of her success. She’s a brilliant writer. She’s a brilliant artist, her singing voice, she’s a great actor. The beauty of what she does for us as an artist is she creates this beautiful safe place.”
“We are growing as a troupe,” added Velez. “We are creating something as a troupe that I think can function no matter what the material is. And through this process we have managed to produce four shows that audiences really enjoyed.”
She added: “That’s the final moment, when the audience, without beckoning them, gives you a standing ovation, they sing along to songs they’ve never heard of, and they do the “Wild Knights Salute.” It is engaging to the point that somehow they have been seduced by us to come and play.”
“Amazing Wild Knights” debuts for 10 days at Stage West Community Theater. Tickets can be purchased for $20 at the box office. The production is also scheduled for May 31, June 1 and 2 on the Jaeb Stage at the Straz Center.
“Everyone should see it, everyone should buy their tickets,” said Velez. “You can’t see this kind of show for $20 anywhere else. And you can say ‘I was there, I saw this show debut in Spring Hill.’”
For more information about “Amazing Wild Knights,” call Stage West Community Theater at 352-683-5113.