Looking Back at How Far We’ve Come by Kristen Coury


Kristen Coury is the Founder and Producing Artistic Director of Gulfshore Playhouse

As I sit down to write this blog, what enters my mind first and foremost is the enormous growth we’ve enjoyed over the past 5 years.  In 2007 we produced a grand show called “Romeo and Juliet Redefined” in the Cambier Park bandshell. This show included parts of the Shakespearean text, modern dance, opera and ballet.  Unfortunately, due to our tiny budget and the fact that we had NO staff (Board Member Sandy Pastoor will tell you a story about how I had to literally stop rehearsal in order to write a check for someone who needed it immediately) we only ran the show for three days (and the third day it rained.)  That show was nearly the death of me:  it was so costly, so difficult to pull off with no support staff, and with small attendance…I had to ask myself if it was worth continuing on.  Luckily, in the fall of 2007, a little bit of space opened up at the Norris Center and we were able to produce INSIDE (read: no delivery trucks or baseball games or rain in the middle of a performance) and so we continued to pursue our goal.  Still, hardly anyone knew we were out there.  “Where do you produce your shows?” or “Oh, I didn’t even realize there was a building there.”  Both very familiar responses from people who looked at me when I tried to explain who we were and what we were doing: bringing Professional Theatre at Affordable Prices and Unique Educational Opportunities to Southwest Florida.

The following season finally started to take hold.  With “Doubt” and “Tartuffe” in early 2009, and great reviews on both, the word of mouth began to spread.  Ticket sales steadily doubled year after year and I’m delighted to say we haven’t looked back.

And now six years later, I am so grateful to have been embraced by our community.  As we grow out of our adolescence and into our adulthood, becoming a true Cultural Institution, it is amazing to me to see the changes that have occurred.  We now have office space at the Norris Center, our staff now numbers 16 in full and part-time staff, and we are up to six three-week runs a year.  In addition, we have 100 workshops in area schools, after-school and summer classes, as well as offerings for adults.

Why Are the Arts Important?

Good theatre helps us understand the world, ourselves, and each other better. Arts education has been shown to improve test scores and raise self-esteem. How often do you get to be in a room full of people all experiencing the same thing that you are, at the same time? Just this, the opportunity to turn off all electronics and just BE, is something worth supporting. We may not remember all the men who lived in the Elizabethan Era, but we remember that man named Shakespeare. We may not understand the whole New Orleans transit system, but we will remember always that there is a streetcar named Desire thanks to Tennessee Williams’ glorious masterpiece.

The Arts matter. Live Theatre matters. I hope you will stand with me, and acknowledge the importance of arts and culture in our community.  Stand with me so together we can continue to hold a space for the Muses of Creativity, Knowledge, and Inspiration.

Wishing you all a very warm and happy holiday season.

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