Toto, We’re Not in Kansas Anymore

I realize I haven’t introduced myself properly. My name is Eryn Bates, and I am the new General Manager with Gulfshore Playhouse. Hello, blog readers! It’s nice to meet you.

I come to the Playhouse from Kansas City, MO where I worked with Kansas City Repertory Theatre for the past 5 seasons. I’m going to say it before you do: “I’m not in Kansas anymore.” As I approach my one month anniversary with the company, I am realizing the similarities and differences between Naples and our colder, more-barbecue-filled friends to the northwest.

Kansas City is filled to the brim with arts and cultural events. Downtown, in the suburbs, in the art district, in schools, churches and parks. Art is everywhere. Not to mention in the theatres, museums and other venues. KC is booming with an artistic renaissance. And you know what I’ve found by living in Naples? Our community is growing and thriving in the same way. The visual and performing arts are vital to us here. I can’t introduce myself to someone without hearing about the latest place to catch a play or see a gallery opening or enjoy a concert.

Naples continues to impress me. Although I can’t get KC barbecue here (which is a loss to all of us, I promise), I can enjoy a live performance while drinking a glass of wine a stone’s throw from the beach. And that’s not nothing, friends. I’m finding the community to be very welcoming and willing to learn new things about the process of art. I’m discovering people who want to engage in conversation about the state of art in our region, state and country. It’s exciting to know that so many residents are interested in deepening their understanding of literature, society and culture through this crazy theatre art.

For instance, we have started a synergy series at the theatre in order to meet demand of the increasingly large number of individuals who want to engage at a higher level with us. Have you heard we are starting a book club for patrons? I really cannot contain my excitement about it! We have so many opportunities coming up to read source material, engage in thoughtful, anonymous commentary and deepen our connections through the texts we are presenting. The thought-provoking texts of our season were created to be heard – to be pondered and mulled over – and it is refreshing to see our patrons choose to invest time to learn more about the work and themselves as they experience art. I remind myself each day how fortunate I am to work in a business that understands the value of introspection in our increasingly plugged in society.

So, Naples, enjoy the opportunities you have to see a play, connect with other theatregoers and learn more about how art is created in your community. I’m glad I’m in Naples, not only because I shoveled 8 feet of snow last winter, but because I’m helping to create art that is deeply appreciated and valued by our patrons. It’s impressive. It’s intimidating. It’s everything I’ve ever wanted to do.

Now, Toto, if someone can point us in the direction of the local barbecue restaurant, we’ll be set.

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