What I Learned About Theatre from the Closing of a Cafe

Kristen Coury is the Founder and Producing Artistic Director of Gulfshore Playhouse. She will be directing Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, and The Butcher during the upcoming 2014-2015 season. 
There is a storefront not too far from the Playhouse.  Sadly, it is one of those “revolving restaurants” which means that every so often new owners come in with a fresh concept and a new sign and before long, it’s closed, and another one takes its place.  It’s been a sandwich shop, a deli, a pizza place, a french cafe, and I’m sure other things I can’t remember.  
As I walked by it today, I thought, “maybe it’s just the location” but quickly talked myself out of that notion when I realized that directly next door is a thriving fish market that is packed even out of season.  
Why is one place doomed to fail and the place right next to it growing like gangbusters?  The fish market is quality.  Great, fresh fish, locally caught, well-prepared, in a place where they know you when you walk in.  The prices are good, the food is delicious, the smiles are friendly.  They are taking what they do and doing it the best that they can.
eiffeltowerWith all due respect, you can’t just open a cafe, hang up a couple of pictures of the Eiffel Tower, but still serve chicken salad wraps and call it a French Cafe and get away with it.  Not in this town, you can’t.  The customers are too well-traveled, too worldy, and have experienced too much to have one pulled over on them like that.  And so you know what happens?  The cafe closes.
And that’s why we continue to strive every single day here at the Playhouse to do what we do even better than we did it yesterday.  We convene, revise, discuss and throw out, and integrate new systems all the time.  We look for how we can do it better, how can we serve more, how can we get more creative, how can we inspire more deeply, how can we invite our audience into the process, how can we provide a world-class theatre experience right here in your backyard?  We ask ourselves  that every day.  And we will continue to do so.  Because one thing we do not do here is underestimate our audience.

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