Kristen Coury is the Founder and Producing Artistic Director of Gulfshore Playhouse. She will be blogging every Saturday throughout the 2014-2015 season.
You must forgive me. Gulfshore Playhouse is experiencing a growth spurt. And while growth spurts sometimes include growing pains, and we’ve had a few of those this summer as well, things are settling down and settling in, and I find myself quite often bouche bee as they say in French, which is literally translated to “mouth open” but which google translates to agape without an accent and speechless with the accent.
1. (of the mouth) wide open, especially with surprise or wonder.
1. unable to speak, especially as the temporary result of shock or some strong emotion.
Yep. That about sums it up. I have been feeling some strong emotion which has left my mouth open wide with wonder. It hasn’t happened often over these ten years since I started Gulfshore Playhouse in the back of my apartment, and I can almost remember the times that it did. The first time we actually had a cast and crew outing back in 2007. Sometime around 2010 (it’s a blur.) And today.
Today, as we gathered in the theatre to enjoy the first read of THE MOUNTAINTOP, directed by the fabulous Cody Nickell and acted/read today by the fantastic Jamil Mangan and Felicia Curry, I was dumbstruck when I realized we couldn’t all fit around the table, so I started counting heads.
There were a total of 21 people in that room today. People paid by Gulfshore Playhouse. A company that has been in business for 10 years now and that has grown 500% in the last six years. And, like the grinch, “my heart grew three sizes” at that moment.
It is not pride that I feel.
It is gratitude for the opportunity to serve – our region, our nation and our art. It is humility, knowing that I certainly couldn’t have gone from an event a year out of my back room to a thriving arts institution without every single generous donor, theatre-loving patron, talented artist, tireless staff person, dedicated board member and loving angel that has sat upon my shoulder. I know that without a doubt.
I’m seeing a pattern about these blogs. They very often include exchanges with Cody Nickell. Well that makes sense. He’s the artistic right hand of the institution which means we interact a lot. The other night, after the New Works Festival was over, a festival he largely organized, and of course lent his immensely talented acting chops to, I told him I had often asked myself how we got so lucky to have him in our company for over two years. His response: “Are you kidding me? There was a call, and I answered it.”
And I burst into tears. Really deep, heaving, sobbing tears. Even now, as I write this, I have tears in my eyes.
Because I don’t know how I got here. I don’t know how or why I landed in Naples by accident that day 11 years ago. I don’t know how I convinced my then husband to impulsively go back to New York City and put the co-op apartment on the market and move lock-stock-and-barrel to Naples, Florida. I don’t know how I got the gumption, courage or sheer stupidity to decide to start a professional theatre company in a town where I knew no one, had no funds, and didn’t even have a name for the organization. I don’t know why the Universe answered when I sat on the beach and said, “Open the doors and I will walk through them.”
All I know is this: There was a call, and I answered it. And I’m incredibly glad that I did.