Hello, everyone! I’m Jeffrey Binder, Gulfshore Playhouse’s new Artistic Associate. I can’t tell you how excited I am to be here embarking on a new journey with friends and family here in Naples, Florida. As some of you may know, I spent the last 20 years in New York as a professional actor and occasional teacher. I spent a great deal of that time on Broadway in The Lion King and other shows, but I also had the fortune to perform in several stints around the country as well. One of my favorite and most memorable of these out-of-town opportunities was the time I spent here at Gulfshore Playhouse in the world premiere of Suzanne Bradbeer’s The God Game. I also had the chance to stay and perform for a couple weeks in The Game’s Afoot by Ken Ludwig when Cody Nickel, Gulfshore’s previous brilliantly talented, generous, and warm Artistic Associate, needed someone to step into his role due to unforeseen circumstances. There were several things I noticed while I was here:
First: People wear sweaters in Naples when the temperature dips below 70 degrees.
Second: It’s incredibly beautiful here.
Third: Kristen Coury is a wonderful director and an exceptional Artistic Director – she embraces the business of running a theatre and combines it with an overwhelming love of the art and an active appreciation for what it means to bring an artistic medium to a community. She also is driven by the inspiration that theatre can change the world. Theatre with a capital “T” she calls it.
Fourth: Kristen has gathered a phenomenal group of people here to make Theatre. Beautiful Naples in winter makes people want to come here and get warm. Kristen Coury makes artists want to come back and create art.
Fifth: From the men and women who support, sponsor, and guide the theatre’s trajectory to the volunteers who put their heart and valuable time into Gulfshore’s productions and programs to the audience who comes to the shows and stays to discuss them – The community that supports Gulfshore is smart, worldly, insightful, has a powerful artistic sensibility and an eager enthusiasm to foster and grow Theatre in Naples.
What does this mean? It means when the opportunity arose to become Gulfshore Playhouse’s new Artistic Associate, Kristen’s ‘artistic sounding board’ as she likes to call it, I was more than eager to jump in. There are many wonderful places to act and many beautiful places to live, but here is the opportunity to help build a vibrant, exciting theatrical community even as that community is growing, diversifying, and its demand for the kind of theatre that Gulfshore Playhouse produces intensifies. How thrilling! So what is happening? Well, my first assignment as Artistic Associate has been to coordinate this week’s Third Annual New Works Festival, and what an incredible lineup of plays we have! Ariadne on the Island, White, Other Than Honorable, and Embalmed, Buried, Gone are diverse, compelling, engaging, wildly different pieces that explore love, family, honor, duty, race, art, dark secrets and fascinating misdirections. I invite you to see them all! I will be at all of the events this week, and I’ll even be participating in a couple of them onstage. So when you see me, please stop and say hello and let me know how things are going and what you’re enjoying, what is moving you, what is making you think, and what you’d like to see in the future.
I’m looking forward to spending this season with you!