Cory Dunn is the Production Manager at Gulfshore Playhouse.
We often hear why theater is a very special and important art form. It is living, it encompasses all of the other arts, and the list goes on and on. However, in my position as Production Manager here at Gulfshore Playhouse, I am reminded every day that one of the most unique qualities of theater is that it is ever-changing, and this is what separates what we do from the rest of the creative arts. The first show of our upcoming season, Constellations by Nick Payne, is the perfect example of how fluid the art of theater is and how versatile and flexible those who create theater are.
Constellations centers on a couple who are in and out of relationship throughout their lives; however, the play focuses on alternate timelines and realities of how parts of the relationship would be different if just the slightest change had been made in the past. With this in mind, director Matt Pfeiffer, the creative design tem for the production, and our Gulfshore Playhouse staff created a concept for the play that represented an alternate reality by changing the seating arrangement and performance area for the show. As originally conceived, this season’s opening production was to be produced in the “thrust”, with the actors performing in the seating area of the Norris Center with audiences seated on three sides of the stage. This concept would have placed actors just inches away from audience members, truly thrusting our patrons into the story and allowing them to live within the scene alongside actors Cody Nickell and Kate Eastwood Norris.
However, in the spirit of the ever-changing art form, restrictions within our performance space meant that the show’s direction was to change course. While the concept of the thrust was innovative, the requirements to light the show to the expectations of Gulfshore Playhouse and its patrons were nearly impossible to achieve. Therefore, as creators of the fluid art form, Pfeiffer reconvened with his design team and the Playhouse staff in order to find a way to still allow the audience to feel the alternate reality in our space while also navigating our limitations. Together, the design team and Pfeiffer created a plan to place the show back on our regular stage, with a few alterations that still put our audience members closer to the actors than ever before. Through the process of collaboration, these versatile artists were able to achieve the same design purpose and intent in a completely new set-up that will still provide an alternate reality for our audience when they walk in the theater to see our show. What changed exactly? Well, you will just have to come check out Constellations to find out!
These kinds of redesigns, alterations, and challenges occur on almost a daily basis when creating theater. When I arrive at the office every morning there is always a new change or update needed to be worked out or relayed to our team. However, it is this same fluidity that sparks new collaborations and gets the creative juices flowing, allowing us to create some fantastic art here in Naples. It is because theater is an ever-changing art form that I love it so much, and I hope that the love and care that we put into these changes, some of which you may never even know about, are reflected in the product we put on stage.