Kristen Coury is the Founder and Producing Artistic Director at Gulfshore Playhouse.
For the last 15 years, Gulfshore Playhouse has called Southwest Florida home. Each day, it has been our great joy to create art that inspires the heart, expands imagination, challenges the senses, provokes discussion, and revitalizes in the audience an understanding of common humanity. In the wake of Hurricane Irma, we have seen the heart of humanity from many individuals and businesses in Southwest Florida, and beyond, who have come together to help those in need. These acts of kindness have given us all hope in the midst of difficulty, and have also encouraged us to reach out and share our story of need.
As Hurricane Irma approached, Gulfshore Playhouse was in the middle of its fifth annual New Works Festival, which had to be cancelled. Not only did the theatre experience loss of income, but additional expenses related to last-minute evacuation flights for actors and playwrights who had traveled from throughout the country for the festival.
On the heels of the New Works Festival, Gulfshore Playhouse was also set to start rehearsals and construction of its sets for its first production of the season, “Paradise.” Due to a variety of extenuating circumstances, including shipments for lumber not yet received, shop workers who had evacuated for the hurricane, and, of course, lack of electricity, internet and phones for more than a week-and-a-half, plans for Paradise slowly started to crumble. The final nail in the coffin was damage to The Norris Center, where we perform. During the hurricane, the building sustained damage to the roof as well as water damage, which had seeped inside when doors to the building were blown open. The lack of power for two weeks exacerbated the water damage resulting in mold throughout the building. While the building is structurally intact, it will need to go through the mold remediation process, forcing a closure of The Norris Center for the month of October.
The closure of The Norris Center has also forced us to cancel several of our education programs, which take place in the building. The STAR in a Show program presenting ‘Twas the Night has also been cancelled due to lack of rehearsal space. Our goal is to resume in the spring with the Teen Acting Company, which will conclude with the presentation of William Shakespeare’s classic comedy, A Midsummer Night’s Dream. ThinkTheatre in-school residencies and In Flight performances in schools will continue.
It’s been a difficult time for the theatre, which has been battered by an inability to create the art that is our lifeblood, and the significant loss of potential income.
However, we remain dedicated to this community and creating art that brings people together. We want to give back in any way we can, even when faced with obstacles and uncertainty. We’ve moved up the start of Leading Ladies to Nov. 4 to provide this community with even more opportunities to be inspired, entertained and remind audiences of the importance of art and education in our community. We are also offering a special community give back opportunity, and will offer $10 tickets for preview performances on Nov. 2 and 3.
Written by Ken Ludwig and directed by Darren Katz, Leading Ladies shares the story of Jack and Leo as they give their greatest performance yet as “Maxine and Stephanie” in this laugh-out-loud comedy. We dedicate this show to the First Responders, who will receive free admission with proof of identification throughout the entire run of the show.
Gulfshore Playhouse is truly your theatre. We will continue to create a space where friends can gather and enjoy a night of laughter, children can experience art in a creative and imaginative way, and Broadway-quality work featuring the highest quality professional theatre will be produced right in your backyard.
Like Jack and Leo in Leading Ladies, we will make this season our greatest performance yet, but we need your help. Please consider making a donation, purchasing a ticket to a show or providing an education sponsorship so a child can experience art that could be life-changing.
For more information, visit http://www.gulfshoreplayhouse.org or call 239-261-PLAY.