Update from the Interim Artistic Director
As you recover from a weekend of Labor Day festivities I wanted to give you a snapshot of what’s happening at Florida Rep as September begins and we get ready for the first preview of the new season on the 18th. Most people can tell the summer is winding down because the days start to get shorter, but for us at the theatre, the opposite is true.
The senior staff spent the summer planning for your return creating marketing materials, having design meetings, perfecting technical drawings, and working in audition rooms across the state and in New York City. But as August comes to an end, the summer of planning transforms into a flurry of activity as our full seasonal staff arrives from all over the country to begin building, painting, and rehearsing. August 28th marked the official beginning of the season when the cast and creative team started rehearsals for Becoming Dr. Ruth by Mark St. Germain.
Longtime ensemble member Chris Clavelli returns to direct his friend Susan Greenhill, a Broadway and regional theatre veteran, in the iconic title role. Dr. Ruth’s life story is a profile in courage, and Susan Greenhill is no stranger to the character, having played this remarkable woman twice before. This one-woman play is moving, harrowing, hopeful, and incredibly funny because it’s filled with Dr. Ruth’s unique brand of humor and tenacity of spirit.
I can now let you in on an exciting secret. The real Dr. Ruth – who turned a very young 90-years-old this summer – will be in the audience on opening night, and will give a talkback following the performance. So, if you don’t have your tickets, I recommend September 21stbefore they’re all gone.
Florida Rep’s Education Department reaches over 30,000 young people in Southwest Florida annually with programs that bring theatre into schools, students into the theatre, and put hundreds of children on our stages. Our education staff works tirelessly year-round to supplement arts education in Southwest Florida and cultivate the next generation of artists and theatergoers. In addition to Becoming Dr. Ruth we also just began rehearsals for Dr. Seuss’ The Cat in the Hat and Eric Coble’s world premiere adaptation of the bestselling novel Refugee by Alan Gratz. Both plays for young audiences will tour to schools across Southwest Florida through May 2019.
Spearheaded by Kody C. Jones, education director, and the play’s director, we are particularly proud to say that Florida Rep commissioned Broadway playwright Eric Coble to adapt Alan Gratz’s bestselling novel that follows three young refugees fleeing violence at home for the promise of a better life in America. Electrifying, heartbreaking, and far too timely, it is the story of Josef, a Jewish boy leaving Nazi Germany, Isabel, a Cuban girl escaping Castro’s regime in 1994, and Mahmoud, a Syrian boy ravaged by the current civil war. Refugee is the kind of theatre that makes a difference for a young audience. This important play uses the lessons of our past to heal the wounds of our present, and also sounds warning for our future by showing audiences that our differences don’t separate us but make us stronger.
Florida Rep is intensely proud to bring Refugee to school stages across our region for the first time, and we are also getting ready to host Eric Coble and Alan Gratz for a workshop, talk back, and public performance of their play on September 15th. We hope you’ll join us for this extraordinary pre-season event that gives insight into the work we do for our youngest audiences.
As you read this letter, I am sitting in a studio in New York watching actors audition for the few remaining open roles in the mainstage season, and I can hardly wait to share their remarkable talents with you as the season progresses. This year boasts a record number of Broadway and regional theatre heavyweights making their Florida Rep debuts and is an opportunity for us to deepen the pool of artists we work with each year. I am particularly pleased with the group of actors and designers assembled for Damascus, Tenderly, andAugust Wilson’s Fences, because those casts and creative teams are full of artists whose work will be new to you.
That doesn’t mean you won’t see the many faces you’ve come to know over the years as the creative backbone of this organization. This fall look for Rachel Burttram, Sara Morsey, and Patricia Idlette playing iconic roles in Steel Magnolias. Watch for Viki Boyle, Greg Longenhagen, Brendan Powers, and Peter Thomasson in our world-premiere adaptation A Christmas Carol. And note that V Craig Heidenreich will direct the regional premiere of Damascus, after his work on the hard-hitting dramas Best of Enemies and Disgraced in recent seasons. The wide variety of plays and musicals lined up for you will showcase those – and many more – ensemble actors, directors, stage managers, and designers whose work you’ve come to enjoy throughout our twenty-year history.
Thank you so much for being part of our growth and success over the past twenty years. Whether you’ve been here since the 1998 or you joined us in 2018, you are the reason we are strong. The work you’ll see on stage in the coming season is the culmination of months of careful planning by a staff dedicated to creating theatre of the highest caliber and artists striving for excellence. I hope you’ve enjoyed your summer as much as we have enjoyed planning for your return.
I look forward to seeing you at the theatre.