Following nearly 10 months of upended performances due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Gulfshore Playhouse will officially celebrate the grand reopening of its live performance season with the acclaimed Love Letters by A.R. Gurney.
The opening performance on Jan. 16 comes on the heels of the announcement Gulfshore Playhouse has been named one of only two equity-approved producers in the state of Florida by Actors’ Equity Association, which represents more than 51,000 professional actors and stage managers nationwide.
Since the pandemic, only 17 theaters across the U.S. have received the official green light by AEA to move forward with professional productions, a stark contrast to past years in which more than 1,000 professional theaters have received contracts from the union.
“Our foremost priority was serving our mission, keeping our artists working, and doing so safely. Therefore, we kept ourselves ready and proactive,” said Kristen Coury, founder and producing artistic director of Gulfshore Playhouse. “We brought back the majority of our staff as early as October. We wrote a one-man show, and when we couldn’t perform it live, we filmed it. We made another attempt with our production of Love Letters, which is a show naturally socially distanced, starring real-life partners and Broadway actors Bill Parry and Maureen Silliman, and added even more protocols to our health and safety plan based on what we’ve learned in the past six months. Readiness, safety, and a focus on art has brought us to this thrilling outcome.”
Gulfshore Playhouse has been fully committed to collaborating with the union to ensure a safe workplace and environment that protects its audiences, artists and staff.
Coury, who will also direct Love Letters, and her team have worked closely with health and government officials to develop a robust health and safety plan in accordance with guidelines by AEA, CDC, OSHA, City of Naples and Naples Community Hospital.
Safety protocols implemented at Gulfshore Playhouse include mandatory face masks, physically distanced seating with 50% capacity, temperature checks, extensive cleaning and disinfecting measures, air purification, ticketless entry, and digital playbills. For a full listing of safety measures, visit gulfshoreplayhouse.org/health-and-safety.
“It’s been a long journey to get to this point. While we waited months for approval from AEA, we proactively adapted our operations by developing an array of artistic programs – from classes and activities available on Zoom to pre-recorded performances made available on digital platforms, as well as student productions performed to reduced-capacity houses,” said Joel Markus, managing director of Gulfshore Playhouse. “While successful, the efforts alone hardly bring in the much-needed funds to sustain us well into the future. We believe getting back to live performances will not only bring in critical ticket sales, but allow us to begin the healing process as we bring back laughter, joy, and compassion to group settings. Love Letters will help us accomplish just that.”
Love Letters takes audiences on a nostalgic tour of the complicated love story between two people during the latter half of the 20th century. From childhood birthday party invitations and valentines, to postcards from world travels, and tearfully penned goodbyes, the letters between Andy and Melissa are at the heart of their half-a-century-long relationship.
A long-time Broadway veteran, Parry previously performed at Gulfshore Playhouse in the hit productions of All My Sons, Native Gardens and My Fair Lady. Part of the original Broadway production of “esus Christ Superstar, he went on to work with its celebrated director Tom O’Horgan in a number of other productions.
Silliman has appeared at Gulfshore Playhouse in Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, Native Gardens and My Fair Lady. She has performed on Broadway in Shenandoah, I Remember Mama and Is There Life After High School?
The creative team includes costume design by Renee Baker, lighting design by Dalton Hamilton and stage management by Jamie A. Eckhold.
Tickets range from $43 to $71 for performances on Jan. 16 through Jan. 31. Performances are 90 minutes, with no intermission. To purchase tickets, visit www.gulfshoreplayhouse.org.