Following theater closures, program suspensions and cancellations of seasons across the nation, Gulfshore Playhouse in Naples is keeping the lights on with a new immersive audience engagement program – Artful Distancing.
The free, weekly series of virtual theater-based content begins this week and is designed to connect audiences, from the comfort of home, to the larger theater patron community around the country.
The weekly program will air live on Wednesdays at 3 p.m. via Zoom, an interactive video and audio-conferencing platform that allows for virtual interaction in a group forum setting. The Artful Distancing program will feature online discussions with some of the nation’s top professional artists, actors, scholars and more, who will provide a behind-the-scenes look at theater making.
The program will kick off this month, and includes the following sessions:
April 8: “Come, you spirits: Three Shakespearean Monologues” – What do a lovesick teenager, a mad king, and a murderous noble have in common? Dr. Gail Kern Paster, pre-eminent Shakespeare scholar, director emerita of the Folger Shakespeare Library, and editor of Shakespeare Quarterly, will dive into three Shakespearean monologues from Romeo and Juliet, King Lear and Macbeth as they are read live by professional actors. This is the audience’s chance to discuss Shakespeare with one of the leading experts in the field.
April 15: “Broadway Stories” – With more than four decades of Broadway and national theater industry experience between them, Gulfshore Playhouse favorites Bill Parry and Maureen Silliman, (last seen in Native Gardens) have worked with some of the most acclaimed creatives in the country, including Tony Award-winners Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine. Celebrate Sondheim’s 90th birthday with spirited retellings of stories from the “Great White Way” and beyond.
April 22: “The Lion in Winter: Unplugged.” Explore the process of creating a show with the Gulfshore Playhouse cast of The Lion in Winter. Moderated by Kristen Coury, the director of this production, tune in to learn more about the collaborative process of bringing historical works to life, with select readings of scenes.
April 29: “A Day in the Life of a New York Casting Director.” Sit down with famed casting director Michael Cassara as he takes audiences inside the dynamic world of professional theater auditions, casting calls and talkbacks. Cassara has cast hundreds of productions across the country, including Gulfshore Playhouse; he’ll offer up audition tips along the way.
“While many are home isolated from friends, family and their communities, we wanted to create a free space that was not only engaging, but allowed theater lovers to connect with other like-minded creatives from around the country,” said Kristen Coury, founder and producing artistic director. “Our mission has always been focused on enriching the cultural landscape by producing professional theater and providing unique educational opportunities. Not only do we get to do this for Naples audiences, but for our expanded audience around the country. We’re simply building upon our mission, and taking it to a new digital level that reflects our continued focus for professional theater that expands the imagination and fosters creative discussion amongst diverse audiences.”
The weekly sessions are approximately an hour. Participants can register online at www.GulfshorePlayhouse.org/artful-distancing. Login details will be sent via email. Sessions will also be recorded and available for viewing at no cost on Gulfshore Playhouse’s YouTube channel.
While Gulfshore Playhouse has canceled programming for the remainder of season due to COVID-19, plans are still underway for education summer programming, with mainstage productions anticipated to kick off in October for the 2020-21 season.
While the financial impact from the loss of ticket sales revenue has been devastating, the Playhouse has continued basic operations through the support of tax-deductible donations. To help sustain future programming, donations are being requested to ensure the organization is able to continue serving families, children, and the greater community through the power of live theater. All donations can be made online at www.GulfshorePlayhouse.org.