Gulfshore Playhouse receives $1 million donation for new facility

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Gulfshore Playhouse in Naples has received a generous gift of $1 million from Mary and Stephen Byron Smith to support the creation of the new Gulfshore Playhouse Theatre and Education Center. The gift signifies a solid investment in the arts for Southwest Florida at a most uncertain time.

“We are extremely grateful, not only for this generous gift from the Smiths, but for their belief in our vision,” said Kristen Coury, founder and producing artistic director for Gulfshore Playhouse. “Their visible support underscores the vital role arts play in our society, and it is a huge step forward and vote of confidence at a time when we all need some good news.”

Education and conservation activists and longtime Naples residents, the Smiths are strategic philanthropists whose family has ties to local charities, including the Naples Historical Society, the Naples Botanical Garden, the Conservancy of Southwest Florida and other interests beyond Florida boundaries.

“We are quite impressed with Gulfshore Playhouse and its plans to enrich our community with a beautiful new theater that will draw audiences in, spark imagination, create work opportunities within the area, and obviously, bring another crucial facet to this wonderful gem of a city, Naples,” said Mrs. Smith.

“We hope to encourage the community to join us and many others in financial support for Gulfshore Playhouse during these exceptional days,” added Mr. Smith.

Over the last several months, Gulfshore Playhouse has consistently made progress on the design and creation of the new Gulfshore Playhouse Theatre and Education Center, which will include two theaters and an education wing to support programming for all ages.

The Construction Documents phase, which includes finalizing the most important aspects of the building’s design, materials, colors, finishes and furniture, is approximately 25% complete. Led by renowned architects H3/Arquitectonica under creative architect Bernardo Fort-Brescia, the architectural team has also solidified the garden design plans, which will add a charming natural outdoor setting with spaces to relax and enjoy in small groups, as well as a spacious plaza ideal for events and pre-performance receptions.

            The state-of-the art Gulfshore Playhouse Theatre and Education Center, situated on a three-acre parcel at the corner of 1st Avenue South and Goodlette-Frank Road, will extend the heart of downtown to the east of  9th Street in an expressive, sculptural design inspired by visions of the waves and sand of the Paradise Coast.

Upon entering the building, patrons will be welcomed by an airy reception lobby featuring lounge areas and the theater’s bar. The complex will include a 350-seat state-of-the-art proscenium-style theater, with sloped seating, which will be used for large-cast musicals, classics and world premiere comedies and dramas, presented on a grand scale while still providing the intimacy and close proximity to the stage that Gulfshore Playhouse patrons have come to know and love. The stage will be an equivalent size and scale as a Broadway theater, and will be useful for incubating productions heading to New York, when appropriate. Audience comfort, superior sightlines and state-of-the art acoustics remained priorities throughout the design.

As a result of ongoing discussions around health and safety, as well as gathering in a post-COVID setting, the project team is incorporating the use of special metals and materials that are anti-bacterial and anti-viral, HVAC systems that pull in fresh air, and filtered water, as well as touch-free doors, faucets, and toilets.  

“While these are challenging times, we are delighted by those who have made lead gifts and are encouraged by ongoing interest and conversations with potential donors throughout the area for this worthy project,” said Coury. “With this continued momentum, we anticipate being shovel-ready by the early part of 2021. Something very exciting is on our horizon, and we cordially invite one and all to join us in seeing Gulfshore Playhouse through to reality.”

For more information about Gulfshore Playhouse or the Next Stage Capital Campaign, visit


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