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Center Stage: Florida Rep takes productions outside for a new, safe experience

By MARSHA WAGNER - | Dec 8, 2020

PHOTO PROVIDED Marsha Wagner

Yes, indeed the Florida Repertory Theatre has devised a wonderful way to see a live theater production safely in this pandemic crisis. They have built an outdoor stage on the grassy lawn right behind the theater’s parking lot. There are 31 cordoned off 12-by-12 foot grassy spaces where patrons can bring their own lawn or beach chairs (or use the theater’s folding chairs). Everyone can bring picnic style food and drinks, blankets and such to keep warm when the evening breezes pick up from the river. It is an amazingly comfortable, relaxed way to see live theater that is fun as well as pandemic safe.

Performances start at 7 p.m. but the gates open at 5 p.m. The management suggests patrons must be seated at least 15 minutes before the show. The prices are very affordable from $60 to $120, depending on how close the lawn marked squares are to the stage. Every square can accommodate up to four adults. I think that is a rather good price for a really first rate, live stage production in casual comfort.

These safely distanced, outdoor productions were conceived and produced by Florida Rep’s Education Director Christine De Carlo. Way to go, Christine! Her cast is made up and features six delightful, multi-talented 2020-21 professional acting interns. The three young men and three young women are college graduates beginning their professional careers at the Florida Rep.

I’d have to say, the closing performance I attended of “Golden: A Tribute to the Golden Age of American Musical Theatre,” was proof positive of what fine careers are in store for the six interns who really “rocked” with their performances. Remember the names of these talented people: Patrick Agonito, Nayda Mayez, Emily Foley, Sarah Joyce, Matt Kelly and Micah Weese. These interns can sing, dance, read lines and create characters with ease and panache that is totally professional; “wow” would best describe my reaction, and from the applause given these performers my guess is the audience was as blown away as I was by these performers.

I happened to view the closing night of this high energy, rousing fun-filled musical revue. But you can bet your bottom dollar I will be reserving my 12-by-12 space for the next production at the outdoor theater. The interns will perform “It’s A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play.” This production is a novel new take on the timeless classic movie by Frank Capra (starring Jimmy Stewart), but this production takes place in a 1940s radio station. Just picture what wild and funny things could happen in a situation like that. I guess you will just have to go see this show and find out for yourself the behind the scenes goofs that can — and do — happen in a comic situation like that. Take it from one who knows all about those sorts of backstage screw-ups and lived to tell the tale.

Since seating is limited and tickets are selling fast for these fun productions, I’d advise you to phone the box office ASAP at 239-332-4488 and reserve your 12-by-12 space. The remaining show dates are Dec. 9-13 and Dec. 15-19. By the way, parking is free in front of the grassy performance space, right in front of the theater. If you need directions, visit www.floridarep.org and click on “Plan A Visit” at the top of the page. That will get you there from all different parts of Fort Myers in the shortest possible way with ease.

So stay safe and put some fun in your life — go see live theater!