In what will certainly be considered the most challenging year-and-a-half of our lives as a community of artists, what is remarkable is that the push to express as dramatists was not to be dampened, even when the theatre industry as a whole was more or less paralyzed. Florida-based dramatists had sixteen new plays mounted for live performance, nine readings and workshops took place, and no fewer than 29 plays were presented in live streaming format. Additionally, Florida-based dramatists published nine scripts and had six plays and musicals recorded, broadcast, or filmed.
Interestingly, but perhaps not surprisingly, non-professional theatre companies were at the forefront of producing new works for live audiences throughout 2020, given the restrictions in place for union actors and for other union creatives. One small company, The Marco Players of Marco Island in southwest Florida, led the way with stagings of works by Guild members H.G. Brown (The Bare Truth) and Carole Fenstermacher (Laugh, Cry, Pee, Repeat! and Tango at Two-Thirty). Ms. Fenstermacher’s Her Last Starring Role also had a production at Pelican Marsh Community Center in Naples, FL. Continuing up the west side of the peninsula, one will encounter Bonita Springs, where member Delvyn Case, Jr.’s plays Anointing at Bethany, John Hus: One Hundred Years Before the Swan, The Nativity, Phillip Brooks and ‘O Little Town of Bethlehem,’ Seeds of Betrayal, and Slum Sister of Calcutta were presented at the First Presbyterian Church. Further north but still coastal, the musical lil & Satchmo by Jo Morello was mounted at the First Presbyterian Church of Sarasota, and Elizabeth Indianos had her play No Know Nothing produced by the Powerstories Theatre of Tampa. In May of 2021, Orlando’s Mad Cow Theatre was able to hire professional actors for an outdoor production of my revue Together Again at the O-Town Canteen. And in the panhandle, Arianna Rose’s The Ripple Effect was staged for the Short Attention Span Theatre Festival at the Pensacola Little Theatre. Florida dramatist Elan Garonzik’s play The Harrowing was produced a bit farther north by the Central Kentucky Community Theatre. And Delvyn Case, Jr.’s play Don’t Underestimate the Power of a Bike was presented farther north still at the Spring into Action Festival in Northport, NY.
Arianna Rose also enjoyed a radio broadcast of her play Protege by the Writers Block Radio Hour in Glasgow, Scotland. Other broadcasts, films, and recordings by Florida dramatists include Jenna & the Whale by Jake Cline and Vanessa Garcia (Broadway on Demand), The Making of Conch Republic- The Musical by Gayla Morgan (Fringe Theatre of Key West), and A Tree Grows in Longmont by Philip Middleton (Silver Tongued Stages, Miami). Portland, Maine’s The World on Stage Productions recorded and presented Catwalk in Kabul, John Hus: One Hundred Years Before the Swan, Letters to God— Where Do They Go?, Mahalia Jackson: Make a Joyful Noise, and Sojourner Truth 1852: The Tale of the Boll Weevil, all of which were penned by Delvyn Case, Jr.
Livestreamed plays were to be found in abundance, though not exclusively produced by Florida organizations. Many of Delvyn Case, Jr.’s plays were streamed by the Page to Stage Pipeline at the University of Southern Maine (ME), Crowbait Club (ME), Northport Plays Readers Theatre (NY), and Playground Experiment (NY). Arianna Rose had works streamed by Theatre Lab@FAU (FL) and Clocktower Players Theatre Company (NY). Several of Marla Schwartz’s plays were streamed by Jeff Quintana Comedy/Commonthread Entertainment (FL), Naked Angels (FL), Theatre Arts Productions (FL), Downtown Media Center/Huntington Building, Filmgate Miami (FL), and Broadmoor Hotel/Speakeasy Theatre Company (FL). A play by Jake Cline was livestreamed by Florida International University, The Greenhouse (FL).
One of the many unfortunate occurrences directly resulting from the pandemic and specific to Central Florida was the laying off of over 700 entertainment professionals by the Walt Disney Company. The live shows, many featuring casts of AEA actors, were dark for nearly ten months in 2020, and only now are a select few actors and staff beginning to be rehired such that some of the live productions may return to the Disney parks. Endeavoring to find the proverbial silver lining, I believe more than several laid off performers began trying their hands at dramatic writing while awaiting a return to the boards. And, given the large and enthusiastic crowds in attendance for Orlando’s 30th annual Fringe Theatre Festival in May 2021, which presented a bounty of new work by Florida locals, here’s hoping that the unexpected left turn EVERYONE in Central Florida’s entertainment community took will lead us to new, wondrous landscapes that have never before been on the map.
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