Grantee Feature: The Naples Players – Responding to the Current Crisis

The Naples Players is a nationally-recognized community theatre. Founded in 1953, they fulfill their mission to enrich, educate and entertain the community through dozens of educational programs for adults and kids alike, children’s theatre, live concerts, residencies and comedy nights in addition to their regular performance season. A true community theatre, their 650 volunteers put in more than 65,000 hours per year.

How does an organization respond to a ban on gatherings of large numbers of people when their artistic medium requires such gatherings? We asked Executive Artistic Director Bryce Alexander about the adjustments Naples Players have made in order to reach out to and serve their community.

Hospital masks made by Naples Players volunteers

The Naples Players has called itself a “theatre for the community” since we were founded 67 years ago. It is this very creed that has kept The Naples Players operating – even in an augmented form – during these challenging times.  

Like many people, our first impression of COVID-19 came from social media. So, too, did our first act of community service. The Naples Players utilizes more than 650 volunteers for more than 65,000 volunteer hours every year. After understanding that the theatre would have to shut its doors to performances, Resident Costume Designer Dot Auchmoody saw a Facebook post containing a pattern to build surgical masks. She quickly realized that this was a way the costume staff and volunteers could continue to utilize their skills. A call was placed to the local hospital, and an offer made to use any of our remaining bolts of fabric to create surgical style masks. The hospital requested 300. It was only a matter of days until the hospital called, needing as many masks as had already been created.  

Combining the effort of the staff in alternating shifts at the theatre, volunteers were also able to contribute – and were given “take-home” kits to continue making masks at home. Word quickly spread about our efforts, and a local printing company offered to use their laser cutters to cut the fabric patterns of the masks. This collaboration allowed high-precision, high-output capacity of the masks while furthering our business relationships – all the while continuing to engage and train our volunteers. We continue to make masks today, providing them to hospitals, nursing homes, and others who may need them. 

Intubation box made by Naples Players

This effort was utilized in the scene shop, too: when Assistant Technical Director Chase Lilienthal realized he could use leftover plexiglass to create intubation boxes, a critical shield for protecting doctors and nurses when intubating patients. A simple pattern was built, and the boxes have become another added tool to help protect our community’s heroes. 

At the same time, our Education Department began to think of the impact this crisis would have on students. Serving more than 1,200 students on-site in classes every year, we know that the social and imaginative access our programs provide our students would be critical to their at-home education. In only 1 week, all of the education programs, for every age and level, were modified and moved to electronic formats. Not only has this provided the students continuity and connection, it has inspired the theatre to evaluate ways to bring virtual classes to underserved populations in the future. Parents have been overwhelmingly thankful for the outlet this has provided. Adult students crave the voice the classes provide as well. 

Online improv class for students from the STARability Foundation

The Naples Players has made news in the past for creating a “Director of Community Wellness and Education” to connect arts education with wellness programs, and just this week provided 30 students with disabilities from the STARability Foundation a virtual improv class to discuss emotions and current events, hosted an “Improv for Isolation” class for 15 adults, and provided free virtual yoga on our social media platforms. These efforts will continue weekly. As April is National Poetry Month, we will be calling for poems related to COVID-19 to be submitted, and they will be given dramatic readings by local performers.  

Finally, we’ve been able to utilize our technical departments and artists to create digital content that continues to promote the arts and engage with our community. Live-streaming concerts have been viewed by 5k+ people just this week,  and virtual sing-a-longs and virtual cabarets have called on quarantined artists to submit their performances digitally.  

Improv for Isolation flyer/graphic

The Naples Players could lose close to $500,000 to cancelled performances through June. Our endowment saw its value fall by more than $1.5m since this crisis began. Knowing the endowment funds exist for times of need, we’ve been standing strong to continue serving our community – and the community has responded. Subscriptions to next season continue to sell, small donations have been flooding in and online engagement has continued to allow us to spread the arts further than ever before.  

The financial impacts of this shutdown will be deep. Reliance on the generosity of our community is going to be crucial. Most importantly, we know our patrons, donors, and volunteers are embracing our position as a theatre for community – and together we will all get through this.  

Grantee Feature: Dance Alive National Ballet Welcomes New Resident Choreographer

Provided by Dance Alive National Ballet. All photos by Johnston Photography.

About Dance Alive National Ballet

Founded in 1966 in the ‘Gator Nation’ of Gainesville, FL, Dance Alive National Ballet features an international roster of award winning dancers. Elegant and exciting, they are at the heart of the company’s undeniable success. DANB’s repertoire ranges from the quintessential classic Nutcracker to the cutting-edge movement of contemporary ballet. Throughout this choreographic tapestry are woven the ballets of Executive Artistic Director Kim Tuttle and Choreographer-in-Residence Judy Skinner whose distinctive artistic styles brand the company.  Entertaining and insightful, provocative and joyous, this creative aesthetic is at the heart of the Company. From dancing on a basketball court where lights were hung on hoops to being sponsored in state of the art theatres, to performing by invitation for HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco, DANB has been on a mission to bring dance to the people.

New Resident Choreographer

Dance Alive National Ballet is proud to announce the appointment of Brian Carey Chung (choreographer, poet and nurse) as Resident Choreographer for the 2019-20 season. Mr. Chung brings to the table an extraordinary wealth of experience in both classical ballet and contemporary dance. He was founder and artistic director of Collective Body Dance Lab, performed with LINES Ballet for 7 years before joining Complexions Contemporary Ballet and Armitage Gone! Dance where he was principal dancer, rehearsal director and assistant choreographer. His first ballet for DANB, premiered in February 2019, ‘Touch Me Closer’, was a work of deep beauty, using highly trained classical dancers in a new and original way. This was so successful that Kim Tuttle, Executive Artistic Director of Dance Alive National Ballet asked him to create a full length ballet for the spring of 2020. His title of choice is ‘Athletes of God’, inspired by a quote from iconic modern dancer Martha Graham and set to music by Bach. His respect for dancers is boundless, and we look forward to moving Dance Alive National Ballet forward with grace and enthusiasm. 


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Grantee Feature: An “Ode to Understanding” at Tallahassee Symphony Orchestra

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About the Tallahassee Symphony Orchestra

Founded in 1981, the Tallahassee Symphony Orchestra brings a variety of high-level concert experiences to Florida’s capital city and surrounding region throughout the year. The orchestra regularly presents a five-concert subscription series in addition to young people’s concerts, Pops concerts, and special events throughout the community. On March 31, the TSO will present a unique opportunity for community dialogue on complex issues through the performance of Joel Thompson’s Seven Last Words of the Unarmed and Beethoven’s monumental Ninth Symphony.

Ode to Understanding

famu concert choirPresented by Leon County Government, the “Ode to Understanding” project brings together the forces of the Tallahassee Symphony Orchestra, The Village Square, the Florida A&M Concert Choir, and the Morehouse College Glee Club to create a profound community event that will open hearts and inspire civil discourse.

 

On the first half of the concert is a new work titled Seven Last Words of the Unarmed, written for male chorus and orchestra. Seven Last Words of the Unarmed laments the deaths of seven African-American men, addressing complex and difficult emotions.

2017-2018 GleeClub MorehouseThe concert’s second half will present Beethoven’s beloved Ninth Symphony, a fitting expression of humanity, brotherhood, bonding and equality. Beethoven’s Ninth is a life-affirming masterpiece whose joyful message has inspired millions of people worldwide since its premiere in 1824. Through partnerships with local government, other arts organizations, and community members, the event underscores the importance of community to transcend division.

Following the first half of the concert, Leon County Sheriff Walt McNeil will a lead conversation with composer Joel Thompson and TSO Board Members Byron Greene and Patrick Slevin. Sheriff McNeil will interview these stakeholders about Thompson‘s piece of music, the TSO‘s decision to program it, and how shared artistic experiences impact the community as a whole. At the conclusion of the concert, the audience and the performers will be invited to break bread and talk with each other, as we seek a better understanding of complex social issues.

For more information, please visit the TSO’s website: https://www.tallahasseesymphony.org/odetounderstanding/.


This post was provided by Tallahassee Symphony Orchestra. Interested in seeing your organization featured on Culture Builds Florida? Please fill out this form: https://goo.gl/forms/3sMwuJWA3bM1orPl2.

Grantee Spotlight: Making Light Productions Takes An Inclusive Cast ‘Under The Rainbow’

Provided by Making Light Productions

“I found you in the eye of a hurricane…” Those are the first words of the theme song of “Under the Rainbow: The Musical,” an original one-hour musical production created by Making Light Productions and debuting at the Florida Theatre Conference at Santa Fe College in Gainesville, FL, this week.  “When we started this process months ago,” said Mandi Broadfoot, Managing Director and lyricist/book writer on the show, “we certainly didn’t realize that we would be conducting our final rehearsals in the wake of Hurricane Michael.”

UTRCASTMaking Light is taking an inclusive cast — including both “neurotypical” kids and those with special needs — to the FTC’s Inclusion Festival this year.  “The story of the musical is about acceptance and how differences make us stronger,” explained MLP executive director Juliet Yaques. “We are really excited to showcase, to our peers in the Florida arts community, how beautiful inclusion can look and sound.”

UTRBATMaking Light Productions is a Tallahassee-based non-profit organization with the mission of providing an inclusive performing arts education for children of all abilities, as well as providing job opportunities for adults with disabilities. “We began with just 21 kids in the converted garage of my Tallahassee home in 2016,” says Broadfoot.  “And the demand for inclusive arts has grown to the extent – over 550 registrations in the past year – that we’ve outgrown locations twice now!”

Founded in July of 2016, by Broadfoot and Yaques — both mothers of children with autism — Making Light has been located in downtown Tallahassee since 2017 and just purchased a new 8,300-square foot building on Blairstone Road in Tallahassee, which will become its new headquarters in January 2019. While the inclusive performing arts school is thriving, the new location will allow Making Light to fulfill the final arm of its mission: providing jobs for teens and adults with disabilities at an on-site thrift store, “Making a Scene.”

UTR_RehearsalBeginsAfter renovations, the new Making Light headquarters will also house a real on-site community theatre, explains Yaques.  “Performance space has been a real challenge for us,” she said. “It is for all arts organizations in the area. But our challenges are unique.”  She explained that children with special needs are often overwhelmed by new locations and take time to grow accustomed to the sights, sounds, even smells of a new room.  “Some of our kids can’t participate in a piano recital or a theatre production if they have to do it in a brand new, rented location that they’ve only seen once before the show.”  Having an on-site performance space, she said, will allow Making Light students to rehearse and perform in the same location, ensuring complete inclusion.

“Under the Rainbow: The Musical” was written by Broadfoot, Yaques and composer Jeb Bodiford. The production is sponsored by First Commerce Credit Union, Tallahassee Leon Federal Credit Union, Mainline Information Systems, the Community Thrift Market, Wells Fargo and a Fast Track grant from the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs.

THISISMEMaking Light Productions’ inclusive cast of “Under the Rainbow” took the stage at Santa Fe College in Gainesville on Thursday, October 25, at 3:00 PM.   The cast will also perform the show at Theatre Tallahassee on January 5-6, 2019. Tickets can be purchased at UndertheRainbowMusical.com.

Find out more about Making Light Productions and its inclusive programs at MakingLightProductions.org.


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Grantee Spotlight: Orlando Shakes Goes Above and Beyond with ‘The Jungle Book’

Provided by Orlando Shakes in partnership with UCF

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Carlos Pereyo as Baloo and Terence Lee as Mowgli (photo by Megan Pridemore)

Orlando Shakes’ production of The Jungle Book is a retelling of Rudyard Kipling’s classic tale and will take audiences on a thrilling journey through the Indian jungle! Taken in by Mother Wolf as a baby, Mowgli, a now 11-year-old boy, has grown to know the Jungle Law and the ways of the wild. April-Dawn Gladu’s adaptation follows Mowgli and his pack of animal friends as they try to outsmart a cunning tiger who is seeking to settle an old score.

Honoring the culture in which the story takes place, “the costumes in this production are a celebration of traditional Indian dress and even include fabrics sourced from India,” says Costume Designer Mel Barger. “Our characters, like Bagheera and Shere Khan, are costumed in modified kurtas to match the silhouette of the animal they portray.”

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Andy Hansen as Kaa (photo by Megan Pridemore)

Orlando Shakes is going above and beyond to ensure that children of all ages, abilities, and locations can experience the magic of theater. In addition to sensory-friendly and ASL-interpreted performances, Orlando Shakes will be live-streaming two performances of The Jungle Book to schools outside of Orange County. Immediately following the fifty-minute live performance, students will participate in a digital live chat with the cast, hearing the answers to their questions in real time. In order to further align the event to the school curriculum, Orlando Shakes is providing a study guide with discussion topics and extension activities that align to Florida Standards normally covered during November in 2nd-5th grade.

 

“By live streaming our performances, we are reaching a whole new audience and enriching the lives of students beyond the Central Florida community,” says Anne Hering, director of education at Orlando Shakes. “Even if a school doesn’t have access to field trip funding or a live theater in their community, their students can still have a performing arts experience. ”

Schools can apply to live-stream the event at http://orlandoshakes.org/streaming. Schools must apply by November 1, 2018. This event is recommended for students in 2nd-5th grade.

ABOUT ORLANDO SHAKES

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Andy Hansen, Carlos Pereyo, and Terence Lee (photo by Megan Pridemore)

Celebrating its 30th Season, Orlando Shakes in partnership with UCF, produces classic, contemporary, and children’s plays. Under the leadership of Artistic Director Jim Helsinger and Managing Director PJ Albert, Orlando Shakes is one of the region’s most acclaimed professional theaters, garnering national recognition from The Wall Street Journal, “Spectacular and satisfying…Broadway-quality…impressive…come to Florida and plunge yourself in…” 

With ambitious, high-caliber productions like 2018’s Twelfth Night and Shakespeare in Love, and 2017’s The Great Gatsby and Man of La Mancha, the Theater continues to provide an innovative world-class theatrical experience to its guests, while showcasing William Shakespeare’s legacy as the cornerstone of the company. Orlando Shakes also offers immersive educational programming that serves Central Florida schools and the local community at large.

ABOUT THE JUNGLE BOOK

The Jungle Book adapted by April-Dawn Gladu, produced by Orlando Shakes in partnership with UCF, appears in the Margeson Theater from October 18 – November 16, 2018.

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Terence Lee (photo by Megan Pridemore)

The Jungle Book features Ana Martinez Medina as Raksha-Mother Wolf/Ensemble, Amanda Anne Dayton as Bandar Queen/Ensemble, Carlos Pereyo as Baloo/Ensemble, Terence Lee as Mowgli/Ensemble, Andy Hansen as Kaa/Ensemble, Mandi Lee as Messua/Ensemble and Daniel James Roth as Chil/Ensemble.

The Orlando Shakes artistic team includes Director Steve MacKinnon, Set Designer Vandy Wood, Lighting Designer Philip Lupo, Costume Designer Mel Barger, Sound Designer Britt Sandusky, ASL Coordinator Mandy Longo and Stage Manager Alyssa Zegers.

The Jungle Book is sponsored by Dr. Mary Palmer, Publix Supermarket Charities, and Florida Hospital for Children. The live stream program is made possible by the Elizabeth Morse Genius Foundation.

Orlando Shakes is supported by United Arts of Central Florida, host of OrlandoAtPlay.com and UAArtsEd.com. This project is sponsored in part by the Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs, the Florida Council on Arts and Culture, and the State of Florida.

For more information, visit orlandoshakes.org.


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Grantee Spotlight: Pensacola Opera ‘From Words to Music’

Provided by Pensacola Opera

Students in the “Upside of Florida” are creating their own operas – and loving it!

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It all began in 2006, when the administration, faculty, students, and parents at Holley-Navarre Elementary School agreed to join the pilot program of a new arts-in-education initiative offered by Pensacola Opera.  Since that time, over 40 world premiere operas have been conceived, created and performed by children as part of Pensacola Opera’s From Words to Music program.

Pensacola Beach Elementary School’s Music Specialist Mary Holway shares, “Our school has been participating in From Words to Music for five years. At this point, I believe I would lose my job if I did not participate! The teachers, parents, and staff all love seeing and hearing our 2nd graders take a book, read it, and turn it into an evening of opera fun every year. They are just learning comprehension as 2nd grade readers, so turning a story from a book into a libretto, characters, songs and sets, is a perfect way to up the ante on their comprehension. Think of it as acting out and singing every book you’ve ever enjoyed….the results are amazing. The parents, in particular, are blown away by the process and the product. They just cannot believe that their children can participate with such enthusiasm and it is usually those kids that are not performers who get the most out of the process. The kids always amaze!”

pensacola opera 2Conductor, pianist, and Director of Education, Cody Martin, along with Pensacola Opera’s five Artists in Residence, provide mentoring and professional musical support throughout the academic year.  The company also provides financial support to help underwrite the production costs associated with the students’ presentations.

Prior to her appointment as Pensacola Opera’s Executive Director, Chandra McKern was Director of Education for Nashville Opera and Pensacola Opera.  She experienced first-hand the positive outcomes possible through participation in the program.  “From Words to Music is a year-long program that allows children to be creative, build confidence, and develop a joy for learning while building academic and social skills.  I remember a child that burst into tears at the end of her performance for her peers.  I walked up to her and asked if she was alright?  Her response was, “I just feel so loved” and she gave me a hug.  Her teacher then told me that she had been moved from foster homes her whole life, and this was a very special moment for her to be on stage. These stories are endless and I truly believe that Pensacola Opera is making a difference with this incredible program.”

pensacola opera 3The success of the program is due in no small part to the enthusiastic support provided by Angela Barberi, the Fine Arts Coordinator for the Escambia County School District, who is a strong advocate for the importance of the program. “Through our partnership with the Opera we are able to provide relevant arts integration professional development for our teachers and bring incredible Opera experiences to our most under resources students through From Words to Music and the Opera in Our Schools program.”

Now celebrating its twelfth continuous year, From Words to Music, continues to invigorate and educate, combining the power of  musical story-telling with the endless create enthusiasm of students and teachers in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties.

To learn more about Pensacola Opera and From Words to Music, visit their website: https://pensacolaopera.com/.


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Grantee Spotlight: Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens ‘Stroll for Well-Being’

Provided by Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens

kodaimon_005Located in Delray Beach, the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens opened in 1977 with a mission “to engage a diverse audience by presenting Japanese cultural experiences that educate and inspire”. Drawing upon a century-old connection between Japan and South Florida, the museum has served as a cultural center for Japanese art exhibitions, tea ceremonies, educational outreach programs, and Japanese festivals. The Morikami Collections house more than 7,000 Japanese art objects and artifacts, including a 500-piece collection of tea ceremony items, more than 200 textile pieces and fine art acquisitions.

Surrounding the museum are 16 acres of expansive Japanese gardens with strolling paths, resting areas, a world-class bonsai collection and lakes teeming with koi and other wildlife. The gardens underwent a major expansion and renovation in 2001, and now reflect major periods of Japanese garden design, from the eighth to the 20th century, and serve as an outdoor extension of the museum. According to the garden designer, Hoichi Kurisu, each garden is intended to express the character and ideas of a unique counterpart in Japan without attempting to duplicate those gardens, and seamlessly flow together as one garden.

IMG_4945One of the many cultural programs that Morikami offers is their Stroll for Well-Being program. In 2006 Morikami received a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services to conduct a research study with Florida Atlantic University’s Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing. Researchers undertook the study to determine whether or not garden visits were as effective as, or more effective than, art therapy in relieving symptoms of depression in older adults. Art therapy has been shown to decrease depression in the elderly by allowing elders to express feelings of sadness and loss. The study showed that walking the gardens was as effective as art therapy in alleviating the symptoms of depression in older adults. As a result of this study, the Stroll for Well-Being program was born.

Stroll for Well-Being participants receive a complimentary year of unlimited visits to Morikami, a guided journal, and three sessions with a facilitator. Garden strolls begin following an initial group meeting with a facilitator to acquaint participants with how the program works and to distribute the guidebook/journals. The guidebook/journal presents several themed walks that identify points along the way at which to pause, reflect and experience a sense of ease. Walks are based on such themes as awareness, trust, possibility, joy and fulfillment, and are designed to elicit reflection on one’s life. Space in the guidebook/journal allows participants to record their thoughts on these and other topics. Participants in the program may visit the garden at any time during regular museum and garden hours as often as they wish, but are encouraged to visit at least twice a week during the first eight weeks.

rose_and_eve_4855Over 1000 people have participated in the program since its public introduction in 2008 and since 2011, the program has been generously funded by Astellas Pharma US, Inc., which has allowed Morikami to offer the program free of charge to participants of nonprofit therapy groups including veterans, caregivers, cancer survivors and those experiencing chronic illness and grief, among others. Participants are initially offered three months of membership to Morikami and invited to attend three walks and meetings during this time. After this initial membership period, participants in the program have unlimited opportunities  for up to a year to visit Morikami to leisurely stroll the garden path, and enjoy the peace and serenity that the garden has to offer. Strolling the garden itself is entirely a personal activity. Past participants have reported that the Stroll for Well-Being program has helped them to effectively reduce stress and alleviate sadness.

sitting in the gardenIn 2014, representatives from the program presented the research at the North American Japanese Garden Association Conference to great enthusiasm. Many gardens throughout the United States have implemented their own programs modeled after Stroll for Well-Being, showing that museums can be places of therapy and stress release in addition to being important cultural centers. Recently, Morikami began expanding the current program to add physical exercises and visualizations to the guided garden strolls, allowing participants to experience the calm and release of the garden whether they are able to attend in person or not.

More information about the research study and the Stroll for Well-Being program (including a manual for starting a similar program within your own organization) can be found on Morikami’s website: http://morikami.org.


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