The Naples Players lead project to expand home at Sugden Community Theatre

Calling for an encore — The Naples Players is leading a massive project to expand its home at Sugden Community Theatre.

At a time when Naples theater is slowly coming back, what makes our community an anomaly?

In one week, The Naples Players debuts its next show, “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder.

We spoke to the Executive Artistic Director Bryce Alexander. He said they do nine major productions a year. And for years, the community-run theater has sold out.

That’s one of the reasons they’re ready to grow.

“The main theater that exists right now is getting a balcony; it’s adding 150 seats,” Alexander explained. “The smaller theatre, the Price Studio Theatre, is getting a complete renovation, and then the third theater will be added.”

The educational theater is important because The Naples Players works with many different program partners and nonprofits.

They offer wellness programs, like improv classes, to people with Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s. And another class for students with special needs — programs they have kept alive virtually in the pandemic.

The new design also includes a sensory room for people with disabilities and “pay what you can” seating.

Alexander said, “Someone within two weeks of a performance date can call up and say, ‘Are there any pay what you can seats?’, and the box office will let you pay whatever price.”

But this renovation project comes with a $15 million price tag at a time when performing arts is just trying to lift the curtain again.

How is a community theater thriving?

Alexander says it’s simple. The theater wore a lot of hats during the pandemic, “We use the costume shop to sew 1,000s of masks for the local food banks for NCH.”

And they built intubation boxes for the infectious disease department at NCH.

He never anticipated his costume designers would turn into mask manufacturers, but the arts brought value to the community once again.

The Naples Players is able to operate thanks to 700 volunteers every year, and 150 of those are local performers.

You can read more about Bryce Alexander and the future of The Naples Players in this month’s issue of Gulfshore Life.

Reporter:Lindsey Sablan
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