Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Looking Toward the Future


The curtain will soon rise for the final production of what has been another successful season for The Marco Players community theater group.

While the immediate focus is on pleasing audiences with Bruce Kane’s “Four One-Act Comedies,” the nonprofit is ever-occupied with normal concerns about day-to-day operations at its Marco Town Center home. Lurking in the background is the organization’s efforts to generate the funds needed to cover ever-growing annual expenses and ultimately, to fulfill a goal of expanding.

Actors Marilyn Hilbert and Kevin Kennealley during rehearsal.

“We have a need for more revenue, but at the same time, we need more space,” said Beverly Dahlstrom, The Marco Players’ executive-artistic director. “We’re at 83 seats. I think I’d like to double that, but still keep it small.”

It’s hoped that growth will take place in a structure the theater group can call its very own.

“There are a lot of people who came ahead of me who got us to where we are now, but I’d like to see us have a permanent space,” said Dahlstrom, who’s in her 16th year with the 44-year-old organization. “We’re out of room now, although Brixmor (Property Group), which owns this mall, has really been very kind to us. We’ve been fortunate. We’re blessed with what we have.”

Dahlstrom said that when she and the group’s board of directors established the theater’s Web presence in 2009, they also began looking toward a future that includes having its own building. Since then, they have been acquiring the knowledge needed to make that expansion a reality.

Having it happen on Marco is the ideal.

“Unfortunately we haven’t been able to find anything because the island doesn’t have a lot of properties that would be suitable for a theater,” she said. “You can’t walk around the corner and find an old barn to convert. We’re going to keep looking, whether it’s here or it’s just off the island. If anybody knows about a building, I’m all ears.”

Dahlstrom said she and the board would like to add musicals to the group’s offerings, but musicals require overhead, vertical storage for background scenery, which is raised and lowered for scene changes. That requires vertical clearance the current location cannot provide without the expense of raising the roof by 40 feet, she added.

“If you’re going to alter a building with that sort of expense, do you want to own it or do you want to lease the space,” said Dahlstrom. It looks like it should pretty much be something that we are buying, although we’re not shutting down any options.”

Envisioned is a 10,000 square-foot facility containing a performing space, two rehearsal halls, a lobby, more wall space for more art, offices and some storage, but nothing that would be considered extravagant, she said.

“We’d really like to offer our patrons a really nice venue to come to, where we can have VIP events and things like that,” she said. “The patrons we have here are amazing,”

Ticket sales and donations had fueled Marco Players’ operations, until last year, when the inaugural fundraiser on the Marco Island Princess and the theater created the Cast of Caricatures mural. Gracing the walls, just inside the theater’s doors, are portraits of patrons painted by local artist Karen Swanker for a donation of either $150 or $250.

In January, The Marco Players started a “Help Us Grow” campaign with a goal of raising $60,000 this year. The campaign honors Dahlstrom’s late mother, Annette Burrier, who was the theater’s much-loved hospitality volunteer coordinator, before passing away last July. Her maternal presence led the cast of the theater’s 2016 production of “The Cemetery Club,” to nickname her “Mama Rose,” after the character from the musical “Gypsy.”

“She loved this theater,” said Dahlstrom. “She worked here six days a week and she didn’t like the fact she couldn’t come back after she got sick.”

Photos Courtesy of The Marco Players | Kevin Kenneally and Rachel Ewy rehearse a scene from Bruce Kane’s “Four One-Act Comedies.”

The cost of doing business keeps rising, explained Dahlstrom, who remembers when the royalty paid to production houses for the rights to a play was about $650. Now it is between $1,500 and $2,200. And then there’s insurance, marketing, costumes, paint and lumber for sets, printing costs and the maintenance required to keep the space in tip-top shape.

“I think the normal person who comes doesn’t realize the cost of maintaining what we’ve got, between the fixed expenses and the cost of putting on productions,” she said. “Just painting a set can be $300.”

The Marco Players stages six main productions each season, all of them running for several weeks.

Dahlstrom believes the time is right to grow, citing the fact that off-island residents and tourists now comprise about half of audiences and major growth is projected for Collier County’s eastern portion in the coming years.

“A nice theater would be exciting, it would be interesting,” she added. “It would be another place for people to gather and enjoy the things that Marco Island has to offer. I think it’s something that would enhance life on Marco Island.”

For more information about The Marco Players and its productions, to purchase tickets, join the Cast of Caricatures wall, or to become a board member or join the team of volunteers who are a key part of the theater’s success, visit themarcoplayers.com/. Donations can be made when purchasing tickets online or by mailing a check to the theater at P.O. Box 2033, Marco Island, Fla. 34145. To contribute to the “Help Us Grow” campaign, visit gofundme.com/yywa9-help-us-grow.

To discuss the theater’s efforts to find a facility of its own or to offer suggestions on how to improve the theater, Dahlstrom can be reached at 404-5198.

“Four One-Act Comedies,” by Bruce Kane, runs Wednesday through Sunday, April 25 through May 13.

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