The Marco Players was left in a tough spot as a result of the closure of nonessential businesses and social-distancing requirements that have been part of the federal Centers for Disease Control’s pandemic response.
The theater was down to the next–to–last production of its 2019-2020 season, the ever–popular “Born Yesterday,” which opened on March 11th. But after Week One of the three-week–long run, the theater ended up having to close temporarily on March 17, cancelling the remaining performances, as well as the season’s final show, “Sylvia,” by A.R. Gurney.
“We were limited to 50 people and then 10, so we had to shut down,” said Beverly Dahlstrom, the theater company’s executive artistic director.
The cancelled performances resulted in the lost revenue of $50,000 or more. “That’s a lot of money for a small theater company—a lot of money,” she explained.
Marco Players is saddled with a range of fixed expenses including rent, utilities, insurance, staffing and production costs, and securing the rights to the plays it performs. The revenue shortfall hit hard, throwing the theater company’s survival into doubt after 47 years of existence.
However, Dahlstrom was not prepared to let the company fail on her watch. The dilemma was met with the creation of a special fundraising drive, the “Staying Alive Campaign.” The effort’s goal is to generate $50,000 to survive through the spring and summer and then reopen for the 2020-2021 season.
Thus far, the campaign has lived up to the name “Staying Alive,” raising $11,825 online by the end of last week, and even more in checks—enough to keep the proverbial wolf from the theater’s door.
“We’re like any small business; it all comes down to money,” observed Dahlstrom. “We’re lucky that our patrons, in the last couple weeks, have come through with really nice donations and we have a little money in the bank so we’re going to keep going. It was very emotional to see how generous people were, really quite amazing.”
Activity will continue over the summer with live and virtual shows designed to entertain and raise funds with the theater’s “The Show Must Go On – Staying Alive Series.”
Local playwright Joe Simonelli’s murder-mystery “The Spirit of Bay Manor” will be performed outdoors at the theater’s entrance on Saturday, June 20th, starting at 6 PM. The sidewalk will serve as the stage, with the audience seating in and around the nearby gazebo, or people can bring folding chairs. It will be a reading of the play, without sets, and tickets are not required, but donations will be appreciated.
The al fresco performance will be filmed and then sent to the theater’s patrons up North. A button included on the recording that enables them to send donations.
“Hopefully, they’ll enjoy what we’re doing here, even though we can’t go in the building,” said Dahlstrom. “That way they can see how much fun we are having even though we’re not functioning the way we normally would.”
Another aspect of the “Staying Alive” series is “Behind the Curtain.” Available via the internet, each episode has Dahlstrom interviewing artists, actors and community leaders who have dedicated themselves to keeping the arts alive in Southwest Florida. Actor Jim Corsica and actor-playwright Carole Fenstermacher have been interviewed previously. The next installment is set for 7 PM, June 11, and it features actor, author, podcaster and funnyman Randall Kenneth Jones.
The Marco-area resident interviews a who’s who of celebrities on his feel-good podcast, “Jones Show.” Pat Benatar, Erin Brockovich, Barbara Corcoran, Janet Evanovich, Shirley Jones, Sue Monk Kidd, Hoda Kotb and Norman Lear and just a sampling of the more than 100 notables who’ve chatted with Jones, who’s also performed at the Marco Players Lunch Box.
Some of these sometimes–conversations are chronicled in his book, “Show Me: Celebrities, Business Tycoons, Rock Stars, Journalists, Humanitarians, Attack Bunnies & More!”
The Marco Players is located at 1089 N. Collier Blvd., in unit 432, in the Marco Town Center Mall. For more information, call 239-642-7270 or visit themarcoplayers.com where donations can also be made.