Shining a spotlight on the Florida Rep
Published in Community Lifestyles South Fort Myers February/March 2015 issue
All photos courtesy of Bryelle Dafeldecker
A Fort Myers theatre, once a Vaudeville house in the 1920s, has attracted local and national attention over the course of its 17 seasons.
The Historic Arcade Theatre, at 2267 1st St., downtown Fort Myers, now home to the Florida Repertory Theatre, was built in 1908 and attracted such first time viewers as Thomas Edison and Henry Ford.
Over the years, as movies became more and more popular, the building transformed into a movie house throughout the 1920s, remaining successful until the 1970s.
Unfortunately in 1989, the theatre plummeted into severe disrepair.
Bryelle Dafeldecker, Florida Repertory Theatre marking manager, said artistic director Robert Cacioppo, and his wife, Carrie Lund, founded the Florida Repertory Theatre in 1998.
“The City of Fort Myers offered him a theatre in Fort Myers because nothing was going on downtown,” Dafeldecker explained.
Now the theatre attracts about 80,000 people annually into the downtown district.
“It’s a destination,” Dafeldecker said.
For the past six years, the Wall Street Journal has reviewed the shows at the Florida Repertory Theatre, making it one of the top repertory companies in the nation.
“After that happened, it brought a lot more attention nationally – and locally,” she said. “We have a really loyal base, which is great.”
She said they offer nine full professional productions per season, from the end of October through May.
“We pay all of our actors and designers and fly them in from various locations from all over the country,” she explained.
There are six productions held on the main stage of the 393- seat Arcade Theatre and three in the smaller studio theater, which comfortably seats 115 guests.
“Fascinatin’ Gershwin” is currently performing, and will do so through Sunday, March 15. Previews are held on Wednesday, Jan. 28, and Thursday, Jan. 29.
Dafeldecker said the review will feature all of Gershwin’s music.
“Around the World in 80 Days” will be held through Wednesday, March 4.
Dafeldecker said that performance is a family-friendly comedy that depicts five actors playing an array of different characters traveling the world.
“Dividing the Estate” will be held from Friday, March 20, through Wednesday, April 8, with previews Tuesday, March 17 through Thursday, March 19.
“Split in Three” will conclude the season with showings from Friday, April 24, through Sunday, May 10. Previews will be held from April 21, through April 23.
In addition to the productions, the theatre also has a thriving education department that sees 17,000 students every year. Programs include Children’s Theatre, Camp Florida Rep, Theatre Conservatory, Classes for Youth & Adults and “ACT UP!” for Children on the Autism Spectrum.
The Children’s Theatre includes Lunch Box Performances for $12 if booked in advance. She said acting interns put on children’s theatre pieces.
“Journey to Oz.”
“Journey to Oz,” an interactive piece about the “Wizard of Oz” will be held Sunday, Feb. 22, at 11 a.m., and the “True Story of the Three Little Pigs,” a rock musical for younger kids, will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 28.
The Camp Florida Rep, open to kindergarten through 12th grade students, includes a two-week summer camp program and one-week winter and spring break program.
Dafeldecker said the camp which sells out every year, and puts on a full produced musical in two weeks.
The Theatre Conservatory is an audition-only program held February through May, designed for young actors with moderate to advanced level experience who are interested in theatre.
The classes held for youth and adults cover a vast array of areas that will help beginning artists, serious young artists, professionals and adults seeking something to do.
ACT UP provides youngsters ages 11 to 16 with an opportunity to learn basic acting skills through verbal and nonverbal communication, collaboration, creative movements and improvisation, while interacting with others and making new friends.
“We have fall, winter and spring classes and then in the summer we do summer camps,” Dafeldecker said.
For more information on the Florida Repertory Theatre, its many performances and upcoming camps, call 239-332-4488 or visit FloridaRep.org.