Gulfshore Playhouse Announces Internationally Recognized Architectural Firm For New Theatre And Education Center
Over a decade has passed since Kristen Coury first stepped foot in Naples after a career working on Broadway for Walt Disney Theatrical Productions and Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Really Useful Group as well as directing a feature film.
Today, as Founder and CEO of Gulfshore Playhouse, Coury is spearheading a transformation in Naples' cultural scene with the creation of a new state-of-the-Art Theatre and education center that will serve Southwest Florida with Broadway-quality professional equity theatre and education.
Gulfshore Playhouse, Naples' premier professional regional theatre is embarking on a $45 million capital campaign for its new campus that will be located on a three-acre parcel in Naples Square at the corner of 1st Avenue South and Goodlette-Frank Road. A third of the funding has already been completed for the new theatre.
Slated to be a cultural landmark for downtown Naples, Gulfshore Playhouse has announced the selection of its architectural firm for its new theatre and education center. A major presence on the national and international architectural stage, H3, a design studio within Arquitectonica specializing in theatres and arts and culture buildings, has designed some of the most prominent theaters in the country, including the Claire Tow Theatre and Vivian Beaumont Theatre at Lincoln Center, the Brooklyn Academy Of Music, South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center, the Dijon Performing Arts Center in France, the Theatre for a New Audience in New York, the renovation of Radio City Music Hall and the Denver Performing Arts Center, the nation's second largest center for the arts after the Lincoln Center.
The design team will be led by Bernardo Fort-Brescia and Ariel Fausto. Fort-Brescia is a graduate of Princeton University and received a Master of Architecture from Harvard University, where he also taught. He is one of the founding partners of Arquitectonica, a fellow of the American Institute of Architects and a recipient of numerous design awards, including ULI's Lifetime Achievement Award. Principal of the H3 theatre-design division, Fausto is a graduate of MIT with a Master of Architecture degree, and has completed more than 15 theatre projects in his 20-year career. The landscape architecture team for the new Gulfshore Playhouse will be led by another Arquitectonica founding principal, Laurinda Spear. A graduate of Brown and Columbia universities and a recipient of the American Academy's Rome Prize, Spear has played an instrumental role in many of the firm's signature projects and led the expansion of its design fields beyond architecture and planning.
"Over the last few years, we've seen a revitalization of downtown Naples projects - from culinary dining destinations, to bustling real estate activity of new mixed-use residential and commercial projects that are creating a friendlier, more walkable downtown area. New businesses are coming to downtown Naples ignited by the possibilities for growth and economic development," said Kristen Coury, founder and producing artistic director of Gulfshore Playhouse. "Our new theatre and education campus will enhance this transformation by creating an architectural gem and cultural landmark to complement the business and residential growth happening right in our backyards as well as serve as the gateway to downtown Naples. With H3 and Arquitectonica's reputation and experience in creating performing art spaces and iconic venues that influence a region, respond to their surroundings, honor cultural heritage, and serve as catalysts for vibrant communities, I can't think of a more fitting partnership for our new home."
In the last 10 years, Gulfshore Playhouse has engaged more than 100,000 patrons and grown by 850 percent, resulting in a demand for larger-scale productions and expanded education offerings.
Gulfshore Playhouse expects to triple its capacity in the new theatre and education campus, resulting in more than $10 million annually to the local economy by visitors and residents with the potential to shop, dine and stay at local businesses and hoteliers.
"We're extremely pleased that Gulfshore Playhouse will build its new professional theatre in the City of Naples. The theatre will be a bold extension of the core of downtown to the east of 5th Avenue and complement the businesses, retailers and new housing projects already there as well as future projects," said City of Naples Mayor Bill Barnett. "It will truly transform downtown Naples and add significant and lasting value to the cultural life of Naples for generations to come."
Plans for the complex include a 50,000-square-foot building on two acres, a 400-seat mainstage proscenium theatre with sloped stadium seating, which will be used for large-cast musicals, classics, and world premiere comedies and dramas. A separate Studio Theatre will offer seating for more than 150 patrons, gathering spaces for meetings, children's theatre, cabarets, and edgier fare, as well as a grand airy lobby, bar, gardens, and an exclusive patron lounge.
"Theater and the arts symbolize the soul of any community and this project will do the same for the city of Naples," said Fort-Brescia. "We are so pleased to be part of giving life to this dream through its architecture."
Coury envisions the new space as an incubator for out-of-town tryouts of Broadway shows, much like McCarter, La Jolla, and Steppenwolf theatres.
Anticipated plans also include an education wing with rehearsal rooms, classrooms, and space for children's theatre events. The complex will support the expansion of Gulfshore Playhouse's education programs focused on pre-professional training in acting, voice, and movement as well as expand its in-school and after-school education programs.
"I envision the day when our parking lot will be filled with school buses as students file through our doors, excited to see our next production. We will produce theatre for children and by children who otherwise would not be able to experience participating in live storytelling," Said Coury.
Once built, Gulfshore Playhouse will become a member of the largest professional theatre association in the country as it takes its place as one of only 75 members in the League of Resident Theatres (LORT) - the highest professional designation for regional theatres nationwide.
"The the reality is that there are very few art institutions taking on a new initiative of this size, and even less professional theatres with female producing artistic directors leading the way," said Gulfshore Playhouse Board Chairman Bob Harden. "The new Gulfshore Playhouse is truly a testament of this community's philanthropic spirit and commitment to the arts."
Quiet phase fundraising is underway. Final architectural concepts will be unveiled at the March 26 Bubbles, Baubles, and Broadway Gala at The Ritz-Carlton, Naples. Project assistance is being provided to Gulfshore Playhouse by Pizzuti Solutions.
Gulfshore Playhouse is committed to enriching and strengthening the cultural fabric of our region by producing professional theatre productions of a national standard that celebrates the diversity of our audiences, draws people together to discover a new understanding of oneself, and gives back in a spirit of outreach and service.
For more information about Gulfshore Playhouse or its new facility, visit www.gulfshoreplayhouse.org or call 239-261-PLAY (7529).