The Naples Players Raise $1.3 Million For Theatre At Sapphire Soiree

The Naples Players Raise $1.3 Million For Theatre At Sapphire Soiree

The Naples Players raised over $1.3 million dollars this weekend at their 65th anniversary gala The Sapphire Soiree to support their unique community theatre programs in Southwest Florida.

The evening featured reprised performances from CHICAGO, KidzAct's Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat, and a preview performance from the upcoming musical Guys & Dolls; as well as "Tomorrow" from Annie, which drew a standing ovation for young performer Daniella Flom.

Held in the Grand Pavilion of the Ritz-Carlton Tiburon Golf Resort, the gala attracted over 250 theatre patrons and philanthropists, such as Myra Janco Daniels, Marla and Allen Weiss, and Jay and Patty Baker, among others.

Gala co-chair Alyssa Haney, who was recently honored as Naples' Young Professional of the Year, sees the event as a family reunion of sorts.

"The Naples Players is the gold-standard for community arts in Southwest Florida, but our roots are humble, beginning in the Watkins family's living room sixty-five years ago," Haney said. "Although our arts programming is serving tens of thousands of people each year, there's a tight-knit community that feels more like a family."

The evening's auction featured a 2019 Mercedes-Benz GLC300 from Mercedes-Benz of Naples, an assortment of wine from Fairways Wine Vault of Naples, and a Broadway package including rare tickets to the Food Network's New York City Wine & Food Festival and a backstage experience to Come From Away.

Gala hosts Tanya & Denny Glass are also making charitable waves in the community as construction of the Naples Zoo's Glass Animal Hospital is underway. Tanya Glass is an accomplished artist currently exhibiting with the Naples Art Association, while Denny Glass is The Naples Players' incoming board president - they both sponsored the Naples Players' 65th Anniversary Season.

The evening's programming also featured speakers that touched on many of The Naples Players' work behind the curtain. The group's wellness programs, which include therapy programs for people with autism spectrum disorder and Parkinson's disease, have had a powerful impact throughout Southwest Florida.

One of the gala speakers, Julia Maloney, shared with the audience her family's appreciation for the theater's wellness programming and sensory-friendly programming. "The Naples Players KidzAct education program has been that life changing experience," Maloney said. "They've taught my daughter Kendall how to interact with others, have a conversation with back and forth dialogue, how to listen, take direction, and how to express herself."

It was during the event's final plea for donor support when the largest financial commitment came from Jay & Patty Baker. The two traded $100,000 commitments back and forth until reaching a million dollars. Patrons, guests, volunteers, and staff at the gala erupted with cheers and standing applause. Tears could be seen throughout the room.

"Patty and Jay care very deeply about the people who live in this community, about the quality of life here, and about the arts. I have heard Patty say that she and Jay like to lay eggs where they nest. How lucky are we to be one of those eggs? How lucky are we to live in that nest?" said Bryce Alexander, the company's Executive Artistic Director.

"I can't imagine what The Naples Players or Southwest Florida would be like without Jay & Patty Baker," he continued. "The success of our organization and so many others rely on their leadership in our community. There are no words that do Naples' gratitude for Jay and Patty justice."

The Naples Players (TNP) Sugden Community Theatre is Naples' oldest and premier theatre group and a vital part of the exciting experience of Downtown Naples. Celebrating its 65th season, and as one of the top theatres in the country, they offer a variety of plays and musicals in three intimate spaces, Blackburn Hall, the Tobye Studio Theatre and outside Baker Stage - all located in one building on Fifth Avenue South. The KidzAct program, Southwest Florida's premier youth theatre program offers a performing arts education wing, offers top quality productions as well as in-depth skills classes for children. Adult education classes are offered throughout the year for skilled professionals to first-time performers. Readers Theatre offers an opportunity to hear new works as well as rare one acts and classics and is entirely volunteer run.

The Naples Players continually seeks to enrich, educate, and entertain the community through a superior theatre experience. TNP is inspiring passion for the performing arts through life-long opportunities to participate in vibrant theatrical experiences. The 65th Anniversary Season, generously sponsored by Tanya & Denny Glass, is filled with dazzling musicals, alongside heartfelt comedies, magical adventures, and world premiere plays. ?

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