“This area is rich in opportunity for people to experience the theatre, either as a member of the audience or perhaps in a starring role on stage,” says Brook Stetler, executive director of The REP, based in Seaside, South Walton.
Indeed, the Emerald Coast is blessed with a growing cultural arts scene. From Fort Walton to Panama City Beach, local theatre groups are offering this area’s youngsters the chance to “tread the boards” or get involved backstage with costume, lighting or stage management.
“We know that drama develops kids,” says Alissa Clifton, director of Drama Kids of Northwest Florida. Started in 2012 in Niceville, the group has now expanded to Destin, Fort Walton Beach and Crestview. It offers classes and camps for all age groups pre-K through high school.
Clifton has been involved in theatre all her life as an actress, director and writer, participating in school and community theatre shows. “The confidence children gain to speak up on stage, in class or in front of their peers is a valuable skill they will use for a lifetime,” she adds.
Based out of Miramar Beach, the Emerald Coast Theatre Company (ECTC) partners with arts groups and schools to offer performances, classes and camps.
“Our purpose is to inspire, educate, and empower the community and artists of all ages,” says Anna Fisher, one half of the husband-and-wife team leading ECTC. “We provide after-school theatre classes at Destin Elementary and Butler Elementary and a Saturday production class that is starting work on a Christmas show. This year we will be launching our professional company with a holiday show, A Dicken's Christmas, where families can enjoy the story of Scrooge presented by three professional actors,” adds Fisher’s husband and co-founder, Nathaniel.
Not ready to be in the spotlight just yet? Stage Crafters Community Theatre in Fort Walton has been delighting audiences for more than 40 years and has a range of family-friendly dramas and musicals for your enjoyment.
“We are the second oldest officially-designated ‘Community Theatre Organization’ in the state of Florida,” says Pamela Strecker, Stage Crafters’ president. “We have performed more than 150 plays and musicals ranging from social dramas like A Few Good Men to comedies such as this season’s The Odd Couple and our musical, Guys and Dolls.”
Stage Crafters now produces four shows a year which typically includes two comedies, a drama, and a popular musical. All shows are performed at the Fort Walton Beach Auditorium.
Professional theatre is also represented on the coast at The REP. Now in its 14th season, The REP is established as a first-rate regional theatre, attracting some of the finest talent from around the country.
“The REP’s host of talented theatre professionals, supported by groups of dedicated volunteers, works together to entertain more than 25,000 people each year,” says Stetler, who performs, directs and produces at the Seaside-based theatre.
Having established an indoor home on the stage of the intimate 75-seat Meeting Hall Theatre in downtown Seaside, The REP has also spread its theatrical reach along the coast.
“We perform multiple outdoor shows along 30A, run mentoring programs with local schools and offer camps and classes for those who want to take the first steps on a career in the theatre,” he explains.
“Theatre, storytelling and music are all vital elements of a vibrant community. We are delighted to be bringing the live arts to the Emerald Coast and privileged to be doing so before such responsive audiences,” says the Kansas-born actor, who has been leading The REP since 2010 as Artistic and Executive Director.
As with so much in the arts today, volunteers and the involvement of the local community are critical. Show your support for these excellent groups in our local area with a visit to the theatre to see a live performance. Who knows - we may have a budding Tony Award winner in our midst!
THE REP, SEASIDE: A Beach Home Companion; a light-hearted review of beach life with musical guests, tongue-in-cheek drama and storytelling (October 1 -23 214). A Rolling Stone Tribute; local musicians play homage to the world’s greatest rock-and-roll band (November 11 2014). Every Christmas Story Ever Told; a non-stop romp through all the classic Christmas stories in one show (December 4 -27 2014). For information and tickets visit www.lovetherep.com
DRAMA KIDS NWF: Fall classes for grades K-5 start at the beginning of September at Bluewater, Kenwood, Elliott Point, Eglin and Destin elementary schools as well as 1st Baptist Church of Fort Walton Beach and Rosemont Baptist Church in Niceville. Acting Academy classes for grades 6-12 will meet in Niceville, Fort Walton Beach, Shalimar and Destin. All classes are limited to the first 20 students who register. For more information or to register visit www.dramakidsnwf.com
or call 850-737-0413.
EMERALD COAST THEATRE COMPANY: After-school classes at Destin Elementary and Butler Elementary (you don't have to go to school there to participate) or for Saturday musical theater class working on T'was the Week After Christmas. Sign up for our newsletter at www.emeraldcoasttheatre.org
and like our Facebook page to find out more about our holiday show, A Dicken's Christmas.
STAGE CRAFTERS COMMUNITY THEATER: Damn Yankees; a middle-aged baseball fan trades his soul to the devil for the chance to lead his team in the pennant race against the New York Yankees (Nov 14 – 23 2014). For tickets and information visit www.stagecrafters.com