Background & History
The Naples Players was founded on January 19, 1953, an idea which originated a year earlier during at the home of Henry and Mary Watkins. Its first production, I Remember Mama, was staged in what is now Gulfview Middle School on March 20, 1953. The Miami Herald wrote, “Another cultural step in the progress of this city was taken when the newly organized Naples Players gave their first performance…worthy of accomplished professionals.”
Over the next few years the members concerned themselves with the running of a community theatre. One issue continued to persist – the desire for a venue. In 1956, the organization incorporated and the search for a home venue began.
The Player’s first musical, H.M.S. Pinafore, was staged in 1958. The group performed where it could, from local schools and storefronts to homes. The 1970’s were a busy time with shows, classes, workshops, and seminars. In 1975, TNP established a home base for the next decade when a 40-seat playhouse was opened at 2363 Davis Boulevard. As the years passed, both the membership and audience for the company grew.
A movie house (the Kon-Tiki Theatre) became available for rent at the corner of US 41 and Goodlette-Frank Road, in 1984. The Players leapt at the opportunity and signed a lease. The building was renovated, and TNP opened Guys and Dolls in March 1985.
An unprecedented fundraising effort followed with the first major gift coming from Frances Pew Hayes. Others soon followed by the likes of Peg and Herb Sugden, Lois and Dick Blackburn, and Jay and Patty Baker. Three successive yearly grants from the State of Florida totaled nearly $1.5 million. The final result was the 1998 debt-free opening of Sugden Community Theatre on 5th Avenue South, with the play Me and My Girl.
Today The Naples Players stage more than 220 performances a year. With a subscriber base of more than 3,000, children’s program that reach over 600 children annually, and having been voted Best Live Theatre for thirteen consecutive years in the Naples Daily News Southwest Florida Choice Awards, The Naples Players continues to grow and thrive.
Background & History
KidzAct, founded in 2002, is the youth theatre education program of The Naples Players.
TNP had traditionally produced a youth musical in the summer, but in the early 2000s a year-round educational theatre program was created. It featured skill-building and production classes to children and young adults ranging from 4-18 years of age.
The KidzAct program stages 5+ productions annually. Children audition to be admitted to the production classes, which stage fully realized shows and are taught skills in a classroom setting. Classes are also available for students to develop their theatre skills and culminate in a workshop production at the end of the session. A full-time director of KidzAct, Megan McCombs, and teachers specializing in voice, dance, improv, and acting teach the students throughout the year. Scholarships to the program are available based on financial need.
High School students who go through the program are eligible to be part of the KidzAct Leadership Team, and are trained to be leaders, teachers, and choreographers for the younger students in the classroom and for KidzAct productions.
In the spring of 2007, KidzAct began an outreach program. The program teams with local businesses and private donors to present plays in schools which do not have any type of theatre program.
Auditions are held three times per year. The fall production The Nutcracker Goes Pop! features a modern retelling of the classic Nutcracker story, and is performed annually by all age groups. There is one musical in the spring, as well as a Shakespeare on the outdoor Baker Stage. During the summer three musicals are produced for ages 9-14 and 14-18.
In 2015, the program expanded its reaches to incorporate a technical side, Tech for Teens. Tech for Teens is geared towards students who are interested in exploring the backstage and technical elements of theatre. The program includes classes in stage management, scenic construction and painting, costuming, electrics, light design, sound design, audio engineering, and props. These students work with the full-time technical staff of The Naples Players to learn about what makes a show function beyond the elements of acting, singing, and dancing. Students who complete the classes and workshops in various areas are invited to participate as the technical crew for the KidzAct shows.