Get To Know Us
The Naples Players (TNP) Sugden Community Theatre is a large part of the exciting experience of Downtown Naples. As one of the top theatres in the country, we offer a variety of plays and musicals in two intimate spaces, Blackburn Hall and the Tobye Studio – both located in one building on Fifth Avenue South. Our KidzAct program, our 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. Etc… Readers Theatre offers an opportunity to hear new works as well as rare one acts and classics.
The Naples Players continually seeks to enrich, educate, and entertain our community through a superior theatre experience. TNP is inspiring passion for the performing arts through life-long opportunities to participate in vibrant theatrical experiences.
Background and History
The Naples Players was founded on January 19, 1953, an idea which originated a year earlier 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 theatre. One issue continued to persist – the desire for a venue. In 1956, the organization incorporated and the search for a home venue began.
TNP’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 lept at the opportunity and signed a lease. The building was renovated, and TNP opened Guys and Dolls in March 1985.
The Kon-Tiki Playhouse began to suffer from a crumbling façade and mechanical issues in the mid-1990s, and it soon became clear that a new location was necessary.
At the same time 5th Avenue South was struggling to retain the charm that made Naples a popular destination. In the early 90’s a renowned architect flew down to assess the revitalization of downtown. His advice: build an arts center, like a theatre, to anchor the culture of the community.
The Naples Players began an unprecedented fundraising effort immediately, and the first major gift came from Frances Pew Hayes. Others soon followed including Peg and Herb Sugden, Lois and Dick Blackburn, and Jay and Patty Baker. Three successive yearly grants from the State of Florida totaling nearly $1.5 million helped create the final result: the 1998 debt-free opening of The Naples Players’ Sugden Community Theatre on 5th Avenue South, with the play Me and My Girl.
Now, The Naples Players stage more than 220 performances a year. With an audience of more than 50,000 annually, an education program that reaches over 1000 students annually, and having been voted Best Live Theatre for sixteen consecutive years in the Naples Daily News, many best-of Southwest Florida Choice Awards among others. They operate with a budget just under 3 Million Dollars, and are members of Theatre Communication Group, and the American Association of Community Theatres.
Background and History
KidzAct, founded in 2002, is the performing arts education wing of The Naples Players.
While youth education has always been a key part of our programming, KidzAct was formed to substantially increase The Naples Players’ ability to impact students from all over Collier County. By forming KidzAct and adding year-round programming for ages 4 to 18, KidzAct has grown to serve more than 600 students per year; and our Youth Scholarship program ensures that no child is ever denied access because of financial need.
While the foundations of performance – acting, singing, dancing, improv, directing – are paramount to each program, the impact on each student’s ability to think creatively and critically; to build self-confidence; to make lasting relationships; and to encourage leadership and communication traits are what truly sets KidzAct apart. This year, KidzAct began offering “sensory friendly” performance classes intended for children with Down syndrome, autism, and other developmental disabilities to learn communication skills, critical thinking, all while building a community. This wildly successful program is further proof that any student exposed to the arts experiences a meaningful impact on both their academic and personal careers.
KidzAct continues to grow and impact students from every background; and has big-plans to provide new spaces, training, and even more high-quality opportunities to the children of our community in the future.
The KidzAct program stages 6+ 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.
KidzAct expanded its reaches to incorporate a technical side in 2015 with Tech for Teens. 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.