A major shift and investment in educational programming is taking place at The Naples Players. The community theatre company on 5th Avenue is revisioning its education department by adding and recasting staff focused on education. Executive Artistic Director Bryce Alexander sees the changes as a natural transformation, not a shakeup. “We’ve acquired nationally recognized talent in education and
wellness,” Alexander said. “Coupled with our program’s explosive growth and incredible results, we wanted to refocus our goals and expectations to position the theatre and our community for continued success.”
Joining the theatre company as Director of Education is Hester Kamin. Kamin is internationally recognized and known for her recent roles as the Director of Education at Gulfshore Playhouse
and Barrington Stage Company. Meanwhile, Craig Price is focusing on community outreach and the theatre’s ever-growing and impactful Wellness Through the Arts programs as the Director of Community Education and Wellness.
Finally, Education Stage Manager Kenzie Currie will continue to support the theatre’s education programming and productions. “Together, these three are jumpstarting a major initiative for arts education in Southwest Florida,” Alexander said. Already a burgeoning program, The Naples Players’ Wellness Through the Arts boasts partnerships with The David Lawrence Center, The Naples Women’s Shelter, STARability, Collier County Public Schools, AVOW Hospice, and even Florida Gulf Coast University— where a joint study at the PACE Center for Girls determined that improv techniques reduced the daily reported anxiety of participants by more than 25%.
In one such wellness class, Improv for Autism, Clinical Social Worker and Licensed Therapist Margo Escott and Craig Price team up to teach young people communication and confidence—and that’s not all. The team takes students’ IEPs (Individualized Education Plans) from their schools and works directly on those goals at the theatre, too. “The Naples Players provides students another step in achieving their academic goals through true “theatre therapy,’” Craig Price said.
“It benefits them at home, in the classroom, and in the workplace.” Parents like Lou and Laura Georgelos are amazed by the progress they see achieved through the theatre’s wellness classes.
“We’ve noticed a confidence when asked to speak in social situations,” said Laura Georgelos. “Historically, our daughter didn’t like being singled out to perform or speak, but now she’s more
inclined to jump into a conversation even when she’s among an unfamiliar group.”
Beyond individuals and families, The Naples Players embraces partnership with local organizations that cater to people with Autism Spectrum Disorder, Parkinson’s Disease, and those with developmental delays. One such nonprofit, Able Academy, regularly busses students to The Naples Players for therapeutic programming and job skill training. The impact of Wellness Through the Arts isn’t limited to just children, either.
The Naples Players partnered with The Alzheimer’s Association of Southwest Florida to offer theatre therapy programs to people with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers. Research from around the country has already demonstrated the benefits of such programs. These partnerships and programs combined with The Naples Players’ “Sensory Friendly” performances—performances specifically modified to be less stimulating and more welcoming to adults and children with disabilities or special challenges—make certain all people can participate at The Naples Players in a safe environment for both performances and classes.
The Naples Players says this is just the beginning. With The Naples Players’ KidzAct program growing more than 35% in just 3 years, the theatre has announced a new partnership with the Nation’s
leading Performing Arts Highschool—The Interlochen School for the Arts, in Interlochen Michigan. Thanks to a grant from the Corson Family Foundation, students from The Naples Players will be eligible for an exclusive scholarship to attend summer training at the prestigious school while faculty from the school will be travelling to Naples periodically to teach masterclasses.
All of this is enhanced by The Naples Players’ hugely competitive College Internship Program, which provides housing, a financial stipend, and meaningful design opportunities. With more than 250 applicants for only 5 positions, Cole Butcher, the program’s creator and TNP’s Production Stage Manager is impressed with the program’s success. “The students have continually expressed how important it is that each student be treated like an industry professional—garnering both professional and personal skills in a caring but demanding environment,” Butcher said.
Meanwhile, the theatre has seen ticket sales skyrocket and subscribers more than double in the last three years. “The Naples Players is committed to our community, and I think that resonates with people. Whether you are coming to see a great show, or coming to learn about the arts, you want to be part of something important and impactful, and that’s what we’re doing here,” Alexander said. “We’re assembling a passionate team of community members, and this is just another step in building our community into the best place possible.”
To register or for more details, contact the Director of Community Engagement & Wellness, Craig Price at (239) 434-7340 ext. 103.
Registration is available online (www.naplesplayers.org) or by phone. 15% off all classes is offered for all Naples Players Members.