When the COVID-19 pandemic began reshaping our daily lives, it also had a major impact on the cultural landscape of Naples.
Almost all of the arts organizations in the county were shuttered by March 20th, with several performing arts organizations furloughing or laying-off a majority of their staff members as early as the following week.
A major economic driver and asignificant draw for tourists, Naples has come to rely on the arts and culture industry.
With most organizations out of work, the outlook has been bleak. But one organization has been quietly working behind the scenes to preserve Naples’ renowned cultural landscape.
Despite a financial impact of more than $1.25M, the Naples Players in the heart of downtown has not only preserved its staff but worked tirelessly to provide much needed programming throughout the crisis.
Serving more than 1600 students since the shutdown began, the Naples Players not only continued to offer its traditional arts education programs virtually, but also continued to provide critical connection and therapy to hundreds of families that are impacted by disabilities.
With programs for students with autism, to classes for adults with Alzheimer’s, these programs have been a stand-out success in a sea of isolation.
“I am particularly proud of the ways we continued to engage our patrons, especially those who were most at-risk of mental health problems” said Executive Artistic Director Bryce Alexander. “The ‘Improv for Isolation’ program was an immediate success, providing many lonely seniors a community to laugh with during a scary time” he added.
But the organization hasn’t forgotten about the larger community, either. The Naples Players immediately made their property available for neighboring restaurants to add additional outdoor seating, and even added an ongoing drive-in movie series in a local parking lot to provide a safe out-of-the-house cultural activity.
And in October, the company produced an outdoor, socially distanced musical in Cambier park. Even more impressive, the show entitled “Yours, Truly” featured the real-life story of Naples’ resident Gary Kelson.
Next up is the holiday classic “It’s a Wonderful Life” in December. But the theatre isn’t business as usual. “People think that because we’re open, or that they are buying a ticket, we don’t need additional support. But all of these programs -if we are lucky- are only going to break-even.
If the community values our efforts during this time, we hope they’ll consider donating to us. Every dollar counts” Alexander tacked on.
There is no doubt that Naples is relying on these programs for tourism and entertainment, but the community truly depends on organization’s like the Naples Players who are blazing a trail to recovery from the pandemic.