Unbreakable Bonds – The Naples Players

By Lauren Spears

Ray Marasco moved to Naples from Pennsylvania in 2004 with his wife Bette after visiting their daughter who moved to Naples from New York City. After frequent visits, she told him, “Dad, why don’t you buy a home in Naples?”…the rest is history.

Talent runs in the family as Ray’s daughter in Naples owns a successful interior design business, Wright Interior Group. His other daughter in New York City is the owner of Dyenamix, which creates textiles for Broadway, television, international productions as well as couture fashion lines and curated museum work.

When Ray settled into his home in Naples, he said, “In retirement, I’m not going to sit around and watch TV – I’d like to get a job.” His daughter suggested that he volunteer at The Naples Players in the scene shop. “I told her I don’t know how to do that, and she said ‘they’ll teach you!’”

Since then, Ray and Bette created many one of a kind special events for TNP’s Preview Nights providing gourmet food for their fellow volunteers who attended. In addition, Ray and his wife supported TNP financially and Ray got heavily involved in the scene shop.

“I learned how to cut wood and build things. I get along with all of the guys and we have become great friends. They were unbelievably kind when Bette passed away.”

Explaining that the theater pays tribute to late volunteers, Ray says, “there is a section of the wall when you’re coming out of The Tobye and into the scene shop that has photos of volunteers who have passed away – there, amongst the team in their work gear is a tribute photo of Bette in a Bob Mackie gown…which seems comical in the scene shop, but appropriate and greatly appreciated!

”It’s obvious that when you work together to accomplish something bigger than yourself, you create a strong bond, Ray says, “I enjoy coming here because of the camaraderie of the people I’m working with. I always look forward to volunteering Tuesdays and Saturdays -no matter what!”

“The people I’ve met at the theatre are true lifelong friends. If something goes wrong, I can call any of the guys or gals I volunteer with for help. We socialize often and always make a point to come to preview night -getting together for dinner with a group before the show. I never had that experience anywhere else in my life.”

Ray has not only recruited many volunteers for TNP, but he also serves at multiple functions and organizations around town including the Naples Winter Wine Festival, the Naples Zoo, and the Conservancy of Southwest Florida.

Through volunteering, he met his girlfriend, Karen, and says, “she’s my soulmate and a very caring person. Early in our relationship when I had triple bypass surgery she took off from work and spent time with me in the hospital supporting my recovery.”

As far as working with The Naples Players’ professional staff, Ray only has good things to report. “Mike and Chase are so talented and have an extreme amount of patience with the volunteers. When they tell us what to do, they are very concise in their direction, so we entirely understand our task. If a volunteer makes a mistake, they say ‘don’t worry about it – we can take that and turn it into something else.’ They communicate well and are fun guys to work with.”

As the TNP professional staff works closely with CEO/Artistic Director, Bryce Alexander, it’s no surprise that Ray appreciates the leadership and dedication during COVID-19 and beyond.

“I have an extreme amount of gratitude for Bryce – he’s doing a phenomenal job. I’m saying that and it comes from my heart. He’s going all out. We’re still in business – we’re still here even post COVID.”

Talking about his community at The Naples Players, Ray says, “I consider TNP my second home and an escape from day-to-day life. When my wife passed away, I didn’t want to sit home crying forever. Since I have learned so much (in the scene shop), I have taken on small repairs at home that I wouldn’t have even tried before.” This is exactly the kind of journey that The Naples Players wants to be a part of, Bryce says, “Ray is a shining example of the talented, passionate, and dedicated people we get to work with every day. We’re truly a family, and I feel honored that I get to be apart of it.”

Looking to learn a new skill and make friends? There are so many opportunities to pitch in at The Naples Players – We have over 40 volunteer positions available throughout the year. No experience necessary, just an eagerness to be involved. To find out more, contact Pamela Larkin Caruso at plarkincaruso@naplesplayers.org or 239.434.7340 ext 104

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