The Naples Players seek downtown theater expansion

Reporter: Taylor Wirtz Writer: Joey Pellegrino
Published: Updated:

The Naples Players are expanding and redeveloping their current space and will meet with the Naples City Council to discuss the changes.

The project is entirely funded by what the theater company calls “generous donors.” Those donors together will make up the $15 million going towards the renovation of the Naples Players’ entire facility, the Sugden Community Theatre on 5th Avenue S. It’s a bit of an expansion as well, with the existing 30,000 square feet being renovated and another 8,000 to 10,000 square feet added.

Changes to the current space include the addition of a balcony to the main theater and a renovation of the smaller black box theater (“black box” referring to a style of theater that allows you to arrange the space however you want). The portion being added to the facility will include a third black box theater dedicated solely to the group’s education and outreach programs, something the Players say will make it easier to host these programs.

“One of our major challenges right now is that because we have the main proscenium theater and one black box theater, we have to schedule the facility,” said Bryce Alexander, executive artistic director for the Naples Players. “And it makes it very difficult for us to provide services to all of those partners all year long. And so the addition of the educational theater, will really allow us to dedicate a space that we can program all year long to serve all 25-plus of those community partners in education.”

The Sugden Community Theatre was built at the center of downtown Naples in 1998 to provide a civic center for the city, and while Naples has evolved quite a bit in that time, downtown (and the theater in particular) really hasn’t.

“It’s very exciting that, as Naples continues to grow and expand, you know, the downtown area can continue to keep up and serve that population as well,” Alexander said. “The theater is really looking at how we can serve as a community hub for all of Naples for the next 23 years.”

The Players say the hope is for the project to start by May 2022.

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