Community Theater Making a Big Difference
By Marsha Dowler | Photography courtesy of Seaside Repertory Theatre
Seaside, Florida, is credited worldwide with revolutionizing the way America builds by launching a return to sustainable and traditional building practices—the movement known as New Urbanism. Celebrated for its iconic architectural character and intimate town plan, Seaside emerged from the dunes along Scenic Highway 30-A and became a vibrant center for culture and the arts that has transformed the experience of community life on the Emerald Coast. From this small community of just over three hundred homes, five distinguished nonprofits make an enormous impact in the region through a compelling array of creative and performing arts, education, and spiritual life.
At the center of this unique intersection of architecture and the arts is an intimate seventy-five-seat black box theater located in the very heart of downtown. Founded less than twenty years ago as part of a homeowner-led grassroots renaissance, the Repertory Theatre (The REP) in Seaside is Northwest Florida’s premier professional theater and one of the region’s most beloved cultural institutions. Located in the award-winning Hybrid Building designed by international architect Steven Holl, The REP mounts more than three hundred performances with audience totals of over twenty-five thousand per year. This astounding output is created through rigorous attention to every detail by hard-working staff and a supremely talented professional company of actors who take on multiple roles as a close-knit theatrical family.
“Whether you have been going to The REP for years or are visiting us for the first time, you instantly become part of our family when you step through our doors,” declares Aubrey Ainsworth, the director of artistic operations, as she flashes her megawatt smile and welcomes guests with a honeyed laugh. Ainsworth also serves as stage manager and costume designer and helps select actors and technicians at regional auditions. Under the guidance of executive director Brook Stetler—who also acts, writes, and directs—The REP’s creative programming has expanded to new horizons. In addition to putting on superb outside-the-box theatrical experiences, The REP also provides enriched learning for students in Walton County schools through educational and mentorship programs. The year-round Live@TheREP Concert Series attracts extraordinary music artists and singer-songwriters from across the country. The REP Film Club, launched this year by local enthusiasts, screens compelling documentaries, art films, and popular classics. During the relative quiet of the winter season, the nationally recognized Escape to Create Arts Residency presents classical chamber music, the annual Valentine to 30A concert, and works by visiting playwrights and authors.
This astounding output is created through rigorous attention to every detail by hard-working staff and a supremely talented professional company of actors who take on multiple roles as a close-knit theatrical family.
Throughout spring and summer, The REP maintains a whirlwind schedule of shows rescripted by Stetler to spark a love for the arts in the young while providing fresh entertainment for audiences of all ages. Something magical happens when Stetler dons a lampshade and, along with company actors, cavorts with childlike abandon in a wig, tulle skirt, and high-tops. Young and old alike surrender to uncontainable laughter, and a shared joy lingers long after the final bows. Original productions of Alice in Wonderland and Stories By the Sea, written to engage kids of all ages in an interactive storytelling experience, can be enjoyed in Seaside’s outdoor central amphitheater throughout the high season. Jack and the Beanstalk is performed exclusively at Rosemary Beach on the beautiful tree-lined green in North Barrett Square. Adventures in Alys is an hour of energetic children’s improv that exercises young imaginations through creative storytelling and wordplay.
When vacationing families depart from the 30-A corridor for the start of another school year, it is time to pause and appreciate both our patrons and our artists and celebrate the many contributions The REP makes toward the vibrant community life of 30-A. The October Membership Party has all the intimacy of a joyful reunion. The annual Tribute Concert is a themed concert featuring local music artists in support of the theater as the region’s top venue for intimate music performance. Both events are vital fund-raisers for the nonprofit theater.
With its high standards of artistic excellence and dedication to providing memorable theater experiences, The REP Theatre in Seaside is the epicenter for arts and entertainment on 30-A.
The year will close with the tenth anniversary run of Every Christmas Story Ever Told (and Then Some!), which is refreshed each season almost to the point of comedic combustion. The laughs begin with the opening line of this fast-paced, hilarious romp through Christmas traditions from around the world, every carol that was ever sung, and every iconic Christmas character with a dizzying array of props and costume changes. All elements of successful theater are on full display in this routinely sold-out play. One has the clear sense the actors are having as much fun as the audience is. What better way to celebrate the holidays than by sharing joy and laughter with friends, family, and perfect strangers?
With its high standards of artistic excellence and dedication to providing memorable theater experiences, The REP Theatre in Seaside is the epicenter for arts and entertainment on 30-A. “Our mission is to present theatrical and other artistic performances that engage, entertain, and inspire people of all ages,” states board chairman Bert Trucksess. Our rapidly growing coastal community is made far richer thanks to our beloved REP.
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Visit LoveTheREP.com to learn more or get tickets.