The Next Stage: Gulfshore Playhouse gets a $10 million challenge

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Gulfshore Playhouse gets a $10 million challenge

Philanthropists Patty and Jay Baker held out a strong hand to Gulfshore Playhouse Wednesday, announcing a $10 million matching grant for a proposed theater to be built on Goodlette Road adjacent to the Naples Square development at U.S. 41 South.

“We believe in the community and we believe in Gulfshore Playhouse,” said Patty Baker, echoed by her husband: “We want to give back to the community we live in. It’s Patty’s philosophy: ‘You should lay eggs for every nest.’ ”

The former president of Kohl’s Department Stores and his wife, who jointly backed Broadway musicals such as the Tony-winning “Memphis,” have bestowed major gifts on the arts before. The Baker Museum at the Artis-Naples complex was named for them after a $10 million gift to that institution.

This offer was announced at a party for theater supporters, who received small gold-painted shovels to commemorate the event.

It is a game changer for Kristen Coury, Gulfshore Playhouse founder/artistic director, who has been seeking a dedicated theater for all of her 11 years here.

“I feel we are really on our way toward my dream to create a Tony-class regional playhouse in Naples,” she said, adding that she is grateful to the Bakers “from the bottom of my heart.”

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