Mission & History

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About Gulfshore Playhouse


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A Short History of Gulfshore Playhouse


Gulfshore Playhouse was incorporated as a 501(c)3 not-for-profit professional theatre on May 21, 2004, in Naples, Florida. After many years in New York City working for Broadway producers[WU1] , Kristen Coury moved to Naples and founded Gulfshore Playhouse because she saw a niche in the local arts community that could be filled by creating a professional, self-producing, regional theatre. She was determined to bring Broadway-quality theatre to Naples by hiring the best professional actors and designers from New York City and around the country. In 2006, Gulfshore Playhouse premiered its first full-scale production: Oleanna by Pulitzer Prize winner David Mamet, starring Tony nominee Alan Campbell. It was at this time that the Norris Center, a municipal building run by the City of Naples, became available. With an intimate, 200-seat performance venue, as well as classrooms and storage space, it was a perfect home for a young theatre company.

By 2012, the Playhouse had grown dramatically and had developed a reputation as a premiere artistic home both for actors from around the country and for audiences at home. At that time, they announced their first six-show season spanning from October to April, and inaugurated the New Works Festival, gathering playwrights, directors, and actors from around the country to foster the development of new plays. The 2013-14 season saw Gulfshore Playhouse produce its first world premiere, The God Game, by Suzanne Bradbeer, a co-production with Capital Repertory Theatre in Albany, New York. The Playhouse has produced several world premieres since, including Scapino, the Playhouse’s highest-ever grossing production, written by Jeffrey Binder, a long-time Broadway veteran and Associate Artistic Director.

Gulfshore Playhouse Education, created in 2007, began as a few residencies in one classroom. Since then, Gulfshore Playhouse Education has grown into a robust division, including ThinkTheatre in-school residencies; STAR Academy extra-curricular training; student matinees; community partnerships with Artis-Naples, The Holocaust Museum, Collier County Public Schools, and The Lighthouse of Collier; and complimentary audience engagement events through the Synergy Series.

Today, Gulfshore Playhouse continues its commitment to be the finest professional theatre in Southwest Florida. The Playhouse is still led by CEO/Producing Artistic Director Kristen Coury, along with Managing Director Joel Markus, and a seasoned Board of Directors. It employs 32 full-time and seasonal staff members, as well as a company of nine interns, and hires more than 100 professional guest artists each year. With an annual operating budget of $4.2 million, the Playhouse produces six professional, mainstage productions that challenge and delight from October through May, hosts an Annual New Works Festival each fall, and welcomes nearly 30,000 patrons annually.

In 2016, Gulfshore Playhouse announced a $10-million matching gift from philanthropists and long-time benefactors of the theatre, Patty and Jay Baker. This extraordinary gift ignited an ongoing, multi-million-dollar capital campaign. In 2017, Gulfshore Playhouse purchased a 3-acre parcel of land at the gateway to downtown Naples, and in 2018 announced the engagement of H3/Arquitectonica, the architectural firm responsible for the design of the new, state-of-the-art, Tony Award-winning professional theatre and education center.