Blazing a Cultural Trail at Gulfshore Playhouse

Blazing a Cultural Trail at Gulfshore Playhouse

While the theater world stood still last year, Kristen Coury, the force behind Gulfshore Playhouse, was a whirlwind. As the founder, CEO, and producing artistic director of the professional production company, Coury was re-thinking how to bring theater virtually to local audiences while negotiating with the Artists Equity Association for approval for live productions. She was also keenly focused on developing a cultural campus, with the Baker Theatre and Education Center taking centerstage.

The Gulfshore Playhouse Next Stage Capital Campaign kept pace with Coury. The construction documents for the $40 million campus were finalized in September, giving potential donors the opportunity to take “a digital fly-through,” Coury says, of the 350-seat mainstage and 125-seat studio theaters, rather than assessing the scope of her vision from a sole exterior rendering. “We showed people the depth of the project and how it will serve the community and be impactful,” she says. “There are many ways this campus will engage people and change the face of downtown.”

Many agreed it was worth supporting: Since November, eight donors have committed $14.5 million, bringing the total raised to more than $35 million. To celebrate the momentum, Coury is hosting a VIP, invitation-only event on April 21 on the future campus’ vacant, three-acre site at the corner of First Avenue South and Goodlette-Frank Road. (An official groundbreaking ceremony will take place in the fall, when financial and permitting finishing lines have been crossed.)

The “Foundation of Excellence” appreciation party will include tuxedoed servers passing Champagne and hors d’oeuvres and live performances by Broadway’s Jason Danieley and Grammy- and Emmy-winner John McDaniel. Donors, potential donors, members of the media, and community leaders are expected to attend. “We’ve got huge momentum,” Coury says.