Community Theatres

Comedy_Tragedy_by_STiX2000Atlantic Beach Experimental Theatre
716 Ocean Blvd, Atlantic Beach, 249-7177, www.abettheatre.com

At the Atlantic Beach Experimental Theatre, every seat is a good one. For more than 20 years, ABET has brought theatre to the beaches. Their upcoming season features the life of a film icon, a local playwright, and an intriguing drama about the nature of artistic expression.
Mae West was too hot to handle. Censors in the 1930s attempted to whitewash her films because the sassy sexpot pushed the envelope. ABET’s Dirty Blonde (Jan 31-Feb15) explores this icon with humor and music, featuring songs from the films I’m No Angel and She Done Him Wrong, both Mae West movies released in 1933, pre-Hays Code. Artistic director Celia Frank, says Lee Hamby’s “costumes and staging are spectacular, as are the three amazing performers.”
Hometown theatre hero Ian Mairs wrote and will be directing the comedy Bay at the Moon (May 9-25). The play has been seen here on the First Coast before and is a proven success. (It premiered in 1994 at Players By the Sea.) It follows a squabbling North Florida family’s eccentricities and down-home tribulations.
If drama’s more your speed, try Red (Mar 14-29). At its heart, this play is about the definition of art. It tells the tale of the artist Mark Rothko’s commission to paint a series for the Four Seasons restaurant and the internal conflict that came from it. Artistic director Celia Franks says this show is “not to be missed.”

Limelight Theatre
11 Old Mission Ave, St Augustine, 825-1164, www.limelight-theatre.org

Weekends in St. Augustine are a great way to get away from it all without having to drive more than an hour. Plan ahead and your weekend can include some theatre from the Limelight!
Touching and funny, Butterflies Are Free (through Feb 16) is a perfect romantic comedy for a date night or as a Valentine’s Day outing. It follows the story of Don Baker, a blind man who moves away from his somewhat overbearing mother. Meeting his colorful neighbor Jill brings Don into a world he’s not known before. Mother disapproves, of course!
Southern comedies always play well here in Jacksonville, so if you enjoy a little down-home humor, see The Miss Firecracker Contest (Mar 7-30). For Carnelle Scott redemption comes in the form of a beauty pageant: The Miss Firecracker Contest. She aims to win and leave her Mississippi town in a blaze of glory.
Other Desert Cities (Apr 18-May 11) will have its Florida community theatre premiere at the Limelight. This contemporary drama tells the story of a novelist, coming home to announce the pending release of her memoirs, which detail a family tragedy no one wants brought up.
Molly Salzbrunn, the Limelight’s Marketing Director says that their “22nd season’s line-up is filled with some great, well-loved shows and musicals.” They’re proud of “two Florida community theatre premieres on this season’s calendar: Spamalot, which we kicked off with in September, and Other Desert Cities which opens on the Matuza Main Stage in April.” In the summer, says Salzbrunn, they’re “also thrilled to have the popular musical Oliver [Jun 6-Jul 6] .” So mark your calendars for June!

Players by the Sea
106 6th St N, Jacksonville Beach, 249-0289, www.playersbythesea.org

Players by the Sea has supported emerging playwrights and cutting edge theater in the past. This season, they’ll be producing Angels in America (Mar 14-29), which explores the cost of gay closeting, among other themes. Angels might cover a somewhat controversial topic, but it has a great pedigree. It’s garnered so many awards that there isn’t space to include them all. Among those awards are the Pulitzer, Tony, and Emmy.
The Lyons (Apr 11-26) seems to feature a depressing central plot point (it’s about the patriarch of a family on his deathbed) but you can be sure you will be laughing by the play’s end. Sample dialogue: “I’m dying, Rita,” he rants. “I know, dear,” she answers, “Try to look on the positive side.”
There’s nothing like a farce though, for a fun night out at the theatre. The Fox and the Fairway (May 2-17) by Ken Ludwig fits the bill. He also penned the popular Moon Over Buffalo and Lend Me a Tenor. Hilarity will ensue. The plot revolves around a hapless golf club manager who has put himself in an untenable situation. If his club champ doesn’t win the tournament, he’ll lose everything. He finally finds a genius golfer to ease his troubles, only to find that the golfer’s game hinges on happiness. Throw in a roller-coaster romance and voila: you’ve got yourself one heck of a farce.

Theatre Jacksonville
2032 San Marco Blvd, 396-4425, www.theatrejax.com

Theatre Jacksonville is an ingrained part of Jacksonville’s theatre history. The building itself has been in San Marco since 1938. Community theaters in the in the United States tend to be converted spaces, made from storefronts or former professional theatre spaces, but Theatre Jacksonville was built specially for Jacksonville’s first community theatre group, which was formed in 1919.
Two fairly intense dramas dominate their spring season: The Subject Was Roses (Feb 21-Mar 8), a post-WWII straight play and the musical Les Miserables (Jun 6-21). While everybody seems to know Les Mis, The Subject Was Roses isn’t as well-known. It centers around a vet coming home from the war and his parent’s dissolving marriage. Even though it’s a drama, the subject is handled with humor. Roses has won the Pulitzer, the Tony and the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Play.
For something less intense and more funny, you might try Hilda’s Yard (Apr 11-26). Although it’s set in the late 1950s, it tackles a subject that is both relevant and rife with comic possibility: adult kids moving back in with their parents. The heart-warming comedy highlights generation gaps and the love of family.

About Erin Thursby

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