I was recently assigned a news article for a local paper’s lifestyle section and I got to interview the director and playwright for a community theatre production of Gulf View Drive. The publication date for the magazine got pushed, so the article will not appear. Too bad! They will be into the run of the show for an entire week before publication, so they decided to pull it, but the paper still covered the theatre. I also got to write that short article and I can’t wait to see it in print. I’ll share when they go to press. 🙂 But please enjoy this article since it’s still mine and I love it! Please, let me know if this sounds pro? Leave a comment. Thanks.
View of the Gulf
Venice Theatre completes Arlene Hutton’s trilogy of plays with Gulf View Drive. Gulf debuts in the Pinkerton at VT on January 10, 2020 and runs through January 26th.
In 2018, Venice Theatre started with Last Train to Nibroc. In Nibroc, May and Raleigh meet for the first time on a train, pre-World War 2. In 2019, VT produced See Rock City, a furtherance of the couple one year after their elopement–add mothers. In 2020, we see the last play of the trio, Gulf View Drive. Gulf is inspired by the Sarasota area. May and Raleigh buy their first home.
The Nibroc Trilogy takes place just over a decade. The series started as a one-act play based on a news item. The bodies of Nathaniel West and F. Scott Fitzgerald were transported for burial on the same train. Hutton imagined a couple encountering for the first time on that journey.
Third in the collection, Gulf View Drive forces May and Raleigh to make difficult choices in an uncertain world. Family pressures stretch the limits of love.
Each play is a complete work and does not require prior knowledge of the sequence. However, resolution to the series will be satisfying for those who have followed the productions.
From the catwalks to the footlights, each experienced member of VT staff, cast, and crew are excited to bring this third production to life. A veteran director of VT, Kelly Woodland heads the final offering.
Kelly brings authenticity, sentiment, and prowess to each show she directs. Nuance is her expertise; tight drama and tenderness are her hallmarks. Woodland enjoys working with new faces and carefully selects each cast. Kelly has raised many shows at VT, her most recent–Good People.
A fifth-generation Florida native, Woodland understands the subtle distinctions of this play set on an island inspired by area keys–Siesta and Longboat. Warm November Gulf breezes, cinder block houses, sunburns, and sulfur water are just some of the small brushstrokes of Hutton’s Gulf View Drive.
Floridians, transplants or no, won’t compare old bayside beachtown to new in this impression. Kelly surmised, “I think more than anything [audiences] will relate to a young married couple with their in-laws moving in, trying to deal with personal relationships, as well as developing their professional life…and all of the clashing personalities. It’s really interesting.” As with any good drama, plenty of laughter peppers Gulf.
The story takes place in 1953, a different time for Sarasota than the bustling beach borough we enjoy today. Gulf is a snapshot of the area’s past. May and Raleigh, the main characters of the three shows, are a portrait from Hutton’s own family album, her parents.
Interesting director’s note–Kelly’s father was the original athletic director for Manatee Junior College (State College of Florida, currently). He taught alongside Hutton’s parents. May and Raleigh are based on Hutton’s real-life mother and father. Also, Kelly’s mother, a teacher for Bradenton schools, taught Hutton’s fifth-grade class…the year Kelly was born. For Woodland to direct Hutton’s show feels like fortune to her.
More than chance, Arlene Hutton scripts strong female characters for the stage. She started writing parts for herself. At a time when there were hardly any dynamic roles for older women, Hutton created her own. From her personal experience and working with actors, Hutton crafts thoughtful, honest scenes hewn and honed on the boards.
“[I]t’s been hard for women playwrights to get produced.” Hutton shares hopeful insight, “That’s changing.”
Emerging playwrights have an even wider representation of backgrounds, cultures, and orientation, but Hutton reminds us; “[d]iversity includes age.” There are many “wonderful female voices…yet to be widely heard.”
Several theatres have produced one or all of the shows. “I’m happy that my family can see Gulf View Drive at Venice in January and Last Train to Nibroc at Mad Cow in Orlando in February.” Hutton has been quite successful with the trilogy that started as a one-act. With the help of companies, workshops, and actors–she just kept expanding it.
Venice Theatre keeps expanding as well. VT venerates its 70th season; the theatre established in 1950. Founded by two women, Muriel Olds-Dundas and Sonia Terry promised a picnic to volunteers and supporters.
The theatre still thrives on an active volunteer population and throws an annual volunteer barbeque picnic to honor their growing numbers. VT is the second largest community theatre in the US.
VT just purchased the facility that Sarasota Public Library had used temporarily for its Venice location. With the new library built and operating, VT can now plan expansion for its campus and education department. 70 years and Venice Theatre is still growing.
With only one building for performance and rehearsal, the addition of the Arts Education Building (formerly the Hamilton Building) welcomes even more students, performers, and artists. Home to aactWORLDFEST, VT’s new space will be crucial in housing actors, technicians, and theatre companies from around the globe.
Venice Theatre is a powerhouse of talent and technique thanks to Murray Chase. Chase is a visionary who takes risks. Under Murray’s charge, VT included shows in its seventy-year anniversary like Gulf–the setting just three years after VT’s inception. Other shows at VT this 70th season: Menopause The Musical, Guys and Dolls, Hamlet, Chicago, aactWORLDFEST 2020, concerts, cabaret, and much more.
Gulf View Drive has a short run so don’t miss this well-written, well-done Nibroc finale. Tickets are on sale now at venicetheatre.org. Shows run from January 10-26, 2020. Sunday matinees at 2:00 PM, all other performances have a curtain time of 7:30 PM.