Key West Players Celebrate 70th Season (Fla-Keys.com)

Key West Players Celebrate 70th Season (Fla-Keys.com)

Posted Thu, May 13, 2010 in Articles

KEY WEST, Florida Keys — According to Waterfront Playhouse legend, when the Key West theater opened the doors of its permanent home in 1961, the new lighting system wasn’t operational until the debut performance’s second act.

Today, however, the spotlight shines brighter than ever on the Waterfront and its enduring history. In early November, the theater’s founding Key West Players begin their 70th season of productions in the island city.

Between the Key West Players’ genesis in 1940 and the present day, the group has performed in a variety of locations, with local actors and production crewmembers ranging from Broadway veterans to talented amateurs. Past seasons have featured award-winning dramas, comedies, musicals, premieres of new works, theatrical classics and plays by the late island city resident Tennessee Williams.

The group that became the Key West Players was born Feb. 2, 1940, with seven core members. Just a month later, the curtain went up on their first play — the comedy “Squaring the Circle” by Russian writer Valentin Kataev — at the island’s Harris School.

Other early stages included the Navy vessel U.S.S. Gilmore, stationed in Key West during World War II, for a production of Noel Coward’s “Blithe Spirit.” In 1944, the Players converted the former carriage house behind the Key West Woman’s Club on Duval Street into a playhouse — the building now acclaimed as the island’s Red Barn Theatre.

But it wasn’t until 1961 that the Players moved into their lasting home: an old warehouse adjacent to Key West Harbor and what is now Mallory Square. Used to store shipwreck salvage in the island’s early heyday, the decrepit structure required extensive renovation.

The first production in the building they called the Waterfront Playhouse was Moss Hart’s “Light Up the Sky,” an apt title since the theater group’s productions have been lighting up the Key West cultural scene for decades.

Today, the stellar quality of Waterfront Playhouse productions can be credited in great part to the talent of artistic director Danny Weathers, whose career includes experience on Broadway as well as in film and television.

The Players’ 70th season is to begin Nov. 7 with the wicked “Shut Up, Sweet Charlotte” starring drag sensation Varla Jean Merman. Following is the one-man show “Full of Gin and Regret” with actor and comedian Leslie Jordan, who won an Emmy Award for his recurring role in television’s “Will & Grace.”

The season also is to feature, among other highlights, the riveting drama “Twelve Angry Men,” “The Full Monty” in all its revealing hilarity and the engaging “Stepping Out.” In addition, audiences can anticipate “BitchSlap!,” showcasing renowned female impersonators Randy Roberts and Christopher Peterson, and concerts by beloved Key West diva Vicki Roush and Broadway veteran Terri White.

Believed to be the oldest continuously operating theater company in Florida, the Key West Players offer thought-provoking, professional-level theater in an intimate and welcoming setting. For a complete performance schedule and ticketing for their 70th season, visit waterfrontplayhouse.org.

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