Paradise Lost: Key West Theatre Festival Folds After Nine Years

News   Paradise Lost: Key West Theatre Festival Folds After Nine Years The Key West Theatre Festival, an annual showcase for new works in the sunny island chain in Southern Florida, has ceased operations after nine years.

The Key West Theatre Festival, an annual showcase for new works in the sunny island chain in Southern Florida, has ceased operations after nine years.

The major funder of the fest withdrew support, according to spokesperson Kathey Fatica, and "rather than seek further funding the festival directors have chosen to close the festival." The annual festival billed itself as "Drama in Paradise," with a logo of Shakespeare wearing sunglasses.

Managing director Jordy Hines told Playbill On-Line Nov. 15 that 2000 was the first year the festival had a full Actors' Equity arrangement, and that the troupe was just starting a membership program to seek donors when the major funder, a private citizen, withdrew support.

Hines said playwrights should not submit spec works to the festival. There is "always hope" that some alternate funding may come through, but there is nothing on the horizon, said Hines. Those interested in information about supporting the now-dormant festival can contact Hines at (305) 292-3745.

Over the years, the festival offered 115 works — either staged readings or full productions — and even survived Hurricane Georges in 1998. Staff and actors fled the storm Sept. 25-26, days before the fall 1998 festival was to be held, and returned to offer a reduced schedule amid the damage in October — the venues were unharmed. The planned 10-day, two-weekend event was abbreviated to four days that year. That fall, festival event coordinator Katie Tierney joked that the nonprofit series of world premiere plays, which has a budget of $187,000, would be truly nonprofit: There were many cancellations and no rebookings to the remaining week due to the storm.

The festival began in 1992 as the "New Directors Festival." Among plays presented (in full or reading form) over the years were Gary Bonasorte's Big Hearts, Joe Godfrey's Bed & Breakfast, Robert E. Williams' Heart of a Woman, Randy Buck's Adjoining Trances, Timothy Jay Smith's How High the Moon, Fred Silver's Good Little Girls, Stuart Warmflash's Bizet's Locket, Linda Eisenstein's Marla's Devotion, Jack Heifner's Dwarf Tossing, Joseph Coyne's Exploding Love, Rich Orloff's Water Boy, Sharr White's Iris Fields, Alana Macias' Denny's Chronicles , Brenda Edwards' Duel Pardoning, Jack Heifner's Jumping for Joy, John Lordan's Sky Watching and Arthur Wooten's Birthday Pie, Mariann M. O'Connor's Comma, a Single Woman and Kitty Felde's Erdemovic, among many others. Some works have been staged elsewhere, some (like Joseph Coyne's Exploding Love) have been published.

Venues used for the festival over the years included the Red Barn Theatre, Waterfront Playhouse, and the Eaton Street Theatre.

Charles Munroe and Nancy Holkamp founded the fest and Joan McGillis served as artistic director for several seasons. It was thought that half of the festival's audience was made up of non-island residents. In 1997, 3,500 tickets were sold.

The Key West Theatre Festival was the main project of Theatre Key West, a service organization and information clearinghouse for island theatres. It was run by Keys Communications, Inc. The festival was devoted to workshops, play readings and seminars with nationally-known dramaturgs, actors and writers, presenting world premiere plays in professional productions in an arrangement with Actors' Equity.

— By Kenneth Jones