The­ater From the Heart

Lab­o­ra­tory The­ater of Florida is the com­mu­nity ef­fort we all need

Gulf & Main - - Contents - BY DAVID ACEVEDO

There is a gem of a the­ater in Fort My­ers—one that is ex­cep­tion­ally ours, be­cause the peo­ple who es­tab­lished it are beloved and ex­em­plary mem­bers of the com­mu­nity. One of these peo­ple is founder and pro­duc­ing artis­tic direc­tor An­nette Tross­bach, the main char­ac­ter in the story of the Lab­o­ra­tory The­ater of Florida. Guided by her vi­sion­ary dreams and en­cour­aged by the prospects of a lon­glast­ing ten­ure, she pushes on against all odds.

Tross­bach is an en­er­getic, en­thu­si­as­tic and cre­ative soul with a pas­sion for her craft. Her ded­i­ca­tion is lim­it­less, es­pe­cially when it comes to co­or­di­nat­ing, pro­duc­ing and show­cas­ing class-act plays and per­for­mances. She is a pas­sion­ate trav­eler, seek­ing ex­pe­ri­ences and in­spi­ra­tion for her work; and she loves cheese, shi­raz and au­tumn. She is also a hands-on type.

“I love the en­tire process of cre­at­ing [in the the­ater]—from pro­duc­tion meet­ings to build­ing, to light­ing and sound de­sign. I love the ex­quis­ite dis­cov­er­ies ac­tors and direc­tors make in re­hearsals, the mar­ket­ing meet­ings and all of it,” says the ac­tor, who reg­u­larly dis­re­gards her ad­min­is­tra­tive du­ties to go sweep the stage or screw down some walls. “This makes me feel con­nected to the build­ing as well as the process. It’s a valu­able change of per­spec­tive from think­ing of the mis­sion and phi­los­o­phy of the the­ater, which is where all cre­ative de­ci­sions spring,” adds Tross­bach.

The Lab­o­ra­tory The­ater of Florida is housed in a beau­ti­fully re­fur­bished build­ing from 1923. Once a church, the his­toric build­ing, lo­cated on the corner of Sec­ond Street and Woodford Av­enue, is the per­fect set­ting for this type of com­mu­ni­ty­ori­ented project. Nat­u­rally, a build­ing like this needs a lot of main­te­nance and some TLC. Many ea­ger vol­un­teers as­sist with the ba­sics, which in­clude build­ing sets, ush­er­ing shows, al­ter­ing cos­tumes, paint­ing, dra­maturgy and more. Each year, the the­ater ben­e­fits from al­most 20,000 vol­un­teer hours, and Tross­bach can­not find enough words to ex­press her grat­i­tude for all that hard work. There is al­ways more work to do, how­ever, es­pe­cially for two ad­di­tional build­ings on the 1.3acre prop­erty. Do­na­tions and skilled vol­un­teers are con­stantly needed for the many de­mands and chores.

Terry Tincher has been in­volved with the project since 2016. As the pro­duc­tion man­ager, he has worked tire­lessly along­side Tross­bach in a series of suc­cess­ful projects, in­clud­ing sold-outs such as Vis­it­ing Mr. Green and Hush Up, Sweet Char­lotte, among

For those who en­joy live the­ater, there is noth­ing more ex­hil­a­rat­ing than lo­cal, un­apolo­getic and dar­ing plays.

many oth­ers. “It is a great out­let for both my con­struc­tion and artis­tic sides,” says Tincher, whose for­mer en­trepreneur­ships in­clude a build­ing com­pany and var­i­ous art gal­leries.

The com­pany has many sched­uled pro­duc­tions and even more in the plan­ning stages. In late April 2019, the the­ater will present a col­lec­tion of sto­ries, anec­dotes, jokes and more, shed­ding light on the con­di­tions of im­mi­grants’ home coun­tries and what led to the de­ci­sion of im­mi­grat­ing to the United States. The event, called

The Im­mi­gra­tion Project Play, is be­ing de­vel­oped by a group of play­wrights and jour­nal­ists who have been in­ter­view­ing both le­gal and il­le­gal im­mi­grants since this past sum­mer. In ad­di­tion, there will be yoga, im­pro­vi­sa­tion, in­ter­faith di­a­log, move­ment, play­writ­ing, med­i­ta­tion and other cour­ses of­fered.

Open­ing Novem­ber 30 and playing through De­cem­ber is a hi­lar­i­ous three-per­son comedy called Ev­ery Christ­mas Story

Ever Told (and then some). This is a zany romp through the hol­i­day tra­di­tions of ma­jor re­li­gions and dif­fer­ent cul­tures, told by three ac­tors who play dozens of roles each and switch char­ac­ters in­stantly. Also, the com­pany will host screen­writer and play­wright Del Shores at Lab The­ater on De­cem­ber 2 for two per­for­mances of his new show, Six Char­ac­ters in Search of a Play.

For those who en­joy live the­ater, there is noth­ing more ex­hil­a­rat­ing than lo­cal, un­apolo­getic and dar­ing plays. The in­ti­mate set­ting of a com­mu­nity the­ater es­tab­lishes a di­rect link be­tween au­di­ence and ac­tors: the stomp­ing sounds from the ac­tors on stage as they move side to side in a dra­matic trance; sit­ting in the au­di­ence in an­tic­i­pa­tion of es­cap­ing into the pages of a liv­ing story that evolves right in front of the night’s wide-eyed spec­ta­tors who laugh, cry and clap on im­pulse— these are re­minders of the magic of the­ater. What I mean is that live the­ater is pure bliss and we all need to sup­port it. David Acevedo is an award-win­ning vis­ual artist, arts writer, gallery owner and cu­ra­tor liv­ing in Cape Coral, Florida. He has a bach­e­lor’s de­gree from the Univer­sity of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez cam­pus. Acevedo is the founder and pres­i­dent of the DAAS CO-OP Art Gallery & Gifts, lo­cated in Royal Palm Square in Fort My­ers.

Lab­o­ra­tory The­ater of Florida is housed in a 95-year-old build­ing that was once a church.

As its name sug­gests, Lab­o­ra­tor y The­ater does not shy away from con­tro­versy in in­tro­duc­ing the com­mu­nity to cut­ting-edge pro­duc­tions.

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