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6 Tastemakers to Watch

Meet These Rising Stars Working to Set Our Cultural and Business Agendas in the Year to Come.

(page 5 of 5)

Cody Nickell, 37


Nickell brings experience and insight to his role, plus a willingness to build strong community partnerships.

Cody Nickell is ready to put down some roots.

After 15 years as a successful freelance professional actor, Nickell was lured off the road with the siren song of a spot at the Gulfshore Playhouse in Naples. As the theatre’s first artistic associate— a position created especially for him—he’ll work to expand the playhouse’s programming, including plans for a new works festival some time in the summer of 2013. One of Nickell’s first tasks in his new role was to direct Yasmina Reza’s God of Carnage and to act in Art, also by Reza.

For Nickell and his actor wife, Kate Eastwood Norris, being at Gulfshore Playhouse is also a chance to experience what he calls “an artistic home.” With their wayfaring ways, the couple used to joke that perhaps someday they’d be settled enough to successfully own a houseplant.

From what they’ve seen so far, they are quite content in their new digs. Nickell describes the Naples arts scene as vibrant and growing, and is especially excited about the possibility of partnership with other local arts organizations.

“It feels like the arts community here is starting to figure out how to work together and help each other out,” he says. “I think that’s a huge step forward for any arts community.”

To that end, Gulfshore Playhouse is working with the Holocaust Museum and Education Center of Southwest Florida on Doug Wright’s play I Am My Own Wife in January and with the Naples Philharmonic Center for the Arts on Terrence McNally’s musical play Master Class in April.

The latter tells the story of opera diva Maria Callas and will be performed in the Phil’s Daniels Pavilion. Nickell describes “Master Class” as being a perfect partnership for the Phil, and adds that such relationships can help to build audiences for both organizations.

“Partnerships can really help show the community that these arts organizations are all in it together, that we are in favor of lending a helping hand,” Nickell says. “Maybe we don’t have some of the resources that are available in larger metropolitan markets, but pooling together makes those resources stronger.”

Cody Nickell holds an all-white painting that is the impetus for an argument in Art, which he starred in this past fall.

Then there’s that new works festival.

Nickell’s voice glows when he speaks of it, and he readily admits it will be a feather in his cap to bring it to fruition. Imagine a weeklong festival of new American plays, brought to life here in Naples. He believes it’s an important part of a playhouse’s journey, the relationship that they build with playwrights. After all, at the heart of American theatre is the playwright, he says.

But frankly, it’s also “incredibly satisfying” as an artist to introduce new works to expectant audiences, he adds.

“A big part of my background has been working with new playwrights,” Nickell says. “I have a big passion and desire to continue that work, fostering new voices.”

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