Q&A: The Naples Players Executive Director Bryce Alexander
"The new structure adds an extra impetus on making sure each program is serving a more specific group of constituents."
In a community brimming with arts and entertainment, The Naples Players own a rather specific corner. From its enviable space on Fifth Avenue South, the company is managed by professionals but performed and staged by amateur actors, stage hands, carpenters and customers. From the comfort of the Sugden Community Theatre, which the Players maintain but the City of Naples owns, the group produces comedies and dramas; runs a robust education program for local students; and provides a home to a variety of other arts groups. Like any other traditional providers of entertainment, the Players are on a mission to stay relevant in the age of on-demand media. Now, on the cusp of its 65th anniversary, the Players have named former artistic director Bryce Alexander as executive director, replacing former Naples mayor John Sorey. In this new role, Alexander will oversee both the artistic and business aspects of the organization, with the hopes of keeping it both relevant and healthy.
On the role of community theater in the entertainment landscape
“People are craving a way to engage each other and with the world around them. The arts help build that engagement. But community theater takes it to another level, because everyone is in it together. It’s a shared experience, whether you are on the stage or building sets, between the people in the audience and in the production. At the end of the day, they are all part of the same community. They are all the doctors, lawyers, teachers who will go to work together the next day.”
On the uniqueness of The Naples Players and Naples
“There aren’t many places like this, community theater operating with a professional management. But Naples is a unique community. It’s kind of miraculous. We have the best of many things, from the zoo to the botanical garden to professional or community theater. And there’s an expectation that comes with it that everything be professional quality. So we have to give it something extra.”
On the new role creating new perspective
“It’s a wonderful opportunity for everyone to shift the way they look at the organization. This is a forward-thinking move by the board of directors to acknowledge that the business side of our organization and the artistic side of our organization are heavily dependent on each other and, most importantly, can be strengthened when these two components are united under a singular vision. For me, it means taking more time to evaluate the different constituent groups associated with the theater (donors, members, volunteers, patrons, staff) and how they need to contribute in a refined structure to inform a singular vision.”
On how running the business side might change his artistic inclinations
“I think we’ve always tried to look at our programming to make sure it is mission-oriented and financially responsible, but the new structure adds an extra impetus on making sure each program is serving a more specific group of constituents; and that, as whole, our programs and messaging are aligned to support and promote each of these groups together.”
On his hopes for the future of The Naples Players
“My biggest goal for the organization is a renewed and deepening sense of strategic growth to serve the larger community and, by doing so, cement the foundation for another 65 years. We didn’t arrive at our 65th anniversary by accident. It was our community that got us here. This anniversary year is going to demonstrate our renewed commitment to the community by envisioning and providing better facilities, creating new programs that are relevant to Southwest Florida, providing the entertainment and quality we’ve become nationally known for, and inviting our friends and neighbors to celebrate 20 years of the arts on Fifth Avenue South.”
On trying to find common ground with other arts organizations
“Arts and culture is a highly competitive industry, with each organization approaching the same donors and the same foundations for financial support while marketing programming to the same audiences. It can be easy to let these pressures affect an organization’s relationship with the greater arts community. We are working to re-connect arts and culture organizations to discuss our concurrent obstacles and successes to help generate a larger initiative to promote and support all arts and culture organizations. The reality is pretty clear: our donors and patrons will also be donors and patrons at other organizations, and we can work together to promote philanthropy and engagement in each organization, as opposed to promoting seclusion. Art truly begets art, and The Naples Players should be a champion for the arts.”