April 16, 2014

From the Editor

David SendlerHe, the director, can be very, very hard on her at work. She, the actress, can turn around and bring her mean roles home for practice on him. Together—and happily married for 24 years—Bob Cacioppo and Carrie Lund have taken their passion for theater and given Southwest Florida the celebrated Florida Repertory Theatre in Fort Myers. Not long ago, The Wall Street Journal hailed it as “one of America’s top repertory companies.” Call the duo The First Couple of Theater in this neck of the woods at a time when live theater is thriving and offering better and better productions. (See p. 168 for your options—and get a copy of our Southwest Florida Guide to the Arts for more details.)

Act One for them came in Killington, Vt., at the Green Mountain Guild Theatre in the summer of 1985. Carrie was there to direct and to learn to be a producer. Bob was on hand to direct. Within 24 hours of their meeting—with feelings running high—they vowed to have an incredible two weeks of summer romance and then go their separate ways. The incredible just kept escalating. The vow? As Bob, the Brooklyn boy, might say, “Fuhgetaboutit.” They’ve been a team ever since.

Act Two, the building years, took them to New York and Sanibel. Bob was writing musicals and running the Players Circle in New York, where he got a rave review from The New York Times for his Fascinatin’ Gershwin production. Talley’s Folly, produced there, marked the first collaboration of Bob as director and Carrie as actress.

And then it was Sanibel for 11 years. Carrie was running the 90-seat Pirate Playhouse, and Bob joined her as a director in 1987. Starting in 1988—when their contracts weren’t renewed—they spent two struggling years doing productions under tents at the BIG Arts Theater, at community centers and at the ’Tween Waters Inn. In 1991, they inaugurated and ran the new Pirate Playhouse on Periwinkle Way and turned out 70 professional productions over the next seven years. Carrie was manager-director-actress and Bob served as artistic director.

Asked about memorable moments from the Sanibel years, Carrie laughs and recalls one of the oddest: “At one point, we were bringing in high school kids by bus for Shakespeare productions. They really seemed to love it. Once, we had students from an evangelical school who appeared to be liking what they saw. But at intermission, there was a group prayer and without further ado they got on the busses and left. I guess the mixed-race cast and modern dress offended the school officials. It was weird for us to pack up and go home after intermission. The next day, one of the kids called to say how much he enjoyed watching the play.”

All along in Sanibel, the beginnings of Florida Rep were forming as a team of actors, designers and donors came together with purpose and dedication. When Bob’s and Carrie’s contracts with the Pirate Playhouse weren’t renewed in June of ’98, they turned around and started Florida Rep that fall, setting up in the historic Arcade Theatre in downtown Fort Myers.

Act Three has brought more than 120 productions that have established Florida Rep as the go-to place for powerful theater. Regarding the Bob-Carrie collaboration, he admits, “I’m harder on her than on anyone else. I’m working on treating her better.” “He is a hard taskmaster,” says Carrie, “but he sees my discomfort and fixes it, and I feel very safe on stage as a result. He has great taste and we share a common language about our craft.” Carrie admits to carrying her characters home with her and allows that “he had to live with a very wicked aunt when I was doing August: Osage County.” “The happier roles make for happier home life,” says Bob, with a grin. Over the years, Bob has been particularly proud of such shows as To Kill a Mockingbird (“It sparked dialogue in town back when Fort Myers was more segregated” ) and August: Osage County (“Great collaboration—11 members of the cast had been working together for years”). 

Bob loves to tell how his daughter Julia described his job to her schoolmates. “My dad is a director,” she said. “He plays.” “Yes,” he says. “Carrie and I play for a living—new shows, new worlds, never routine.”And, as The Wall Street Journal notes, that’s a whole lot of quality time. Play on, you two.

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