The Sugden Community Theatre not only anchors downtown Naples’ annual holiday festivities, it also remains at the heart of the area’s cultural renaissance. This year, The Naples Players introduce a new Trees & Teas Festival, in which strollers admire artist-decorated trees while sipping hot drinks Dec. 4-19.

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Retrospective: Sugden Community Theatre

We take a look at the history and influence of The Naples Players’ home theater on the dazzling Fifth Avenue South.

During the holidays, the trees lining Sugden Plaza are wrapped in twinkling lights with illuminated stars hanging from branches above. A large Christmas tree decorates the front of the building, leading to the Sugden Community Theatre. Nestled in the heart of Fifth Avenue South, the scene is an anchor for the festivities that take place downtown throughout December. Tourists, part-time residents and newcomers may see the landmark and think it’s quite old, a stately and elegant part of the Naples landscape. Longtime residents know that the theater, built in 1998, is young compared to the group that calls its walls home. The Naples Players was founded in January of 1953, one year after the idea was born during a gathering at the home of Henry and Mary Watkins, the family name synonymous with the Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club legacy.  Mary was the first president of the Naples Junior Woman’s Club, which underwrote and helped build the sets for I Remember Mama, the first production for the Players. It was a one night only, sold-out show at Gulfview Middle School. Throughout the next two decades, The Naples Players’ reputation continued to grow. A 2018 performance of White Christmas; a scene from the 1961 performance of Dracula, which
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