What Happened, What Is Happening, What May Happen
PART ONE OF FOUR: INTO THE WOODS
By Bill Hirschman
Survival is not a given.
When the history of American culture is written a century from now, especially that of professional regional theater, the past three years will emerge as a crucible of long-aborning forces colliding in an epic tale marked with as much drama, terror, heartache, courage, uncertainty, resilience and resurrection as any Shakespearean masterpiece.
Artists and patrons alike reevaluated whether they wanted to spend their lives and livelihood on theater. Some artists reaffirmed their commitment, some left the profession they thought they would spend their lives in. Some patrons returned to theaters with masks and vaccination cards the moment venues reopened, some still balk. Some switched their investment of time and money into Netflix. Some specific performances of some specific shows sold out, but swaths of empty seats dominated a lot of houses—and still do this season.
Rarely was this more evident, more representative of the remolding theater centers across the country than those in South Florida, one in which challenges and solutions reflected similar conditions across the country.
This four-part in-depth series—rooted in 38 formal interviews of Florida artists and a score of informal ones—tracks and documents the arc of that paralysis, pivot, people leaving the profession, people finding new avenues to tell stories, patrons donating the cost of lost tickets, artists learning new skills, certainties becoming uncertain, and an unquenched drive to not just survive but prevail.
Despite the genuine belief that theater’s unique aspect makes it an inestimable valuable asset of civilization, quiet worry about the survival of theater is a constant companion to anyone who works in it or loves it. Always has been.
But rarely have its artists and patrons been so unnerved about the future, even as the third anniversary of an industry-wide shutdown approaches.
The March 2020 implosion reminded them of the art form’s ever-present vulnerability. But the fallout—a lagging return of audiences, soaring costs, a smaller job force, increased competition for patrons’ attention and money—have veteran theater artists, even leaders, genuinely wondering today whether live theater will exist in two to five years, what it might look like and who will be in the auditorium or online.
The Maltz Jupiter Theatre’s Producing Artistic Director/Chief Executive Andrew Kato looked out over the season opening crowd of Jersey Boys last October—including some empty seats—and told them, “Art and culture are going through some tough times. There’s no guarantee that art and culture will be there if we don’t show up for each other.’”
He noted earlier that pre-pandemic, opening night houses sold out well before the show opened; the previous season that figure dropped to about 70 percent. Jersey Boys: Only half the seats were sold significantly before opening night.
Covid and its mutations produced an unasked-for time of personal and professional introspection—and a significant reset at a time when many feared—and still fear—that the classic genre was in danger of dwindling into irrelevancy.
Yet a yin and yang message was and remains almost always the same from numerous artistic directors, managing directors and other leaders including Kato: We’re hopeful because people in the audience are enthusiastic and grateful, and because what we offer is unique in the arts.
Many quietly echo each other: We’re going to make it through this coming season. We’ve made significant changes across the board in how and what we do. Still, no one knows where any of us will be two years out.
But the time was not wasted.
The newly-popular noun/verb was—and continues to be—pivot.
Covid provided the time for South Florida theater to stop and examine. It was an opportunity that might or might not have happened, but which younger artists think was crucial to the survival of the art form, at least as a business.
The introspection led to frank discussions and pledges of reform about long-buried concerns about sexual misconduct, racism, a disconnect from the community being served, oppressive working conditions—all of it and more surfacing publicly.
And in the end, as the industry re-emerged from the threatened financial black hole and performance stasis, leaders began vowing changes—from redoubling the existing commitment toward new work, to exploring multi-faceted delivery systems, to tripling its outreach to younger and diverse audiences.
Settle in an easy chair: Over the next two Wednesdays and Sundays, we’ll unveil four lengthy looks at that coping with the brutal past, the promising struggle in the present and the hopeful predictions what the future will look like.
Today’s story details the crippling effect that Covid had on productions, artists struggling to stay vital, the companies’ devastated bottom lines and the first stirrings of resurrection online.
The second part on Sunday looks at the first imaginative attempts to entice audiences back, performing in parking lots and storefronts—with varying results until Omicron redoubled the challenges and set some efforts back to square one.
The third part the following Wednesday investigates troubling issues that had graduated from complaints whispered in dressing rooms to being aired on Facebook with carefully cloaked specifics: sexual improprieties, deleterious working conditions and racial issues ranging from casting to microaggressions in rehearsal.
The final part, two Sundays from now, depicts the comeback, encouraging, but hardly secure—how what you see has changed and how it might yet change and what still needs to be changed.
Under it all, “I don’t think people realize how precarious this art is by its nature and its essence,” said Elizabeth Price, actress-director-educator and associate artistic director of New City Players in Broward County. “It has become so much more, (requiring) new levels of faith, belief, and trust.”
“LET’S START OUT AT THE VERY BEGINNING”
Over nearly three decades, South Florida theater has swelled in the number of companies, in the quality of work, and in the development of a wide spectrum of fare beyond what was once primarily a covey of dinner theaters. Today, there are more than 33 professional companies and 13 venues-for-rent in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties, plus children’s theaters, community theaters and college-based productions. Plus three theaters in Key West and another in Vero Beach, plus vibrant communities in Orlando and the Sarasota-St. Petersburg area.
The cautious optimism endemic to the profession seemed on a steady upward curve with older theaters like Actors’ Playhouse in Coral Gables prizing their older traditional audiences. But new theaters opened and found new younger audiences seeking titles they had not seen before, troupes such as Zoetic Stage, New City Players, Thinking Cap Theatre, Slow Burn Theatre Company and Miami New Drama.
But in the winter of 2020, while theater artists could not avoid vaguely ominous headlines, most forged ahead rehearsing and producing their spring shows, some of which were among the most expensive and ambitious to date.
Then the news of March 20 exploded. Venues’ landlords shut doors, unions ordered members to step away, governments closed everything. Shows like the Maltz Jupiter Theatre’s large scale How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying shut down the day before opening night in northern Palm Beach County, although the dress rehearsal was filmed for posterity.
Directors, producers and performers expected the hiatus might last a week or two, a month at the most, They literally kept the ghost light lit surrounded by sets still standing such as How to Succeed.
Percussionist Roy Fantel recalled, “We all thought it was just going to last a couple of weeks, and then it kept getting extended. And then we started getting emails and texts canceling things further, and things kept getting canceled further out, further out and further out until there was” no re-opening on the calendar.
In actuality, performances, rehearsals and income all froze dead.
Business heads at theaters and artistic directors cloistered to pencil in numerous alternative fiscal and scheduling scenarios, only to toss them as the calendar pages continued to flip. At most houses, non-essential staff were laid off from stage crews to ushers, especially those connected to staging a show.
“What we did immediately, I hate the word, but we all did the pivot,” said, Susie Krajsa, president of Broadway Across America with nearly 50 markets for tours including Miami and Fort Lauderdale. “We rebooked our shows half a dozen times in some markets, more in other markets, and we just tried to keep ahead, moving them forward.”
Unions like Actors Equity Association and local government bodies outlined Covid prevention steps required if the physical houses were to reopen—someday. The presenting houses like the Broward Center in Fort Lauderdale and Arsht Center in Miami contributed to national booklets outlining dozens of researched re-opening guidelines for the future, as detailed as closing concessions.
Spread over months, Palm Beach Dramaworks’ efforts were common: A new HVAC system that included UV light, bi-polar ionization, and specialized high quality air filters; upgraded facilities and ticketing procedures to allow for as much of a touch-free patron experience as possible; numerous sanitation stations; and increased cleaning frequency, including disinfectant spraying of the audience chamber planned for before and after every performance. The price tag was “close to a million dollars,” a news release stated.
The moment that staff, designers and artists resumed in-person contact even without a live performance, anyone at all in contact with performers would have to be tested two or three times a week—a significant added expense of time and dollars.
The vigilance then—and still required now by some companies—was and is wearing, said Tim Davis, producing artistic director of New City Players in Broward County. In “the old days, people went on with the flu all the time. The show must go on. (Now), if someone gets Covid, we have to shut down our show. We have to shut down our rehearsal process. We have to shut down a play.”
PUTTING IT TOGETHER: ARTISTS COPE WITH LOSS
When the asbestos fire curtain crashed down, the metabolic change for artists was as dramatic as Act V in any Elizabethean opus. The addiction to performing live in front of an audience a few feet in front of you, or interacting with other artists across a rehearsal table, or taking classes with a group in the same room—all that vanished instantly.
When the extent and depth of the loss—artistic and financial—was sinking in during the first weeks, social media posts swelled with tightly-controlled fear.
“I’m sure everybody went through that period of thinking, like, where’s my self-worth now? Because it’s usually wrapped up in your work,” said veteran actress Beth Dimon.
Her colleague Karen Stephens expanded: “Really, it’s so hard to explain when everything is bleak and there’s all of these social issues just coming at you at 100 miles an hour every single day and you don’t know if you’re going to have enough money for your mortgage and your car payment and you’re feeling helpless and powerless about those things and then even more powerless about what’s happening on a social level. I almost felt like I was in a chasm and that I was mad that I was there and I was mad that I couldn’t crawl out of this thing.”
Their desperate priority became finding creatively satisfying alternatives. Some individuals and theater companies responded by piecing together roughly thrown together projects that grew increasingly complex and sophisticated as the months dragged on.
For instance, Theatre Lab, the resident professional company at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, hastily created online solo performances of freshly banged out scenes or skits performed online over two evenings. They raised about $8,000 in donations to help those playwrights and actors get through the terrifying loss of work.
“I remember pretty vividly in March, the government hadn’t figured out that this is going to be for real, and there were no checks coming yet,” said Matt Stabile, Theatre Lab’s artistic director. “And so I knew people whose rent was due. I remember very vividly talking to friends who were going to lose their health insurance. And it was like, we got to figure this out on our own.”.
A lasting lesson for the public at large, who claim to treasure the work of artists, is to be cognizant of the fragile financial state of artists, said Michael Spring, director of the Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs. “The minute the pandemic hit, teaching gigs ended, performances ended for actors and designers and others, and those artists were left high and dry without a way to sustain an income and with inflation hitting everything.”
People cobbled together whatever opportunities they could scrounge. Bills still had to be paid. Some battled serious depression; some gained weight.
Actor Wayne LeGette and several others doubled down their focus on the international voiceover work—administratively based in Miami, but produced in newly-upgraded studios set up in performers’ spare bedrooms or garages.
Plus, Legette said, “I did a couple of concerts, and I think I did, like, one reading also. I videotaped my one-man show at home, and I tried to sell it to one of those online things where people would log on and watch it.”
Even when they assembled work, it was a pronounced change, even though most already had second and third day-jobs.
In-demand musical director Eric Alsford appreciated his luck in teaching assignments, college and public school projects, a week-long play development at Actors’ Playhouse. “But you had to be creative in terms of finding (them), a little out of the box of what you normally do.”
To keep artistic muscles from atrophying, performers doubled down on practicing in their homes. Several focused on writing plays and musical compositions they had been putting off for years. Actor-educator Darius J. Manuel created the Renegade Theatre Company for BIPOC youth.
Many people spent part of the downtime upgrading computer skills and buying equipment for a home studio so that they could produce professional looking audition videos.
“We needed to be creative. And we needed to help other people move forward with all kinds of events and projects,” said musical director Caryl Fantel, who redoubled her mentoring.
I AIN’T DOWN YET: FIRST RESPONSE
Of course, the other half of the damage equation was the audience. When that curtain crashed and stayed down, the ancient fears about losing closeted audiences to new media ballooned once again. Once live performing resumed—which it had disaster after disaster for 2,500 years—would there be anyone in the seats? Would people be willing to risk illness? Would audience members, especially pre-Boomers, rather stay at home watching Hulu than fight traffic and pay high ticket prices?
Most companies immediately reached out by emails and other avenues to assure people that they would return to live performance as soon as it was safe. And then hoped.
“We quickly sent out a blast saying, your tickets are safe. Your money is safe. Due to the public health risk, we are suspending production. However, we are not going anywhere,” said Keith Garsson, artistic director of Boca Stage.
For producing companies, staying visibly vibrant was a priority to assure both patrons and artists—and themselves—there was a future.
To that end, nearly every company produced a wide variety of projects as the pandemic ground on. The up-and-coming New City Players had been on the cusp of moving to Fort Lauderdale’s city-owned ArtServe with its auditorium, gallery and library when the crash occurred.
“I think that some of the opportunities with the stress and the instability and the pivoting come opportunities to like, okay, we’re not producing a play, what can we do?” Tim Davis said. “And for us, very early on, ‘All right, well, let’s do something that immediately connects the theater community,’ and that was Late Show live and going on Instagram live and just talking to people, allowing people to share what they were going through, how they were spending their time, kind of what their emotional journey was through being an artist in the performing arts and then having that taken away.”
Some companies went into hibernation. But several developed a swelling ocean of projects to preserve a connection with patrons and artists. Miami New Drama offered a college catalog’s worth of online classes and lectures. Palm Beach Dramaworks delivered 75 programs through the Internet.
And when the worst of the pandemic first seemed to be ebbing, companies began experimenting with live audiences. The Broward Center turned its back parking lot into a live venue for 30 variety performances in the winter of 2021.
“We had laid off about half of our staff at that point. The staff that we did have was just constantly in sort of an all hands-on deck mode. There were people working in areas there they didn’t normally work, just everybody chipping in to get this (show) done,” Broward Center President and CEO Kelley Shanley recalled with a voice that started to choke. “And what I underestimated was how important it was to them to be able to pull this off and deliver something to the community under the circumstances we were in. And morale was so high on that day at first performance, I was overwhelmed. Oh, my God. No. It was amazing.”
The most high-profile and ambitious was Miami New Drama’s Seven Deadly Sins. It commissioned seven short plays, employed about 100 people, mounted the works in seven adjacent empty storefronts on Lincoln Road’s shopping district. Actors performed inside the storefront glass with audience sitting outside on the sidewalk listening to the sound pumped outside.
“We decided we weren’t in the business of filling venues, we were in the business of telling stories,” said Managing Director Nicholas Richberg. “And we felt like at the time, it was important, with people feeling as isolated as they were, to find a way to tell an in-person story and create a sense of community, which is an essential part of the theatergoing experience.”
“It would have been easier to sort of hunker down and collect our government checks and not spend money, which is why most performing organizations, period, not just theaters, came out of Covid with more money in the bank than they went in with. I would certainly wouldn’t mind to have now the $800,000 that it cost to produce (the show) in the bank right now.”
In the winter of 2021, Zoetic Stage in Miami put together an outdoor improvisation show, Zoetic Schmoetic at the plaza next to the Adrienne Arsht Center. It settled on improv because Actors Equity union rules did not apply to unscripted productions with no costumes, no set, no script, something produced in the daytime with the audience seated a long ways from the actors.
Theatre Lab produced a multi-media animated show, Vanessa Garcia’s premiere of Ich Bin Ein Berliner, which was primarily available online but which bowed in an open-air venue at Florida Atlantic University.
Certainly, half-measures attracted some loyalists, such as readings and even full productions online, but none attracted anything remotely like the numbers that live readings did even on a poor night.
For artists, whose art form relies on and glories in collaboration, most were constantly seeking out in-person connections, either in Zoom projects, afternoon get-togethers in each other’s living room or taking a chance on a luncheon on a patio.
But the most notable convocations were Zoom and telephone meetings of the region’s artistic directors and other leaders, as often as every two weeks. They regularly aired their fears, their challenges and solutions that made their adapting easier.
South Florida Theatre League Executive Director Andie Arthur said, “I can share an idea with Margaret (Ledford of City Theatre in Miami) and I know we’ll get to Matt Stabile and Tim Davis. That group has really sort of bonded together.… I think they feel the need to support each other more. I think they’re all in this together.”
Among the frequent topics were the diversity, equity and inclusion issues that had been a sore spot among diverse artists and patrons (to be discussed in Part 3 of this series). Some attended seminars on the issues offered by the Theatre League. They pledged to significantly increase their own previously paltry attendance at other theater’s projects once in-person attendance resumed. They discussed cooperative efforts such as promoting other theaters’ work in their programs and co-productions. Indeed, once the worst of the pandemic had passed, they began sharing resources such as Facebook posts seeking craftsmen.
THERE’S NO BUSINESS LIKE… : BOTTOM LINE
Even more than usual, survival required testing the fiscal imagination of theater people less accustomed to coming up with imaginative monetary solutions than with staging iambic pentameter.
Understand: Many theater companies—perhaps most—fund much of the next show on the schedule with the income from the one currently on the boards. It’s a perpetually precarious hand-to-mouth paradigm. Some start spending money on the next season, six, seven, eight months ahead of time.
Several have reserve funds for a rainy day—the pandemic qualifying as a Cat 5 hurricane—but much of that is committed to capital projects and unexpected expenses.
So, imagine that not only did the imminent ticket revenue vanish, but most companies still had one or even three now-cancelled shows they had promised to subscribers who were owed refunds if the theaters hoped to keep their future patronage.
Most theaters’ ticket sales provide a third to two-thirds of their operating budget. That source is absolutely crucial to their operational survival, with the balance coming from grants, donations and sales of themed cocktails in the lobby.
That prompted the venues’ money managers to huddle with their artistic directors like Island City Stage’s Martin Childers and Andy Rogow to rework their budgets as if they would be back on the boards in a month. Then as time went on, they were forced to overhaul provisional budget after budget.
Everyone sought places to cut. First of all, with extreme reluctance, people were let go who were connected to mounting the coming shows: actors, directors, carpenters, house managers, ushers. Designers not on staff and some who were on staff had to be furloughed. Then office staff was cut back to those needed to continue the basic operations. The Maltz Jupiter Theatre, which always prided itself on efficient core staffing for its size, cut a workforce of 50 down to 12.
But several lifelines emerged that made it possible for these hard-scrabble companies to survive.
First, amazingly, a majority of subscribers across the region agreed to the companies’ gentle requests that the money already paid for cancelled shows could be considered a tax-deductible donation. An alternative was that they take a promised credit for tickets whenever live theater resumed—a financial bet on an uncertain future for both the patron and the theater’s future operating budget. Company after company reported later that many subscribers agreed—e.g. 21 percent of the Maltz Jupiter Theatre’s considerable subscription base.
The second lifesaver was that the companies’ existing donors and some newly-inspired patrons volunteered to contribute significantly to houses like Island City Stage. The depth and breadth were described over and over by company leaders with unbridled awe, gratitude and surprise. Palm Beach Dramaworks saw its ticket income drop from 50 percent of its annual revenue pre-Covid to 35 percent in 2021-22, but it was the “best fiscal year in a decade” due to donations, said Managing Director Sue Ellen Beryl.
GableStage “has never brought in as much as it brought in this year,” Producing Artistic Director Bari Newport said last fall.
Actress Beth Dimon recalled, “Generosity just can be mind boggling. These two women that I know, when everybody got their stimulus check … they called me and said, ‘Who do you know… that’s not getting to do readings and who’s not making any cash? We would like to share our stimulus check with them.’ ”
But the third and the real saving grace came from government-originated grants. “If there was not that, in this whole region, there would probably be no theater,” said Patrick Fitzwater, Slow Burn Theatre’s artistic director.
Besides the Paycheck Protection grants available across the business spectrum, the arts overall relied heavily on the $14.6 billion federal Shuttered Venue Operator Grants without which many theaters “would have been in trouble,” said Andrew Kato.
The county governments’ arts/culture departments provided considerable help to all arts organizations. Broward County gave out about $3 million including $2.5 million in federal funds plus a nearly half-million from the county itself “from the sale of state arts license plates that we just sort of banked for a rainy day. And the rainy day happened to be Covid,” said Phillip Dunlap, director of Broward County’s Cultural Division.
The Miami-Dade County Commission and the mayor not only sustained their traditionally generous county’s arts support budget, but allocated more than $10 million of Cares Act funds for the cultural community to hundreds of organizations and hundreds of artists.
Even the state’s annual grant program for non-profit cultural and museum groups reaffirmed the arts’ importance to the economy and its attractiveness to businesses considering relocating. The state budget for 2022 earmarked $46 million for 556 applicants—about double the $23.2 million it gave the previous year. That compared to $26.7 million in 2020 and marked the first time the applicants’ received all the money they requested for a specific year since 2014.
For instance, the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, Adrienne Arsht Center, Miami New Drama and Actors’ Playhouse were assigned $150,000 each, the maximum allowed.
Those grants were crucial, but Fitzwater warned last fall “now we’re going into a season and no one has that grant anymore.”
A few other revenue sources emerged as programs evolved: fees for seminars, renting out the empty auditorium, and children’s theater programming such as the ones at Actors’ Playhouse from classes to summer camp, which resumed faster than traditional adult events.
On the other side of the ledger, as companies began to ease back into production online or live, the cost of art increased in ways not previously contemplated. Top of the list was Actors’ Equity and other unions’ unwavering requirement for a raft of anti-Covid measures including testing two or three times a week for anyone at all who had contact with those connected to putting in a show. If someone’s test did turn up positive, they had to be isolated, holding up production and even cancelling income-producing performances.
The latter led to some theaters taking the very expensive measure of hiring two or more understudies who earned a salary and who had to be rehearsed, costumed and the like. The cost to hire one understudy for GableStage’s recent one-woman show The Year of Magical Thinking was about $6,500.
To save money on large productions, troupes rented other companies’ sets and costumes from previous productions much as opera companies do ordinarily—and there was an uptick in professionally pre-recorded digital soundtracks.
Despite all the detailed calculations, some spreadsheets were splashed with red ink even as live stage productions began to stagger to a start to the 2021-2022 season.
At the Broward Center, Kelley Shanley expressed that yin and yang outlook this fall: “Never in my career have I had less confidence about a sales forecast,” since a year ago when he expected a 15 to 25 percent loss in the coming season. But revised indications shared with his board of directors are “forecasting what looks like pretty normal sales activity” —assuming, of course, no recession or new virus outbreak.
Many year-long operating budgets for the current season are similar or only slightly reduced because for all the cost saving measures, the production costs have increased.
But financial threat has been part of theater operations’ DNA for centuries. “We have a subsistence existence,” Dunlap said. “Underfunding and crisis is like where we live because that’s the nature of the work, right? There’s never enough money…. So you learn to do amazing things with such little resources…. And that’s where that resilience piece came in: We’re going to find the money. We’re going to adapt our programming.”
(On Sunday, Part 2: “Once More Unto The Breach)
No look at these subjects can be comprehensive or reflect all the possible insights. We are very interested in your reaction to these articles. If you agree, if you want to challenge something, please feel encouraged to post a comment below or on the Facebook page for Florida Theater On Stage.
WHO WE SPOKE WITH
Many actors, artistic directors, playwrights, patrons and critics spoke candidly on the record and not-for-attribution about what happened over the past three years and what they believe will happen. Thirty-eight people were interviewed in formal interviews and a score provided information and insights in informal conversations on opening nights, in emails, phone calls, Facebook exchanges and other venues.
Among those interviewed (not the complete list): Irene Adjan, actress and vice-chair of the Liaison Committee of Actors Equity Association; Eric Alsford, musical director; David Arisco, artistic director of Actors’ Playhouse at the Miracle Theatre; Andie Arthur, executive director of the South Florida Theatre League; Sue Ellen Beryl, managing director, Palm Beach Dramaworks; Martin Childers, managing director, Island City Stage; Matt Corey, sound designer; Tim Davis, producing artistic director of New City Players; Elizabeth Dimon, actress; Phillip Dunlap, director, Broward County Cultural Division; Caryl Fantel, music director; Roy Fantel, percussionist; Patrick Fitzwater, artistic director, Slow Burn Theatre Company; Patti Gardner, actress; Diana Garle, actress; Keith Garsson, artistic director, Boca Stage; Jeni Hacker, actress-intimacy coordinator; Carey Brianna Hart, actress-director-stage manager and president of the South Florida Theatre League; William Hayes, artistic director and co-founder, Palm Beach Dramaworks; Andrew Kato, Maltz Jupiter Theatre’s producing artistic director/chief executive; Susie Krajsa, president of Broadway Across America; Wayne LeGette, actor-voice performer; David Levy, communications director, Actors Equity Association; Sherron Long, Florida Professional Theatres Association; Darius J. Manuel, educator-actor; Damien J. Matherson, founder, Measure for Measure; Sean McClelland, scenic designer; Bari Newport, producing artistic director, GableStage; Michael Peyton, patron and donor; Elizabeth Price, actress-director-educator and associate artistic director of New City Players; Nicholas Richberg, managing director, Miami New Drama; Andy Rogow, artistic director, Island City Stage; Kelley Shanley, president and CEO of the Broward Center; Geoffrey Short, president of the board the Pembroke Pines Theatre of the Performing Arts and secretary of the Carbonell Awards; Michael Spring, director of the Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs; Matt Stabile, artistic director at Theatre Lab in Boca Raton; Karen Stephens, actress-director; Sandi Stock, actor and managing director of the Silver Palm Awards; Emily Tarallo, dancer-actress-choreographer; Gaby Tortoledo, actress; and many others. And a hat tip to Hap Erstein and Lou Harry.