MARCO ISLAND — Marco Island’s lucky number could be “2”, if the number of things we have two of means anything.
We have two of the following, just to name a few: Publixes, Walgreens, Subways, 5/3rd Bank branches, Sunshine Booksellers, Richard’s Reefs, Harbor Goldsmiths, fire stations, golf courses, arts organizations, Ace Hardwares, Irish restaurants and other stuff.
But is Marco Island big enough to host two community theater groups? We’re about to find out.
You may have heard by now that some long-time thespians, veterans of the venerable Marco Players, have left that group’s greasepaint smells and crowd roars to launch their own troupe, the Island Players.
Having talked with some key people at both “Players” groups, it’s obvious that this exodus from the Marco Players is not a Hatfields and McCoys thing, not the Capulet clan versus the House of Montague. But for Pat Berry and Pattie Ziesig, parting from the Marco Players is a far cry from “sweet sorrow.”
Both women had been at the Marco Players for many years. As late as last season, they each directed successful productions there. But for some time now, they were itching to try something different. And they are, with big plans to do community theatre here their way.
“I could not do what I wanted to do at Marco Players,” says Ziesig. “If you can’t do what you want, why stay? And it’s not going to be vanilla; it’s a different ice cream we’re serving up now.”
Pat Berry agrees, as she found out last year when she returned to Marco Players to direct “Come Blow Your Horn.”
“I realized the focus of the group was different than before, not right or wrong, just different,” says Berry.
“As time went on we (Jean Ann Rowles, also now a partner in Island Players) talked about how it was different. When it came up again Pattie said, ‘I’d like to do this,’ and Jean said, ‘I’d like to do this’, and one of us said, ‘Why don’t we?’ And we looked at each other and said, ‘I guess we could.’ And now they’re doing it.
“We want to branch out and do the kind of things that we like, like the old days, the traveling troupe and all that,” says Ziesig. “We want to offer something different to the community. For example, we want to do shows not just in season, so more community people can attend and take part. In season, they’re working.
“I’m big on children’s theater, another venue I want to get into, produce shows where kids can be a major component. Already we’re are working on a children’s show for Christmas time that’s going to be, “The Best Little Christmas Pageant Ever.” I’ve done it before, performed in it twice but this time I want to be on the other side, directing.”
We asked Ziesig how she thinks Marco Players is doing.
“I don’t think they are doing anything wrong. Last year they had their top-producing season.”
Will these be rival theater troupes
Pattie says she and Marco Players President Beverly Dahlstrom just don’t share a vision for that organization.
“Island Players will be different. Marco Players are pretty much geared to doing things like Neil Simon. It works very well for them, draws the crowds and people seem to like it. They’ve found that niche. I don’t want to do that stuff.”
“There’s just another sort of theater out there that Pat and Jean and I want to do. We share a vision of the next few years in local community theater and we think this is a better way to achieve that goal than to stay where we were.”
We asked Dahlstrom her reaction to these developments, of which she says she had no advance notice.
“I’ve had no communication with Pat or Pattie about this. I know that both of them have followings, and that they are very strong women. So they wanted to do something on their own. Gee, I wish them a lot of luck. If they feel empowered to do this, maybe it’ll work out well for both of us. We’ll have to wait until this season to see how it goes.
“At this level you have to maintain a heavy pace. I probably will go see one of their shows. I haven’t talked to anybody who’s upset. I know that we have a venue and a product and our patrons seem to be happy with it. If they aren’t, they won’t come.
“That’s been our focus for the past four or five years, patron satisfaction. As long as we give people good shows with nice sets and if people have a good time when they come, then we’re satisfying the niche we’re in.”
Howard Blankman, a former Marco Players board member and a show biz veteran, is enthused about the Island Players project.
“These women have a lot of energy, experience and friends here,” says Blankman.
“They can rally a lot of people. If I were the Marco Players I would take them seriously. They know a lot about theater.”
Then there is Leonardo da Vinci’s take on “knowing.” Said the quintessential Renaissance Man, “Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.”
Maybe that quote belongs on the playbills for the Island Players.