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Recognizing Carrie Lund during Women’s History Month 2021


Each day during Women’s History Month, Art Southwest Florida is honoring someone past or present who has or is advancing arts and culture in Southwest Florida. Today we recognize Carrie Lund Cacioppo, a local community theater actor, producer, pioneer and visionary who has helped build Southwest Florida into one of the most vibrant theater regions in the entire country.

Carrie’s groundbreaking work in this regard dates back to 1984, when she and a young actor by the name of Robert Toperzer re-opened the Pirate Playhouse after veteran Broadway actress Ruth Hunter and her husband Philip decided to retire and close the schoolhouse theater that they’d transformed into an intimate 90-seat theater. The company enjoyed so much success that it was replaced seven years later by a bigger and better playhouse further up Periwinkle Way. But Carrie and husband Robert Cacioppo did not abandon the old schoolhouse facility. Instead, they brought J.T. Smith to the island and, with the help of Bob Wigley and others, he re-constituted the venue as the place for upbeat musical comedies under the name of The Old Schoolhouse Theater. But both playhouses owed their existence and viability in large measure to Lund. In recognition, the Sanibel-Captiva Chamber of Commerce honored Carrie with their distinguished citizen award in 1987 and a lifetime achievement award in 1997.

In 1998, Carrie and her husband launched a new and even more successful venture, founding Florida Repertory Theatre, for which she served as Associate Producer and Board member until 2018. Over this two-decade span, Carrie, Bob and their team of dedicated professionals and volunteers built Florida Rep into an award-winning regional theater that The Wall Street Journal has called “one of America’s top repertory companies.” During Lund’s tenure, Florida Rep was named “Best Performing Arts Group” numerous times by Gulfshore Life Magazine and Florida Weekly, and its work was featured in the New York Times and covered in American Theatre Magazine. Today, the Rep is one of Lee County and Southwest Florida’s most important cultural assets, attracting more than 87,000 people annually to the downtown Fort Myers River District during its September-to-May season. Not surprisingly, Florida Weekly recognized Lund as one of its Power Women of Lee County in 2012.

Two years ago, Lund and husband Bob moved across the slow-flowing Caloosahatchee, co-founding and serving as Producing Director of the Players Circle Theatre in North Fort Myers, which has morphed over the course of the pandemic into a socially-distanced nightclub under the name of Players Circle Performing Arts Center.

As if that were not enough, Carrie also served as a theater faculty member at Florida Gulf Coast University for three years, taught theater for Cypress Lake Middle School for the Arts, and directed SOURCE Teen Theatre for Planned Parenthood.

Through these schools and theater companies, and the associated education and outreach programs that reach more than 30,000 young people annually, Carrie has exerted a pervasive influence on generations of performing artists, including scores of stage and film actors, directors, choreographers, dancers, musicians and crew.

Lund has also paved the way through her example as one of the region’s hardest working actors. As a member of the Actor’s Equity Association, she performed 451 weeks over 21 years. In Florida Rep’s 19th season, she starred in the one-woman show Erma Bombeck: At Wit’s End, and all nine of Florida Rep’s nationally-acclaimed, Wall-Street-Journal-reviewed productions: The House of Blue Leaves, The Cocktail Hour, One Slight Hitch, Arsenic and Old Lace, The Little Foxes, God of Carnage, Sylvia, You Can’t Take It With You and Dancing at Lughnasa. She also performed in the casts of the regional premieres of Heart Song, The Last Romance and Miracle on South Division Street. Other productions include roles in The Incident of the Dog in the Night Time, A.J. Gurney’s The Dining Room, Doublewide, Becky’s New Car, The Unexpected Guest, Tribes, Clybourne Park, August Osage County, Other Desert Cities, Enchanted April, To Kill a Mockingbird, Noises Off, The Tale of the Allergists Wife, Rumors, All My Sons, I’m Not Rappaport, The Last Night of Ballyhoo, Same Time Next Year, Tally’s Folly, God of Carnage and Private Lives.

She was Florida Weekly’s Best Actress in 2012.

Whether as a theater company founder and co-owner, a producer or actor, Carrie Lund has worked assiduously for more than 35 years to make theater tangible and enhance the lives of Southwest Floridians through the performing arts. And for that, Art Southwest Florida recognizes and applauds her during Women’s History Month.

March 4, 2021.

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