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Actors, artists, directors, filmmakers and events in the news November 1-7, 2022


Grouped under headings that include art openings, film, outdoor art fairs and festivals and theater are advances, announcements and articles about the actors, artists, filmmakers and events making news in Southwest Florida this week:


1     ACTORS


Gerrie Benzing plays Brooke for Studio Players in ‘Other Desert Cities’

Gerrie Benzing plays Brooke for The Studio Players in Other Desert Cities. Intellectual, but bitter and depressed to the point of despondency, she’s come to terms with her brother’s suicide by writing a memoir, which excoriates the role played by their parents in causing him to kill and kill himself. It’s a role that will enable Gerrie to put her formidable dramatic skill set on parade. Please go here to view Gerrie’s lengthy and impressive stage, film and directorial credits.



Danny Cancio in cast of ‘Other Desert Cities’

An FGCU theatre grad, Daniel Cancio is an emerging talent in the local theater scene. His credits include Art,  attorney Aaron Levinsky in NutsThe Waverly Gallery, Jerry in The Zoo Story, the bartender in Speed Dating, the owl in Where is Man?, Senator Charles Whitmore’s campaign aide in Church & State, and Jerry in Don’t Talk to the Actors – all for The Studio Players in Naples. He appears next in The Studio Players’ production of Other Desert Cities. Go here to see all of Danny’s theatrical credits.



Casey Cobb in cast of ‘Other Desert Cities’

Casey Cobb is a Naples actor whose stage credits include Rose Kirk in Nuts, The Cocktail Hour, Bakersfield Mist and, most recently, The Waverly Gallery. In addition, she has appeared in numerous productions at The Marco Players and Readers Theater at The Naples Players. She appears next for The Studio Players in Other Desert Cities.



Ryan Porter Craig plays dual roles of Jekyll and Hyde for New Phoenix Theatre

Ryan Porter Craig plays the dual roles of Henry Jekyll and Edward Hyde in New Phoenix Theatre’s production of Jekyll & Hyde the Musical. Previous roles include King Basilius for New Phoenix in Head Over Heels. A former Certified Nurse’s Aide, Ryan studied vocal performance at Frost School of Music at the University of Miami. He recently performed as a back-up singer with Cassy Terwilliger, Erica Sample and Sebastian Plymette for Gulf Coast Symphony in “Gulf Coast Symphony Rocks!” and as a soloist in “The Best of Broadway!” at Chocolattes in Fort Myers.



Betsy Greenblatt in cast of ‘Other Desert Cities’

Betsy Greenblatt is a New Jersey community theater transplant. She made her Southwest Florida premiere as Judge Murdoch in Nuts for The Studio Players. Her other local credits include the role of Irene in Slow Food. She appears next in Other Desert Cities for The Studio Players. The rest of Betsy’s profile is here.



Nikki Hagel plays prostitute Nellie in ‘Jekyll & Hyde the Musical’

Nikki Hagel appears in the role of a prostitute by the name of Nelly in Jekyll & Hyde the Musical, which opens October 13 at New Phoenix Theatre. Previous roles included Pamela in Head over Heels, Frederick Frankenstein fiancee Elizabeth Benning in Young Frankenstein, Georgie Buckatinsky in The Full Monty, and the memorable role of sax-playing Magenta in Richard O’Brien’s Rocky Horror Show, all for New Phoenix Theatre.



Tricia Hennessy is spellbinding as Lucy Harris in ‘Jekyll & Hyde’

With a career in dance and theatre spanning more than 30 years, Tricia Hennessy plays the part of Lucy Harris in New Phoenix Theatre’s production of Jekyll & Hyde the Musical. Captivating. Spellbinding. Enthralling. These are just some of the adjectives that come to mind to describe Tricia’s performance in the role. Tricia last appeared in the roles of Inga in Young Frankenstein for New Phoenix Theatre and the title role in The Drowsy Chaperone for Creative Theater Workshop. Go here to view all of Tricia’s theatrical credits.



Trace Meier plays Sir Danvers Carew in ‘Jekyll & Hyde’ for New Phoenix

Trace Meier appears in the role of Sir Danvers Carew for New Phoenix Theatre in their October production of Jekyll & Hyde the Musical. Trace’s stage credits include Quartet, multiple roles in Young Frankenstein and Dr. Scott in Richard O’Brien’s Rocky Horror Show for New Phoenix Theatre; and the priest in Andorra and roles in A Clockwork Orange and Chekhov’s The Bear for Lab Theater. He previously appeared in the role of Simon Stride in Jekyll & Hyde for Cultural Park Theater.

Go here for all of Trace’s theatrical credits.



Danica Murray plays multiple roles in touring production of ‘Lion, Witch and Wardrobe’

From September 27, 2022 through May 31, 2023, Danica and Cameron Rogers will play multiple roles in the Naples Performing Art Center’s Theatre for Young Audiences production of CS Lewis’ The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. She has already amassed an impressive resume, thanks in large measure to her participation in Florida Repertory Theatre’s Conservancy program. Her acting credits include CFABS Youth Theatre’s bold reimagining of Thorton Wilder’s Our Town, Caitlin O’Hare in Over the River and Through the Woods at Off Broadway Palm, The Woman in Woman in Black and Cloe in Bulletproof Backpack. Go here for all of Danica’s stage credits.



Andrew Sarkozy is Caden in ‘The Thanksgiving Play’ at Lab Theater

Andrew Sarkozy plays Caden in Larissa FastHorse’s satire The Thanksgiving Play at the Laboratory Theater of Florida. Sarkozy’s character is an awkward third-grade teacher and frustrated playwright. Andrew just completed a stint in The Play That Goes Wrong, in which he reprised the roles of Chris and the distinguished Inspector Carter.



Stacy Stauffer is Logan in ‘The Thanksgiving Play’ at Lab Theater

Stacy Stauffer is a talented character actor who lives and performs in Fort Myers. She stars in the role of Logan for Lab Theater in The Thanksgiving Play. Her previous stage credits include the role Renee in Odd Couple: Female Version for Belle Theatre, Marjorie Taub in Charles Busch’s The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife for New Phoenix Theatre (2022), Hall in Men on Boats for the Alliance for the Arts and Sarah Goodwin in New Phoenix Theatre’s production of Time Stands Still. Go here for more on Stacy.



Cassy Terwilliger plays Jekyll fiancee for New Phoenix in ‘Jekyll & Hyde’

Cassy Terwilliger plays the role of Emma Carew in New Phoenix Theatre’s production of Jekyll & Hyde the Musical. Her character in the show is Dr. Jekyll’s increasingly troubled fiancee who, in one of the show’s many highlights, sings a beautiful, soulful duet titled “In His Eyes” with a prostitute by the name of Lucy Harris, who becomes involved with both Jekyll and Hyde. Terwilliger was last seen in New Phoenix Theatre’s production of Head Over Heels, which marked her New Phoenix debut. Go here for all of Cassy’s theatrical credits.





Madelaine Weymouth directs ‘The Thanksgiving Play’ for Lab

Madelaine Weymouth directs The Thanksgiving Play for Lab Theater. Among Maddy’s directing credits are Trap (which she co-directed with Steven Michael Kennedy for Lab’s winter camp), The Wolves (2019), Evil Dead (2018) and the regional premiere of Chiara Atik’s comedy Five Times in One Night. Madelaine also had the distinction of directing the Audience Choice winner in Lab Theater’s 2018 24-Hour Playwriting Challenge, Sunny with a Chance of Social Anxiety by Dave Matthew Chesebro. Go here to view Weymouth’s extensive acting credits.



Scott Carpenter directs ‘Jekyll & Hyde the Musical’ for New Phoenix Theatre

Scott Carpenter directs a star-studded cast in Jekyll & Hyde the Musical for New Phoenix Theatre.

Scott’s previous directing credits include last Spring’s production of Head over Heels for New Phoenix Theatre, as well as the Florida premiere of the spoof Death of a Streetcar Named Virginia Woolf: A Parody,  Rumors for Lab Theater, Same Time, Next Year, Jekyll & Hyde the Musical, South Pacific, Mame, and Steel Magnolias.

Go here to view all of Scott’s theatrical credits.



Carling Witt provides choreography for New Phoenix musical ‘Jekyll & Hyde’

Carling Witt provides the choreography for New Phoenix Theatre’s production of Jekyll & Hyde the Musical. Witt distinguished herself with her portrayal of Mopsa in Head Over Heels. Other acting credits include Johanna in Sweeney Todd, Penny in Hairspray and Vivienne in Legally Blonde. Carling is employed as a musician and vocalist and has performed for Disney, Warner Bros, and Universal Studios.



Paula Keenan directs ‘Other Desert Cities’ for Studio Players

Paula Keenan directs Other Desert Cities for The Studio Players. Her directing credits include Barefoot in the ParkThe Waverly Gallery, Over the River and Through the Woods, The Cocktail Hour, Bakersfield Mist and Agnes of God for The Studio Players; On the Farce Day of Christmas, Silver Alert, Come Blow Your Horn and Flamingo Court for The Marco Players; and The Ladies Odd Couple, Sex Please We’re 60, Drinking Habits, Fiddler on the Roof and Right Bed Wrong Husband. Additionally, she directed Norm Foster’s Opening Night and Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple for the Azuay Community Theater in Cuenca, Ecuador, where she spends part of the year. Go here for the rest of Paula’s theatrical credits.





IMAG celebrates 100th anniversary of discovery of Tut’s tomb with ‘Return of the King’

November 4th marks the 100th anniversary of British archeologist Howard Carter’s discovery the tomb of King Tutankhamun. Because Tut’s successors tried to obliterate his name from the annals of Egyptian history, the pharaoh had been buried in an out-of-the-way place that had prevented robbers from finding and plundering the tomb. So when Carter opened it, the tomb still held the bulk of its treasures. The IMAG History and Science Center in Fort Myes is celebrating the 100th anniversary of the tomb’s discovery with an exciting exhibition containing reproductions of scores of the artifacts found in Tut’s tomb. Listen on WGCU for the details:…/imag-history-science-center…



Late works of Helen Frankenthaler on exhibit at Baker Museum through February 5

Helen Frankenthaler: Late Works, 1990-2003 is on exhibit at the Baker Museum of Art in Naples. It is the first museum exhibition dedicated to the last phase of the painter’s prolific career. The show features 20 paintings on paper and 10 paintings on canvas. These works demonstrate the artist’s long-standing interest in the relationship between landscape and abstraction and reveal her continued sensitivity to the emotional effects of color. The exhibition is on loan from the Helen Frankenthaler Foundation.

Helen Frankenthaler (1928-2011) played a defining role in the history of postwar American painting. Her innovative soak-stain technique inaugurated the shift from Abstract Expressionism to Color Field Painting and influenced artists such as Morris Louis, Jules Olitski, Friedel Dzubas and Kenneth Noland. In the 1950s, Frankenthaler created saturated, luminous surfaces by applying thinned oil paint onto raw, unprimed canvas. For more than 60 years, she never stopped experimenting with new materials and tools to expand painting’s possibilities—on canvas, paper and prints.





Sculptor’s wife, daughter and friends celebrate D.J. Wilkins’ life and work

For a quarter of a century, the name Don D.J. Wilkins was synonymous with public art in the City of Fort Myers. Proclaimed the “Sculptor of Fort Myers” by former mayor Art Hammel and the City Council that served during his administration, Wilkins was responsible for designing, fabricating and installing 23 sculptures and art installations throughout the City during a 30-year span that began in 1983, as well as restoring three other important aesthetic landmarks in an age that pre-dated the discipline of art conservation. Wilkins passed a year ago this past October 10 at the age of 76. The rest of this announcement is here.



Repairs to Civil War soldier in Centennial Park nearing completion

The Civil War soldier nicknamed Clayton has been in the news a lot lately. He was installed in 1998 on the eastern edge of Centennial Park East, but was moved about a thousand yards to the west when the park was redesigned to add the new Caloosa Sound Amphitheater. He was placed at the new site facing the river, as part of a planned river walk. But people objected to the north-facing orientation, and he was lifted out of the ground and turned around on July 29th so that he now faces the entrance to the park. A new length of sidewalk was poured in front of Clayton, inviting visitors to interact with him up close and personal.

You will find the rest of this update here.



‘Florida Panthers’ up and running again

When Hurricane Ian inundated the River District under several feet of surge, it shorted out the pump that operates The Florida Panthers, the fountain-based installation in the median on Monroe Street between the post office and Harborside Event Center. The installation features three Florida panthers, a male on the prowl, a reclining female and a cub sitting on a ledge next to a gargantuan bullfrog. The sculptures and related water features were created by North Fort Myers sculptor Don “D.J.” Wilkins ….

The rest of this post can be found here.



Parks & Beautification recleans ‘Uncommon Friends’ fountain

In late July, the dedicated staff of Fort Myers’ Parks & Beautification Division began getting the Uncommon Friends fountain ready for the re-opening of Centennial Park East. Even though the City’s Public Art Committee had voted in May to eliminate (deaccession) the water feature, it had agreed to reverse its decision if the late Don Wilkins’ wife and friends can find a sponsor for the fountain who is willing to underwrite the cost of repairing damage suffered on a recurring basis by the animals and rock formations in the fountain’s reflection pool as a result of people wading in the water or hopscotching to the island to take selfies with the figures of Thomas Edison, Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone.

The rest of this story is here.



Keeping ‘Rachel at the Well’ under wraps until repairs can be made

As motorists passing by her have noticed, the City-owned sculpture affectionately called Rachel at the Well (her real name is The Spirit of Fort Myers) is under wraps. The orange mesh safety fencing is intended to hold the statue together until she can be restored by professional art conservators. The 96-year-old Grecian maiden was badly damaged when the bougainvillea behind the statue caught Hurricane Ian’s 110+ mile per hour winds like the sail of a mighty schooner. It toppled the heavy wrought-iron fence with which it had become entwined, cracking Rachel’s elegant neck and breaking her back at the hips. The rest of this story can be read here.



Work to begin on ‘Fire Dance’ this week

Work will begin on the 25-foot modernist red sculpture in Centennial Park West known as Fire Dance this week. The sculpture is being sanded, primed and repainted.

The City has engaged Noel Painting to do the honors. One of the largest and most respected painting contractors in the entire state, the company has painted everything from modest family homes and multi-million-dollar estates to Publix grocery stores, Harley dealerships, high-rise condos, major hotels and the Alliance for the Arts. Under the direction of father-son team Steve and Travis Noel, the company has built a reputation over the years for blending traditional craftsmanship with current technologies. The latter is especially important in connection with Fire Dance.

You can view the rest of this announcement here.



Noel Painting begins work today on ‘Fire Dance’ sculpture

Noel Painting began work today on Fire Dance, the 25-foot-tall modernist sculpture located in Centennial Park West where Bay empties into Heitman Street. The sculpture is being sanded, primed and repainted using APV NeverFade and Metal Topcoat with Kynar Aquatec that is expected to preserve the sculpture’s bright red color for decades, rather than a mere matter of years.

The rest of the story is here.



Noel Painting almost finished sanding ‘Fire Dance’

Week One is in the books, and Noel Painting is drawing to a close on sanding the Fire Dance sculpture in Centennial Park West. The 25-foot modernist artwork that was installed in March of 2011 has faded significantly in the intense Southwest Florida sun over the past eleven years. It’s also been tagged with graffiti and nicked and gouged by skateboarders over that span. So the City’s Public Art Committee has decided that a fresh coat of paint is in order. The rest of this update is here.



Audio for IMAG’s ‘Man Playing Flute’ now live on Otocast

The audio for the Edgardo Carmona sculpture Duo Sinfonica or Man Playing Flute is now live on Otocast. Man Playing Flute is one of two Carmona sculptures that have been moved to IMAG History & Science Center in the City’s third ward. Man Playing Flute leans against a stone pillar that anchors the wrought iron fence running along Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard.

With Man Playing Flute, sculptor Edgardo Carmona captures a moment in time during which a flutist and his beautiful tunes attracts a chirping bird to sing in tandem with him. This artwork was positioned to look across the street towards McCollum Hall on purpose. Go here for more.





Fringe Fort Myers coming to Southwest Florida in 2023

Fort Myers will soon be joining more than 250 cities around the globe that host fringe performing arts festivals. A collaboration between the Alliance for the Arts and Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre, the first-ever Fringe Fort Myers will take place June 1-4, 2023. The full story, which details the application process for artists interesting in winning a berth, is available on WGCU.




Gulf Coast Chamber Orchestra opens season November 5 with Eroica Symphony

Gulf Coast Chamber Orchestra opens a new season on Saturday, November 5 with conductor Andrew M. Kurtz and the Gulf Coast Chamber Orchestra performs one of Beethoven’s most celebrated works, the Eroica Symphony, a large-scale composition that marked the beginning of the composer’s innovative “middle period.” Since its founding in 1995, Gulf Coast Symphony has produced many spectacular performances, but its 2022-23 season is poised to be its most productive and memorable to date. Listen on WGCU for more about GCS’s 2022-2023 season.



Lab Theater produces Southwest Florida premiere of ‘Thanksgiving Play’

The Laboratory Theater of Florida is presenting Larissa FastHorse’s The Thanksgiving Play November 4-20. The production represents the play’s Southwest Florida premiere. The Thanksgiving Play will open at the Hayes Theater on Broadway in spring 2023, so locals have the chance to see it first.

The Thanksgiving Play follows a group of white teachers who enthusiastically plan to create a respectful and politically correct Thanksgiving play for their schoolchildren. After winning a grant to hire a Native American actress, mayhem and hilarity ensue when the actress turns out to be a white lady with a tan.

Go here for the rest of this advance.

Go here for play dates, times and ticket information.



Naples Performing Arts taking Narnia to area elementary and middle schools

Danica Murray and Cameron Rogers are two of Southwest Florida’s most promising young stage actors. You may have seen Murray as Caitlin O’Hare in Over the River and Through the Woods at Off Broadway Palm or Cloe in Bulletproof Backpack at Florida Repertory Theatre. Rogers burst onto the local theater scene in the role of Brad in Richard O’Brien’s Rocky Horror Show at New Phoenix Theatre and dazzled Laboratory Theater of Florida audiences with his deft and daring swordplay in Dangerous Liaisons.

Interestingly, Murray’s first exposure to theater was at a touring show about Thomas Edison that visited her elementary school. Rogers’s mom took him to a Broadway Palm Children’s Theatre production of C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe a short time after they’d seen the movie. Now Murray and Rogers are returning the favor by performing multiple roles in the Naples Performing Arts Center’s (NPAC) Theatre for Young Audiences production of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

Naples Performing Art Center Associate Artistic Director Kody Jones said that while Theatre for Young Audiences (TYA) has been around for about four decades, it is new to many people, even avid theater-goers. But TYA has an important role in introducing elementary and middle school students to the performing arts.

Go here for the full story on WGCU.



More on Naples Performing Arts Center’s TYA production of ‘Lion, Witch and Wardrobe’

Naples Performing Arts Center has officially announced its first Theatre for Young Audiences (TYA) touring production, C.S. Lewis’ iconic The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe.  This new and innovative program delivers a fully-realized professional touring production to area schools.  Each production will be tailored to not only provide engaging and educational entertainment, but tie in with the host school’s curriculum and Florida’s Education Benchmarks and Standards. The highly-imaginative production runs 50 minutes and comes with an optional fifteen-minute Q and A with the actors following the performance.

The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe is a tour de force adventure that enables the audience to join our journey as we utilize imaginations and creativity to depict the stories of Narnia,” notes NPAC in its press release announcing the production, which stars Danica Murray and Cameron Rogers, who play storytellers as well as a dozen other characters within Narnia that careen in and out of the story with a simple costume change and complete physical and vocal transformation.

The production is directed by veteran TYA Director, Kody C Jones with support by NPAC Production Manager, Jenn Murray.

“There is nothing more special than TYA Theatre for Young Audiences,” says Jones. “It’s a program with the sole purpose of introducing the performing arts to as many kids as possible while introducing life skills and inspiring creativity and imagination.”

Recommended for 1st through 6th grades, the show is designed and directed to be performed any space, large or small whether it be a classroom or large theatre or gym.

For pricing questions or to book your tour today, please email Associate Artistic Kody C Jones at

And to listen to more on TYA and the production on WGCU, please click here.



New Phoenix Theatre goes steampunk in season-opening production of ‘Jekyll & Hyde’ 

New Phoenix Theatre opened its 2022-2023 season this past Thursday with Leslie Bricusse and Frank Wildthorn’s recreation of Robert Louise Stevenson’s 1886 gothic horror-thriller Jekyll & Hyde. The gripping tale of a brilliant mind gone horrifically awry, New Phoenix’s production of this disturbingly dark musical comes with a decidedly steampunk slant. Assuming the role of Costume Designer, Brenda Kensler will be outfitting the characters in steampunk. Drawing its inspiration from 19th century Victorian clothing and industrial machinery, the accessories are as distinctive as the clothing. Southwest Florida theater-goers will be holding their collective breath as we wait to see what Kensler has in store for this production. Go here for the full advance.

Play dates, times and a cast list can be found here.



Carpenter, Craig, Terwilliger and Hennessy talk up Jekyll & Hyde on WGCU

Director Scott Carpenter and leads Ryan Craig, Cassy Terwilliger and Tricia Hennessy talk up New Phoenix Theatre’s steampunk production of Jekyll & Hyde on WGCU Radio. Go here to hear what they have to say, as well as clips from some of the show’s powerful Act Two musical numbers like “In His Eyes,” “A New Life” and “The Way Back.” New Phoenix Theatre’s production of “Jekyll & Hyde” promises to be a tour de force. The cast is superlative. The leads have tremendous voices and the ensemble is comprised of phenomenal singers. Carpenter’s set is a study in steampunk architecture, and Kensler’s costumes are something to behold. Actor Ryan Craig points out this is also the perfect show for the Halloween season. Go here to listen to the segment.



Pulitzer finalist ‘Other Desert Cities’ scathingly funny, fierce family drama

The Studio Players is bringing Jon Robin Baitz’s family drama Other Desert Cities to the stage later this month. Since concluding a successful Broadway run and seven-month stint at Lincoln Center, the play has been produced around the country in regional and community theaters. Among its awards and accolades are five Tony Award nominations, winner of the Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding New Off-Broadway Play  and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.

Go here for the balance of this advance.

Play dates, times and ticket information are here.

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