And The Winner Is...

by Carol DeFrank

THE NAPLES PLAYERS' ETC… Readers Theatre recently announced the finalists in its 5th annual New Readers Contest. For the first time in the history of the contest it was open to writers in five counties; Collier, Lee, Charlotte, Glades and Hendry. Chairperson Carole Fenstermacher explains, “Because we included a larger geographic area, we had more entrees than normal. The writing was phenomenal so our judges asked that we make an exception to the rule and chose four finalists instead of our customary three. We agreed.”

The 33 entries were judged anonymously by Carla Grieve, Dave Elliott and Pat Bush. The finalists include, in no particular order, the following one-act plays:

Kitty Hawk, by Naples resident Charles L. Gooddell, is an offbeat comedy about Wilbur Wright. It unveils a sizzling love affair between Wilber and his landlord’s daughter. It’s written in the time period when the Wright brothers were preparing to test their newest invention, the airplane. When Wilbur discloses his affair, their plans had to be revised therefore altering history.

Gooddell is a former neurosurgeon who has enjoyed community theatre since his childhood. During his career he authored many medical articles for scientific journals. Since his retirement he decided to explore his creative writing side and write plays.

Homecoming for Sergeant Porter, by Atty. Wallace Kane, is a drama about an Iraqi soldier who returns from war depressed and mentally tarnished. After wounding a police officer while committing a robbery, he flees and becomes a fugitive. He breaks into the home of an Iraqi war widow who tries to help him, and in the process saves his life.

Kane is from Fort Myers and served in the Korean War with the 82nd Airborne division. Although this is his first play, he has authored two novels and is working on a third.

The short play, Snake, was inspired by the personal experience of Cape Coral author, Annie Wagner. She takes you through the healing process of losing someone you love and the difficulties often felt when a relationship ends. Snake is a companion piece to her first play, Cake, which was a finalist in last year’s contest.

Wagner studied in a summer workshop with the late Uta Hagen of the HB Studio in New York City. She’s appeared in Theatre Conspiracy productions in Fort Myers and works for the Lee County Library System as a reference specialist.

Please Press One, by Sandi Haupt of Estero, is a light take on a serious subject. It’s about one persons’ experience with a suicide hot line. She calls the hot line expecting help but instead is directed to press one for this, then two for that, etc., until she becomes frustrated and forgets the reason why she called in the first place. By the end of the play she comes to grips with her demons.

Haupt is the kind of person who can to find humor in every aspect of life as well as death. She’s performed, directed and written several plays, as well as a stand-up comedy act. A member and past president of the Cascades Players, Haupt also paints and makes jewelry, which she sells to shops in Matlacha.

Each of the finalists received a $100 honorarium and a plaque.

Audiences of The Naples Players, ETC… Readers Theatre experience a different theatrical entertainment from those who attend conventional plays. ETC… plays have only one act, 10-25 minutes long. There are no props, sets, blocking or costumes. “The entire play relies on the power of the performer’s voice and the strength of the author’s words. Performers have to dig deep to reach the character,” Lockland explains

Fenstermacher and the ETC… committee of 15 are responsible for staging five productions a year. Three evenings are dedicated to one-act plays, one to a full length classical play and another to a special performance showcasing the contest finalists.

“The mission of ETC… is to give talented people who wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity, a chance to perform in live theater. We encourage, promote, and present original non-musical plays,” says Fenstermacher.
According to ETC… rules, a performer who has been cast in a mainstay play nine or ten months prior to production is not eligible to perform in a one act play. There are two exceptions to this process; one is for the production of the full length play and the other is for the performers chosen to act in the plays written by the contest finalists.

“We open these productions up to everyone because we want to showcase the new plays and the full length play takes immense talent to hold the audience’s attention for two hours,” Lockland says.

There are many reasons why people can’t participate in a traditional production. Time is usually the major factor. A multi-act play can take months of preparation. “To perform in our one act plays, you simply have to attend four rehearsals and perform one evening. There’s no memorizing because the play book is either placed on a music stand or carried.” Fenstermacher says.

Fenstermacher’s committee reads and evaluates 40-50 plays a season. They only consider plays that aren’t prop dependent and don’t require a set, scene changes, costumes or have more than five characters.

The ETC… Readers Theatre is part of The Naples Players, a community theater founded 55 years ago. Their home is the Sugden Community Theatre in downtown Naples.

They started performing at Gulfview Middle School in 1953. The group incorporated as a not-for-profit corporation and, for 22 years, performed in local schools, storefronts and private homes.

In 1998 they partnered with the city of Naples and had a fund raising campaign that raised $6 million and culminated in building the Sugden Theater on Fifth Avenue, a site provided by the City. The building includes two main performance spaces, two sprung floor rehearsal halls, a music room and library, scenic and costume construction shops, plus ticket and administrative offices. It stages more than 240 performances, drawing audiences of more than 65,000 annually. There are more than 480 dues paying members, 150 of which belong to ETC… Readers Theatre. It was named the Best Live Theater in Southwest Florida and rated one of the Top Ten Community Theaters in the United States.

The Evening of New Plays is sponsored by The Naples Players and will be performed December 5 in the 100 seat Tobye Studio located in the Sugden Theater. Tickets are $10 and go on sale 30 days in advance. “This event sells out every year, so people should get their tickets early,” advises Lockland. A holiday reception will follow the performance. •

from the November-December 2008 issue

Charles Gooddell

Wallace Kane

Annie Wagner

Sandi Haupt

"The entire play relies on the power of the performer's voice and the strength of the author's words. Performers have to dig deep to rech the character."