25 Years on the Stage
By Renee Unsworth
Photos by Renee Unsworth and Provided by the Limelight Theater
Limelight Theatre is celebrating 25 years of community theatre in St. Augustine and St. Johns County during its 2016-17 season, which opened in September with the musical Oklahoma!, and continues with six more month-long productions on two stages, including I Ought To Be In Pictures, which was the first show staged by Limelight 25 years ago.
But Limelight isn’t just staging shows, or producing children and family plays. Limelight is partnering with schools and providing career-building skills back stage for local students from St. Johns County Center for the Arts and Flagler College.
Flagler College student Alison Zador recently costumed Junie B. Jones The Musical, and is the costume director for upcoming shows including School of Rock (Nov. 3-6), Cotton Patch Gospel (Dec. 1-31), and Elf Jr. The Musical (Dec. 9-11). She also is a teaching artist for the Limelight’s KidzfACTory program.
Zador returned to St. Augustine in August from a paid internship as a costume designer for Stagedoor Manor, an elite musical theatre camp held in New York’s Catskill Mountains. She costumed six productions in nine weeks. For her portfolio which she used to interview for the job, she used photos from Limelight Theatre and Flagler College shows she previously costumed.
“The experience was incredible. It was hard work, and some of the shows sounded impossible to pull together in two and a half weeks,” Zador said. “Catch Me If You Can had a cast of 22 women and each had at least five costume changes, and it was a premiere which meant we had none of the specialty costumes in stock. But the magic of Stagedoor is that everything always comes together, and it’s always high quality productions.”
Flagler College student Rylee Kuberra was the director for Junie B. Jones The Musical and played the lead in Tilly the Trickster, both staged by Limelight’s KidzfACTory program. The shows are considered Theatre for Young Audiences, which are family-friendly, educational musicals with limited cast sizes and abbreviated running times.
Rylee also is a KidzfACTory teaching artist who conducts acting and musical theatres at Florida School for the Deaf and Blind.
Limelight also is home to St. Augustine’s only training center in St. Johns County, with improv hangouts, workshops, and live shows — giving a sense of community to those wanting to perfect their acting skills or for those who need a boost in public speaking for their jobs, or everyday life.
Amy Angelilli leads the improv events. She’s a member of the Applied Improvisation Network and has presented at the 2014 and 2015 Applied Improvisation Network World Conference.
“Students explore the basic concepts of improvisation in a warm, safe and supportive environment,” Amy explains. “The classes are designed to build self-confidence and explore creativity using the fundamentals of improvisation.”
For Amy, the goal is this for her improv students: “Learning the art of accepting the unknown sans script — on and off the stage.”
Limelight Executive Director Beth Lambert started the KidzfACTory program nearly 15 years ago. Since that time, more than fifty live plays starring area children have been staged, with hundreds of students participating in the education. The best part? The children learn how to be comfortable on stage and in front of an audience, and they are a part of what happens behind the scenes. Many help with set painting, props, stage management, lights, sound, and other duties.
Izabella Unice started as a KidzfACTory student nearly 10 years ago, and now is an assistant stage manager, actor, and choreographer for KidzfACTory and Limelight Main Stage shows. At age 15, she also is a stage manager for musicals at St. Augustine High School. She’s a sophomore in the St. Johns County Center for the Arts at the school. She was previously seen in Hello Dolly, and has worked backstage for Beyond Therapy, The Grapes of Wrath, and Laundry & Bourbon. She was choreographer for Junie B. Jones The Musical, in October.
Through the years, many students have moved on to arts careers, and sometimes they even come back to direct or choreograph a Limelight show. KidzfACTory alum are working in New York, Atlanta, and in big and small cities all over the U.S.
THE 25th SEASON
“As in past years, the season is built around famous playwrights, your favorites, and new plays presented for the first time in Florida,” explained Scott Bartosch, the President of Limelight’s Board of Directors.
Other shows on stage during the 25th season are, Cotton Patch Gospel (musical), Hedda Gabler (drama), The Mystery of Irma Vep (comedy), I Ought To Be In Pictures (comedy), The Nance (drama/ comedy), and The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (musical).
“Our Silver Anniversary season will feature I Ought To Be In Pictures, the very first play presented by Limelight 25 years ago,” Bartosch said.
Co-founded by Anne Kraft and Jean Rahner, the Limelight Theatre staged its first production on August 28, 1992, in the Monson Bayfront Inn. It provided entertainment at that location for almost two years. In 1994, the Limelight became a nonprofit.
In 2001, Limelight purchased a 10,000 square foot building at its current location in uptown St. Augustine, 11 Old Mission Ave. It was converted into a 125-seat theater called the Matuza Main Stage.
In 2006, the Limelight applied for and received a Cultural Facilities Grant of $398,000 from the State of Florida. The money was used for capital improvements including a new roof, new air-conditioning, heating, sound and lighting systems, lobby and restroom renovations, and a black box space that seats 75-90, called the Koger-Gamache Studio Theatre.
Celebrating 25 years, Limelight Theatre has a new logo and redesigned website created by Design Extensions, a digital marketing agency that was established in St. Augustine in 1999.
The logo features two lions named Pounce de Leon and Pawdro Menendez. The lions are a nod to St. Augustine’s own beloved lion statues at the Bridge of Lions. Limelight has carved out its own history in the Ancient City, bringing live theatre to the community for 25 years.