FLEMING ISLAND – Clay County thespians have a new place to showcase their acting talent with the opening of The Island Theater on Fleming Island.
Established in December of last year, Island Theater hopes to bring acting opportunities to people in the furthest reaches of Clay County, where, according to Managing Director Tricia Williams, people have been underserved and have to drive too far to justify attending frequent rehearsals and shows.
“We put together what we wanted to see in a community theater,” Williams said. “Our mission is theater education, but not just about stage learning, it’s also about the community coming together to have a cultural experience.”
Williams started the theater in an unrented space in the Fleming Island Executive Park across the road from Fleming Island High.
“When we moved in it was an empty concrete room,” Williams said.
Now, with the theater’s first production, “Annie: The Musical,” well underway, you would never know that the building hadn’t originally been built to house a theater troupe. After months of work from friends and family, Williams has set up a professional stage environment.
The main stage sits in front of a room full of chairs, the rafters are filled with lighting equipment and the backstage area provides players space to prepare hair and makeup as well as making quick changes and warming up for big numbers.
To the side of the main room is a lobby area that was once part of a storefront church. This is where tickets are sold and drawings for raffle items are held. The island theme is prevalent in the lobby, with leis provided to guests and the ticket booth wearing its own grass skirt.
Williams has been involved in the operations at the Orange Park Community Theatre in the past, but wanted to step out and open up her own shop where she could give actors, both young and those with more experience, a place to perform as well as teaching kids every aspect of putting on a professional-level stage production.
“We’re teaching everything from lighting to stage preparation, and [young] actors learn confidence for things like public speaking,” Williams said. “We also wanted to provide a space for adults to come without too much commitment or any time away from their day jobs.”
Clay County attorney Todd Henry, who plays Daddy Warbucks in “Annie,” is exactly that type of person. After spending high school and college performing on stages, Henry went to work, got a real job, and left acting behind.
“Now that I have kids, my daughter became interested in acting,” Henry said. “So, I decided to make my reprise.”
Henry heard about the Island Theater through Facebook and he and his daughter Autumn, 11, auditioned. The two Henrys were awarded the roles of Daddy Warbucks and Annie.
“When I heard Tricia was involved, I was in. She does a good job at getting families involved,” Henry said. “You get to have family time and participate in this thing that you both enjoy as well.”
For “Annie,” Williams double cast the kids because of the high level of interest. So, the young speaking parts are alternated and parts are played by different young actors every other night.
Williams has already planned out the rest of the year’s season, with upcoming productions including “Month Python’s SPAMALOT,” “School of Rock: The Musical,” and holiday favorites like “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” and “You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown” as they prepare for their Christmas shows.
There are also plans in place for acting workshops three times a year and an acting summer camp where young kids can work more closely with Williams and her actors to learn the ropes and land roles in upcoming productions such as “The Addams Family,” a workshop which is already in progress, and “Peter Pan Jr.,” an upcoming workshop starting in June.
For more information on involvement or ticket sales visit www.theislandtheater.com, or call (904) 254-1455.