Players Opening New Arnold Simonsen Players Studio



The Players Centre for Performing Arts may soon be leaving its familiar locale off South Tamiami Trail for new, state-of-the-art digs in Lakewood Ranch, but that doesn’t mean Sarasota’s oldest community theater is relinquishing its downtown presence. And with the Sep. 9 soft opening of the new Arnold Simonsen Players Studio at 1400 Boulevard of the Arts in the Rosemary District of Sarasota, the theater’s community and educational outreach programs will finally meet, and eclipse, pre-recession levels.

Only a few blocks from the theater’s current location, and occupying the entire second floor of the building, the Arnold Simonsen Players Studio comprises three major rehearsal spaces, including two halls with sprung floors installed for dancing and tumbling, a music and vocals room for pitch-perfect acoustics and one hall similar in size to the actual theater stage, for the optimal rehearsal space.

The upgrade has been a long time coming, says Players Managing Director and CEO Michelle Bianchi, even if the company wasn’t planning to sell the theater and move to Lakewood Ranch. Before the recession, The Players’ educational and youth programming totaled close to 40 classes. When the recession hit, everyone tightened their belts, including The Players, which shuttered its secondary location, moved classes back to the theater and cut programming to 20 classes, losing programs aimed at teens and, in particular, outreach performance groups that would represent the area in competition. “We left that to the fundamentals of performing arts,” says Bianchi, which a community theater must always serve.

Still, interest in the studio and its programming grew as the recession broke and summer camps continued to sell out. “We have kids running around all over the place,” laughs Bianchi. Space was tight again, and The Players knew it was time to regroup. With a donation from supporter Arnold Simonsen, the new studio was born.

Opening just in time for the 2017-18 season, the new studio has already visibly affected Players’ programming. Cresting pre-recession levels, the theater now has 49 classes on offer, including new classes such as Boys Street Dance, Kids Musical Theatre and The Players Dance Company, an audition-only dance group that will represent The Players and the community in competition across the state. Teen/Adult Singing and The Players Teens, an audition-only group that will end the season with a full-length theatrical performance, also return. The faculty has also risen to number more than 20.

“We’re poised to make a big splash with the school,” says Bianchi. “It’s going to be amazing.”

The Arnold Simonsen Players Studio has its soft opening on Sep. 9 from 10am to 2pm at 1400 Blvd. of the Arts, Sarasota. Face-painting, balloon animals and more activities for the kids await.

Pictured: Youth performers from the Ballet 2 class at The Players Centre for Performing Arts' Studio Year-end Showcase. Photo by Don Daly Photo.

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