Central Florida is home to so much creativity and talent! In fact, there are theatres and academies all over the region dedicated to nurturing, sharpening and experiencing the talent of all ages. My youngest and I were recently among a handful of writers and bloggers invited to visit one of those theatres. During our visit to the Orlando Repertory Theatre, we witnessed a small piece of that local talent. In addition, we were given opportunity to learn more about the programs, productions and mission of the Orlando Repertory Theatre from the team that works “backstage.”
We were invited to visit and attend the production mentioned below as media. All opinions, however, are 100% mine and mine alone. This post does contain affiliate links. Please see my Disclosure policy for more information
Visiting The Orlando Repertory Theatre
It was a beautiful day to take a joy ride! The youngest, a blogger friend of mine (Renee from Tales of One Moms Mess) and I hopped into the van and drove across town at the invitation of the REP. The invite had been sent with the intent for media to get to know the faces and the mission behind the venue. By providing us a tour of the facility and a firsthand experience of a production, we could, in turn, share that experience with our own local audience (ta-da!!!!!).
The Theatre Itself
To start off our day, we had the pleasure of hearing from various members of the “backstage” team. From the artistic director and the (then) interim executive director to the education director and marketing director, each member of the team shared with us the multiple aspects of what makes the organization tick. Moreover, we learned about the process for production selection, the goals of each production and the opportunities that await young people. Not to mention, we also heard about the projects with which the theatre aligns itself within the community.
Something unique about the Orlando Repertory Theatre is that it is one of only a small set of unique theatres in the country. It’s focus is unique in that it is geared towards young audiences, as well as families WITH young audiences. In fact, it is just happens to be the only professional theatre for young audiences in the state of Florida.
Above all, the REP’s mission is to “enlighten, entertain and enrich children and adults by producing theatre of exceptional quality.”
During the course of a year, the theatre may entertain upwards of 40,000 students during the week and another 30,000 over the weekend with their families. Their primary programs run parallel to the school calendar in order to accommodate for field trips.
Housed within the venue are three theatres, which provides for smooth transitions between active productions. While one show is active, another is being stripped or prepped, ready for an immediate transition once the active production has completed its run.
The age range of the audience can vary between age 4 to 14. The team is even looking into the possibility of finding shows appropriate for the short attention span of children younger that four.
You can imagine, however, how difficult a task it is to find find appropriate material that will engage, entertain and teach such a wide range of ages. Something that may engage a four year old is certainly likely not to keep the attention of a 14 year old.
So, how do they pick the shows? Well, we were told it’s not a science. The team members take the time to talk to families and even look at their own children. Sometimes, they just go on instinct. Some shows are picked to expose the young audience to a certain topic, while others are selected because they showcase something quite popular at the moment.
After hearing from such a wide array of amazing individuals, our group toured the facility. This enabled us to get to know the lay of the land a little better. What fascinated me most is that this is a “production” house and not just a “presentation” theatre.
What does that mean?
Well, it means they do ALL the work there. The costuming, lighting, set building ~ from start to finish, the production is put together in that one facility.
Our tour took us behind the scenes, giving us a peek at the workshops, costuming department and prop room. We saw costume patterns on the wall, sets mid-build and props from familiar shows. For a theatre kid like me, this was like walking through a little piece of heaven.
We also toured the three theatres housed within the complex. We first entered the Bush Theatre, which has a proscenium design. This is where the audience views the production through one large opening in front of them, or through the proscenium arch.
From there, we walked over to the black box theatre. This is used for more intimate productions. It’s pretty much a big empty box room with black-painted walls designed to suit the needs of the play. This would be the place a smaller class field trip would gather and a more pointed play, perhaps about racism or bullying, would be shown.
Personal note: I can remember acting in black box theatres as a teenager involved in various improvisational troupes.
The last theatre is the Universal Orlando Theatre. In this theatre, we were treated to the current production. This stage is a “thrust” stage, which extends out into the audience on three sides. However, it stays connected to the backstage by the upstage end.
At the time of our visit, the company was just opening their latest production of Seussical The Musical. As a special treat, our small group of bloggers was invited to sit among the small crowd of field trip students and watch the “fantastical, spectacular musical extravaganza.” (REP website).
So, a little bit about the company…
These actors are paid actors and this is a job for them. The youngest and I even recognized the young actor in the production as one of the stars from a production we saw a few months back. (You can read about that performance here). The vocals were spot on and the energy was intense. The gentleman taking on the role of The Cat in the Hat took us through the smorgasbord of stories from Dr. Seuss. He was both captivating and whimsical. We also enjoyed the actor who portrayed Horton, as he easily found a place in our heart with each utterance of:
“A person’s a person no matter how small.”
Oh, this is worth noting!!!
The Orlando Repertory Theatre also offers specialized productions that take a multitude of special needs into consideration. For instance, performances are offered with ASL interpreters on hand for the hearing impaired community. There are also sensory-friendly performances for those who have difficulty with certain sights and sounds.
One of the more specialized programs the theatre has is a program that works with students who have cerebral palsy. This opportunity gives those with CP the opportunity to either write AND/OR to perform in special productions designed with their capabilities and gifts in mind.
I kid you not, my heart skipped a beat when I heard this!!
Remember that I mentioned that this was a youth theatre – one that is designed to nurture and entertain young audiences. One of the other amazing opportunities this venue offers is that of summer camps and workshops. Once school is out for the summer, those with budding talent or a tremendous love for theatre can fill their summer with acting, singing, dancing and more!
Some of the options include musical intensive theatre classes, production workshops, audition prep and more! There are opportunities offered for a variety of age ranges from preschool all the way up to high school!
In fact, my high school-aged son was hosted in early June in the musical theatre intensive class for high schoolers. You can read more about that experience in my upcoming post (I’ll link it when it’s done ~ wink, wink)
Just Scratched The Surface
All in all, we learned so much that morning at the Orlando Repertory Theatre! However, I know that we just barely scratched the surface when it comes to all the REP does for the youth in Central Florida. Nonetheless, I’m sure that this provides you with a wealth of insight into what Orlando Reperatory Theatre hopes to accomplish in this community. Be sure to check them out ~ be it on stage or in the audience!
If you have any more questions, do not hesitate to visit their website at https://www.orlandorep.com/
Orlando Reportarory Theatre:
- Address: 1001 E Princeton St, Orlando, FL 32803
- Phone: (407) 896-7365 / (407) 897-3284
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Box office hours
- Monday – Friday
- 9:00am to 5:00pm*
On performance days falling on weekends, the Box Office opens at noon and closes after the last performance.
BECOME A SUBSCRIBER!!! For more information, check out the REP’s website!!