As the audience delivers a standing ovation, the actors take their final bows. It’s bows for something that is much more than just a two-hour performance. For over 45 years, Stage Crafters Community Theatre, Inc. in Fort Walton Beach has been cultivating cultural and creative outlets. These outlets, for both audiences and performers alike, stretch well beyond what is seen on stage. It is the countless hours and dedication on and off the stage of its volunteers for the months leading up to a production that has garnered Stage Crafters with the title of Florida’s oldest, continuously running, all-volunteer community theatre.
Giving Back to the Community
Since being established in 1972 as a not-for-profit organization, Stage Crafters has heavily relied on the support of the community. This support is ultimately used to fund its many productions and to maintain the Warehouse on Robinwood Drive that functions as the rehearsal space and scene shop. Stage Crafters has also maintained a successful and rewarding partnership with the City of Fort Walton Beach. The partnership between the two has allowed them to bring live theatre to our area, which annually returns approximately $84,000 back to local businesses and an additional $16,000+ to the City of Fort Walton Beach.
Stage Crafters has also been able to make many improvements to the Fort Walton Beach Civic Auditorium that functions as their performance space. But, most importantly, they provide community members with opportunities to learn and sharpen skills that can expand and enhance their marketability for employers. They also provide a safe haven for individuals to express their creativity and be a part of a close-knit, supportive “family.” “Stage Crafters has given me the opportunity to play many roles and expand my talents. The collaborative and community creative process is beautiful. I’ve been able to make many remarkable friendships through Stage Crafters, including meeting my husband. I don’t know what or who I would be without Stage Crafters,” says longtime member, Melissa Wolf-Bates.
Looking back, Stage Crafters has made many strides over the years. While many arts groups and charitable organizations have folded, Stage Crafters has remained strong. However, as the years pass, insurance and production costs continue to rise. This is a continuously looming problem. In 1972, Stage Crafters’ first production, Everybody Loves Opal, cost just $275. In 1974, they presented their first musical, No, No Nanette, for a total cost of $525. Today, the average straight show costs between $10,000 and $15,000. A musical production costs between $15,000 and $20,000. Stage Crafters is also facing a possible rent increase when the Warehouse lease ends in 2024 despite much-needed improvements.
Keeping Theatre Alive
Despite the challenges, Stage Crafters continues to promote artistic expression and community spirit through theatre locally in Fort Walton Beach. “Stage Crafters is a unique cultural experience that gives us the opportunity to share an evening of laughter, suspense, music, or drama with our friends, neighbors, or the stranger sitting next to us. It’s our everyday lives, history, and struggles through the imagination of our many playwrights in the form of live theatre,” says Stage Crafters’ president, Nancy Kruzek.
A Chorus Line
Stage Crafters’ final production of their 46th season, A Chorus Line, opens November 9th and runs for two weekends. This funny, heartbreaking, and refreshingly honest musical examines one day in the lives of seventeen dancers, all vying for a spot in the chorus line of a Broadway musical. Based on the stories of real Broadway dancers, A Chorus Line is a show you will not want to miss and will want to get your tickets early.
For more information on Stage Crafters Community Theatre and to purchase tickets to the final production of their 46th season, A Chorus Line, visit www.stagecraftersfwb.com.