It has been named “Best Performing Arts Group” numerous times by Gulfshore Life Magazine and Florida Weekly , and its work has received rave reviews nationally in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal , and American Theatre magazine. It’s perhaps ironic that the great success of Cacioppo and his wife, Founder and Associate Producer Carrie Lund Cacioppo was sparked only after a clash with another Southwest Florida playhouse where they were involved. At that time, the theatre’s board members — not its artisans — controlled many scripting and artistic direction decisions, to the growing frustration of these nationally respected veterans of the stage. “We wanted to run an artist-driven theatre, not one controlled by bankers and dentists and others on the board who had little or no experience in the arts,” Cacioppo says. “But out of a failure, a new kind of theatre was born.”

thing happened,” shares Cacioppo. “All the directors, actors and designers from the old company joined us. All of the audience came too. It was like moving the Brooklyn Dodgers to L.A. We realized that a theater is not a building, it’s its people.” About this time, adilapidatedoldbones of abuilding needed new life. The Arcade Theatre building on Bay Street, constructed in 1915, reflected all the charm of turn-of-the-century Florida. In fact, it originally hosted Vaudeville acts for local patrons, including famousFort Myers residents Thomas Edison, Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone. But, by 1989, the Arcade Theatre was only a shadow of its former glory, sitting abandoned in a state of severe dilapidation.

Disillusioned, partners set


Realizing the historical significance of the Arcade — and the jewel it could

be again — the City of Fort Myers in 1991 organized a benefit where famed ballet dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov graced the stage. The money raised enabled complete restoration of the Arcade. The City of Fort Myers then “recruited” Cacioppo to bring professional theatre to downtown, with the offer of free rent and financial aid. In 1998-1999, the first season generated thousands of theatre fans, generated 2,700 subscribers and filled 335 usage days its first year. Since that time, Florida Rep has attracted more and more arts patrons into the waterfront neighborhood each year. A surge in River District

their minds to create, nurture and develop an ensemble of theatre professionals and civic-minded supporters

who would work as an artistic-driven organization where all actions are done solely to support the play. The team launched Florida Repertory Theatre in 1998 as a 501(c)3 with a motto borrowed from Hamlet: “The play is the thing.”

“When we left that organization to build what is now Florida Repertory Theatre, an interesting


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