The theater scene in Gainesville is eclectic and brimming with talent. Options in town range from Broadway hits to locally written community shows. Whether you want to be in the audience or participating on stage, there’s something for everyone.
The University of Florida Performing Arts (UFPA) presents programs in five different venues, most notably the Phillips Center on Hull Road. This 1,700-seat theater brings in world-class productions ranging from critically acclaimed RENT this October to Riverdance – The 20th Anniversary World Tour coming in January, and everything in between. The university is known for bringing top talent to Gainesville, and UFPA is no different.
“We bring in artists from all over the globe,” said Brian Jose, Director of UFPA. “Gainesville’s cultural composition is comparable to that of cities ten times its size, and I feel that UFPA plays a really important role in that ecosystem. In any given season, we truly have something for everyone.”
Also adding to Gainesville’s vibrant theater culture is the Hippodrome, which is both a theater and an historic building in the heart of downtown. Commonly called “The Hipp,” this 276-seat playhouse provides an engrossing, intimate viewing experience with professional shows performed six nights a week. The Hipp is the only self-producing professional theater in the North Central Florida region, and its local artists make their living creating shows for the community.
“You know that when you come to the Hipp, the artists have spent their life’s work designing for our stage,” said Jessica Hurov, Managing Director of the Hippodrome. “Gainesville is unique. The people here crave storytelling, and we strive to give them that.”
Founded in 1927, Gainesville Community Playhouse (GCP) is the oldest theater in town, inviting actors of all experience levels to participate in local art. Located in the Vam York Theater on NW 16th Blvd., the venue aims to get Gainesville residents interested in community drama by welcoming ages 6-80+ to join in the creativity. GCP has an off-the-wall comedy called The 39 Steps coming in September and the classic Mary Poppins musical occurring in November.
There’s also the completely volunteer-staffed and operated Acrosstown Repertory Theatre (ART) at 619 S. Main Street. According to its website, this performing arts theater is “dedicated to providing multicultural opportunities to the members of our community.” ART also produces plays written by local playwrights, and it hosts an annual event known as Gainesville Homegrown: Local Playwrights’ Showcase. Devoted to developing the culture of the city, this local theater keeps the artistic conversation flowing.
Yet another hub of creativity, the Actors’ Warehouse at 608 N. Main Street is a non-professional community theater founded in 2011. Promoting “diversity and non-traditional casting,” this playhouse is not one to be forgotten. There is an event to benefit the Actors’ Warehouse on Saturday, August 13 at 8 p.m. in St. Patrick’s Social Hall, 500 NE 16th Ave. A Midsummer Night’s Masked Ball will be an opportunity to check out what the Actors’ Warehouse is all about; the masquerade party will include dancing, entertainment and an auction.
Gainesville also offers top-notch student performances at Santa Fe’s College of Fine Arts. Aimed at developing the future of the arts, this 40-year-old program involves students in more than 50 majors. With affordable tickets for the community, it’s easy to support local education and local theater while enjoying a great show.
With many options to choose from, the city has a place for every type of theater lover.
“All of the theaters in Gainesville are very supportive of one another. That’s something we’re really proud of,” said Hurov. “We couldn’t do it without the support of the community, including local government and local businesses.”
By Koertni Blackketter