2017-05-17 / Top News

The Laboratory Theater puts down roots in an old church


The Laboratory Theater of Florida purchased the 1923 church building and the surrounding property at Second Street and Woodford Avenue. 
TOM HALL / FLORIDA WEEKLY The Laboratory Theater of Florida purchased the 1923 church building and the surrounding property at Second Street and Woodford Avenue. TOM HALL / FLORIDA WEEKLY As it enters its ninth season, The Laboratory Theater of Florida has a new permanent home — a 1923 church where performances are held and the surrounding property on the corner of Second Street and Woodford Avenue in the River District.

A nonprofit theater known for producing bold, distinct and often current works, The Lab continues to raise money to help repair and refurbish the old building and 1.3-acre property, which includes two outbuildings.

One will be used for a full-scale costume shop loaded with clothing, fabrics, shoes, gloves, hats and sewing machines, and the other for an education center that will offer drama-related classes and help expand the theater’s social and community outreach mission.

The Lab is also known for producing plays that shed light on issues such as the Holocaust, war veterans, human trafficking and mental health. Community panels and experts give the audience members a chance to delve deeper into the meaning of the work and ask questions.

“There’s a little of every one of us in that theater,” said Lab Theater board member Ella Nayor. “It’s going to be a really major gem in the treasure chest of Lee County.”

The church itself includes features such as a choir loft up in the mezzanine, a carved wooden balustrade and original chandeliers.

“In terms of sound carrying, it’s an intimate space so that feels nice You always feel like the audience is able to see you very clearly and you can see the audience for the most part,” said founder and producing artistic director Annette Trossbach.

The Lab raised more than $117,000 at a soiree on April 17, with donors securing three spaces in the theater for naming rights. That comes on the heels of the theater’s autumn fundraiser at The Barrel Room on Bay Street, at which over $160,000 was raised for the purchase of the property that the theater has been renting for almost six years.

“The whole property has been somewhat neglected over the years so it needs some TLC and some of that TLC will be in the form of a new roof,” Ms. Trossbach said. “And some landscaping. You can see it’s fairly overgrown in parts and needs attention.”

There are also plans for creating an outdoor performance space, better lighting, replacing some windows and possibly installing solar panels on the roof.

The Lab is still selling naming rights for the building and certain areas within it, including the bathrooms, and the performance hall which seats about 60 to 90 people depending on how the stage is built out.

“You’ll have it on a theater that’s bringing life to the community, it’s bringing hope and inspiration,” Ms. Nayor said.

To donate to this nonprofit theater, or for tickets and more information about shows and events, call the theater at 218- 0481 or visit LaboratoryTheaterFlorida.com. It is located at 1634 Woodford Ave., Fort Myers. ¦

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