Grand Boulevard is So Dramatic

The Town Center repurposes empty retail space to provide a home for Emerald Coast Theatre Company



Courtesy of Emerald Coast Theatre Company

“Bakersfield Mist,” a comedy-drama by Stephen Sachs, stars local actors Bruce Collier and Teance Blackburn.    

Some People are perplexed when faced with a blank slate; some are terrified. When Stacey Brady and members of the South Walton Fashion Week event team and the Cultural Arts Alliance gathered to look at 17,800 square feet of undeveloped office space on the second floor of 560 Grand Boulevard in Grand Boulevard at Sandestin, everyone was silent. 

“I think we all saw it and nearly cried,” said Brady, who serves as the director of marketing and communications for an annual event series, Coastal Culture at Grand Boulevard. But Brady’s welling tears were tears of joy. 

“The space was so cool,” she said. “Very much a blank canvas, and that is ideal when you have a creative team, as we do.”

After about a month, some investment in basic comforts and a lot of elbow grease, the “industrial-inspired, urban” space was ready to open to the public. It was purposely kept bare and spare: an open ceiling, concrete floors and empty walls. The restrooms are virtually the only amenity.

After its successful debut hosting South Walton Fashion Week in October 2016, Brady, a theater devotee and board member for Emerald Coast Theatre Company (ECTC), ushered in a second act: plans to utilize the “dark” office space as a creative space for select events and fundraisers and for a non-traditional performance space for ECTC. The versatile theater troop had already successfully presented quality programming for Theatre Thursdays in Grand Park for two summers as part of the Coastal Culture series, and Brady was confident they could bring life to the space.

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The management and owners of Grand Boulevard were all for it. “We are fortunate to have such a forward-thinking team that supports the arts,” Brady said. 

Volunteers and board members teamed up to help ECTC configure and define the space by draping fabric and stacking objects for walls, building a stage, stringing up lights, installing works of 25 local artists into a retail art gallery exhibit in the “front of house” and readying the “back of house” for performances. 

Locals Nathanael and Anna Fisher formed the ECTC as a professional theater company in 2012, but staging three main-stage plays, a young-audience production and a fall fundraiser all in the same physical location was a first for this non-profit.

“It’s amazing,” says Nathanael Fisher, who is the ECTC producing artistic director. “There has always been excitement around our shows, but having a theater space that could hold sets, lighting and a stage has made a real difference. From day one, I could see and feel how it affected our actors in their performance.”

Having a physical address has enabled ECTC to build its following and expand its offerings within the new space. Some of the plans for the 2017 season include adding a musical production to the main-stage season, developing a theater program for young audiences and launching the inaugural Northwest Florida Theater Festival in mid-May in partnership with the Cultural Arts Alliance and as part of Art Week South Walton.

“This space at Grand Boulevard provides us with more opportunities and more ways to live our mission to entertain and enrich through theater,” Fisher says. “Having a place for the community to gather to see thought-provoking stories and relate to one another and experience theater in a space dedicated to it is a true gift.”

And it’s a gift that is certainly deserving of a bow. Bravo! 

To find out how you can help support ECTC and to learn what it will be staging next at 560 Grand Boulevard, visit emeraldcoasttheatre.org and sign up for e-news. 

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