|Jimmy Ferraro and Dee Etta Rowe|
Dear friends of the arts,
Hope you're well!
It is very rare that it is reported that a new theatre is opening. I feel honored that Jimmy Ferraro and his gorgeous wife, Dee Etta Rowe have given me this exclusive before this is announced to all other press this week. Award winning Actors, Producers, Directors, and Teachers, husband and wife team, Jimmy Ferraro and Dee Etta Rowe, will open Jimmy Ferraro's Studio Theatre this June, in the Tampa Bay area, at 5732 Main Street, in Historic Downtown, New Port Richey, FL The Studio Theatre is nestled among Restaurants, quaint Antique Shoppes and Art Galleries.
|Dee Etta with friend|
The intimate Studio Theatre, is located in the historic SIMS Building. The Ferraro's will lead a company of theatrical professionals, devoted to preserving the American Art form of LIVE Theatre, by developing and presenting new works and seldom seen plays and musicals, as well as classic favorites.
Dee Etta's first professional job in the theatre was a singing waitress at the Golden Anchor in Cape Cod. After college, she moved to New York in September of 1976. She got a job right away working in children's theatre at a little off-Broadway theatre. That got Dee Etta her Equity card. She landed fer first Broadway show in 1979. It was the revival of The Most Happy Fella with Giorgio Tozzi.
|Dee Etta Rowe Ferraro|
"Back in the day", as she calls it, there were LOTS of touring companies. Most of those were Equity. She had auditions that she could go to every single day. She knew what her schedule would consist of each day. Some days she would think, "I really don't want to go out in the rain today." She would, however, force herself to go. She did, at that time, in the seventies, a LOT of Sound of Musics. She
Dee Etta as Mother Abbess in The Sound of Music
She was always in that habit. She played Mother Abbes, Frau Schmidt, and other nuns. They were using names at the time. She did it with Sally Anne Howes as Maria.
She did it with Earl Wrightson and Lois Hunt. Dee Etta was quite young when she understudied Terry Saunders as the Mother Abbes. Dee Etta actually went on once in that production. Dee Etta also did it with Patrice Munsel. She did it with Ann Blyth and Jean Pierre Aumont for the summer circuit in which they played the Melody Tents.
The Sound of Music paid Dee Etta's rent for many years. There have been a lot more since then. Dee Etta feels that it is much more difficult now for these young upcoming actors. One now HAS to be in New York to pursue this career. It is much more difficult now to get work. There are fewer Equity tours.
|Photo Courtesy of Prather Entertainment Group, Denise Trupe Dee Etta Rowe and her real-life husband, Jimmy Ferraro, play Golde and her husband Tevye|
There is a paradox. Even those that are in the unions now are finding it harder and harder to get work which is a very sad state of affairs. It makes it much more difficult to pursue that dream. Those that are in the unions are regretting their decisions to join and those that are not in the unions are trying desperately to get in. It is also so expensive now to produce shows.
The current shows coming out have to be spectacles. Many of them even become impossible to be able to mount anywhere else other than Broadway or a huge national tour. It has become difficult for EVERYONE!...the producers, the creative team, the crew, the actors...where do we go from here?
There is so little work across the country. So many dinner theatres have closed. Those theatres were a major staple in the seventies and eighties. The dinner theatre circuit was the major bread and butter for so many artists. "They were out of work for a minute" was the joke that everyone used to say about Dee Etta and Jimmy for a long time. There were well over one hundred dinner theatres in operation at the
Dee Etta was also very fortunate in the seventies. She got associated with Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre, which is now celebrating it's fortieth year and still going strong. She auditioned for their producers when they had their first little dinner theatre in Simpsonville, Kentucky. It was a dry county at the time (no alcohol was served), although people could bring alcohol to have with dinner. The theatre was in the round. To get to the dressing rooms, the actors had to leave the stage and take an aisle. The actors also slept at the theatre at night.
Dee Etta was cast in her first out of town show, Good News!
It was her first AND LAST tap dancing show. From that association with them, they liked her and she went on to work with them in their Indianapolis theatre. Every five years, they would do Sound of Music and every five years, Dee Etta would get a phone call to play Mother Abbes.
Dee Etta has done The Sound of Music at other places as well, but for them specifically. She did Carousel and Fiddler for them.
Just recently, she was there, once again, because the rights to Menopause, the musical, had been released. They called Dee Etta and asked her to come out to do the show which she pretty much has performed for the past eight years.
Not only as she spent most of her life as a nun, a large part has also been spent in Menopause!
It was a lucky break when she stepped through that door! Everything is now blamed on Menopause.
Jimmy's first professional job was at the Top Hat Nightclub in New York.
He was booked to sing two numbers. He was sixteen.
I met them many years ago when they booked me at the now defunct Angel's Cabaret Theatre for a Thanksgiving Show.
Any one desiring to run a theatre should take a lesson from these two.
We sat down a few days ago to discuss the path that has gotten them to this point as well as what I know will be a very bright future based on that past.
We are going to jump back twenty years to 1994 when Jimmy first opened the Angel Garden Cafe Theatre which was a dessert theatre, the first of its kind in the Tampa, Florida region.Dee Etta and Jimmy had spent most of their lives, since getting into theatre, on the road.
They were supposed to be in Indianapolis together doing a production of Fiddler on The Roof. Jimmy's father, who was living in the Tampa area, got sick and needed care. Jimmy backed out of Fiddler to take
Dee Etta on Broadway in the ORIGINAL NINE
Jimmy as Edna in Hairspray
He called the number and was speaking with the proprietor when she said, "Excuse me for a minute."
He could tell she was outside. He heard her say, "That will be $2.93. Thank you very much." He said to her, "Excuse me but are you selling something?" She told him that she owned the fresh vegetable market at Trouble Creek Road at Route 19, the main highway there.
Jimmy said, "Helen?" She said, "Who is this?" He said, "This is Jimmy Ferraro."
Helen lived two doors away from where his father lived and Jimmy knew her at least twenty years.
That was how that happened. His father was well enough to go and look at the space with him. Jimmy thought, "I COULD make this into a little theatre!" AND, that is how it all started.
It was right out of Mickey and Judy, "Let's put on a show!" Jimmy's father got well again and built all the sets for them.
Dee Etta's mom had also had a career in show business and
Jimmy As Sancho in Man of La Mancha with Gary Lindemann in Denver
Jimmy directed many of the shows. Dee Etta starred in many of them. Dee Etta and Jimmy are both free spirits. Once Jimmy got this idea, he just went for it, with blinders on. He wasn't going to let anything interfere. He had then, as he still does, a very positive attitude.
He just sallied forth.
As for Dee Etta, as mentioned, she was in Fiddler in Indianapolis as all of this was going on. Jimmy called her and said, "Guess what we're doing?" He told her they were opening a little theatre and that the sets were already being built.
Dee Etta as laCarlotta in Phantom
It was all done when she returned to Florida. Her attitude was, "Good! It's all fine with me. I know we can do it." She had nothing to do with the planning of it, other than offering the moral support needed all the way.
The theatre was very intimate, only seating 55 people. They served desserts and signature coffees.
This was at the time when flavored coffees were becoming very popular. People would have dinner elsewhere and would come to their theatre for dessert and a show.
There were many talented actors in the area eager to work. Dee Etta and Jimmy had also taught theatre and utilized some of their students as well. They started out booking comedies and revues.
This theatre eventually morphed its way into the Angel's Cabaret Dinner Theatre which was in New Port Richie.
Many of the patrons of the Angel Garden Cafe Theatre kept telling Dee Etta and Jimmy that they wished they could have dinner there as well.
A 55 seat space would not allow for that. That led to Dee Etta and Jimmy moving to a larger space. The new theatre sat 200 AND included dinner and a show.
That eventually became an Equity Theatre
They operated for five years until Menopause, the musical,took over their lives for the next eight years. Dee
Jimmy as Mrs, White in CLUE, the musical
Jimmy was offered a company manager position.
They felt that the timing was right for them to get involved with a new and exciting national project. They sold everything.
They moved to Denver where they lived for the next five years.
They are now jumping back into waters they navigated twenty years ago. This sort of just happened to them again. They've been on the road. Jimmy was on the road with the National 2012 tour of Fiddler. After leaving Denver, Dee Etta and Jimmy bought a Florida home. Because of their standing in the community, they are almost always recognized. People were constantly asking, "When are you opening another theatre? We miss your theatre! Jimmy would always answer, "Well, maybe someday" as he would keep it in the back of his mind.
That chapter of their lives that they have had for so many years away from each other or sometimes with each other has come to a close. Jimmy emphasizes that this is not the last chapter, but rather, the NEXT chapter! They recently stumbled upon this little storefront. Jimmy said to Dee Etta that he felt this could be their next little theatre. They went in to see the venue and thought, "We can do this and this will keep us together." This will keep them in show business and they certainly know what they are doing. This will be their third theatre. They can also teach from there and will be taking on new students. They will teach acting, musical theatre, and voice.
It is small enough that they can run it themselves. They have so many friends in the area that are just jumping out of their skin with the idea that there is a new theatre opening and they are all rallying to help Dee Etta and Jimmy.
There aren't many theatres in the area. There is one community theatre which is kind of across the street where downtown Newport Richie has great restaurants and antique shops and art galleries.
When Jimmy first came to this area to go to college at the University of South Florida, he did his first show as a teenager at this theatre that is now adjacent to their new theatre. Jimmy finds being an artistic director very rewarding. He knows his audiences. He also knows his talent base. He also knows what his audiences desire.
That is a specialty of Jimmy's and also casting. He has cast for other theatres around the country. He and Dee Etta are going into this with 40 plus (between them) years of knowledge of the business. Jimmy is always learning something new. Nothing ceases to amaze him. With their background, it is really a gigantic help when it comes to being a producing artistic director. "It is rewarding to see a little piece of you on stage in every one of those entertainers."
In the area where Dee Etta and Jimmy are, there are a lot of retirees. There is a new crop of retirees, much younger than the case twenty years ago. Many of that former audience is no longer around. This audience of today desires to laugh. They don't want anything heavy. They desire song and dance. Comedies, in the past, always went over very well. This theatre is going to be very intimate. It seats 68. It is as if the actors are entertaining in your living room. It is going to be very up close and intimate. They can do revues and small musicals.
Dee Etta says she was the Queen of the Red Hat Society many years ago. Those chapters are always looking for places to go as a group. Dee Etta and Jimmy both have feel for what they want. It is so convenient in that area that Dee Etta and Jimmy decided to also do some new works. Years ago, at their previous theatres, they would put together their own revues.
|(From left to right) Dee Etta Rowe, Pammie O'Bannon, Karoline Ashley and Lady Jesaira.|
Dee Etta and Jimmy refer to everyone as "kid" from nine to ninety-nine.
When the show has a catchy title, the audiences come. Cabaret shows and small book musicals will be part of their repertoire. In fact, Jimmy is excited to announce that they are going to be doing a world premiere of a new musical at the theatre this summer. It is called Coupled. It is by Diana Rodgers.She wrote the book and composed the music and the lyrics. She was in Les Miz on Broadway. She has been in the business for many years. She approached Jimmy about a year ago regarding him directing it somewhere if they could ever find a producer.
Voila! Jimmy is very excited about the prospect of producing new works that he and Dee Etta both feel are right for their audiences.
The intimate "STUDIO THEATRE", is located in the historic SIMS Building. The Ferraro's will lead a company of theatrical professionals, devoted to preserving the American Art form of LIVE Theatre, by developing and presenting new works and seldom seen plays and musicals, as well as classic favorites.
The Ferraro Studio Theatre is a professional theatre company, working together with Actors' Equity Association, the professional union of theatrical actors and stage managers in the United States, under a Special Appearance Agreement.
Their commitment to connecting actors and audience is built into the very architecture of our STUDIO, seating 68 patrons. No theatre in the Tri-County operates in such an exclusively intimate space.
|L to R: Jimmy Ferraro as Manservant/Sancho Panza, Gary Lindemann as Cervantes/Don Quixote and Jean Arbeiter as Aldonza/Dulcinea|
|Front page of the New Port Richey Press, Dec. 20, 1929|
|a view of Thomas Meighan's New Port Richey home|
The Ferraro Studio Theatre offers an intimate viewing experience, where every seat is "a good seat", and the minimalist "black box studio" setting allows the art of LIVE theatre to be uniquely explored, pure and unadorned, focusing on the story and the actors, without distraction.
In addition, the STUDIO will be offering instruction in Voice, Acting, and Musical Theatre, preparing the current and next generation of LIVE Theatre performers and audiences.
An annual scholarship fund will be established to benefit a student(s) with financial need.
A BIT OF the HISTORY of NEW PORT RICHEY
On Jan. 1, 1926, the New Port Richey Press reported:
FAMOUS MILLIONAIRES OF BROADWAY BUY IN NEW PORT RICHEY
Thomas Meighan and Paul Whiteman, Irving Berlin, Sam H. Harris Among Celebrities Who Have Purchased Here
Celebrities famous the world over, owners of names as familiar to Paris theatre-goers and Australian music-lovers as they are to the inhabitants of old Manhattan Isle, have bought land in New Port Richey, and plan to build winter homes in this famous resort-town, the New Port Richey Press has learned. Recent purchases of
During the 1920s, New Port Richey was a gathering place tor film stars and other celebrities. The guest list at the then new fashionable Hacienda Hotel included Mary Pickford, Gloria Swanson, Oscar Shaw, Jack Hazzard, Ernie Truax, Raymond Hitchcock and Thomas and Frances Meighan.
(Ferraro opened Pasco County’s first dinner theatre, at the Hacienda Hotel in 1977,)
The name of George R. Sims, prominent businessman (and the history of New Port Richey are intertwined). One of the first settlers here, Sims was a founder and developer of the community and it was largely through his vision and efforts that the sparsely settled area emerged as a planned thriving municipality. The Sims family gave the property for Sims Park to the city for recreation use.
(The Ferraro Studio Theatre is located IN the1922, historic SIMS building)
In 1926 it seemed possible that New Port Richey, Florida, might become another Hollywood, or at least a winter residence for Hollywood stars. Thomas Meighan, one of the top stars of the silent screen, had purchased property and was about to build a mansion on the Pithlachascotee River.
Jimmy Ferraro's Studio Theatre Artistic Vision …
To produce challenging and diverse artistic work that speaks to the intelligence, the soul, and the imagination of the community...
Works that empower, challenge, provoke, motivate, educate and inspire....
To foster a nurturing artistic home for artists, technicians, staff and all who have a passion for the development of the arts. A place to develop and practice the craft, share talents, enrich lives and fulfill dreams. A place for everyone in the community...children, adults and senior citizens regardless of life circumstances. To strengthen the community and the economy by attracting tourists, visitors and area residents to our venue to enjoy educational, entertaining, artful and developmental programming.
To provide a venue for familiar, new, and developmental productions by artists who may otherwise have their works unnoticed.
To achieve through the performing arts, productions and educational outreach programs which involve the entire spectrum of craft, talent and skill.
The Goal of Jimmy Ferraro's Studio Theatre
To educate, to broaden and intensify the theatrical experience with consistently excellent acting, directing and plays. Through this, the company nurtures the artistic growth of area actors, directors, designers, playwrights and musicians.
I BELIEVE IN MIRACLES AND THE POWER OF PRAYER... WE WOULD NOT HAVE GOTTEN THIS FAR, WITHOUT THE HELP OF OUR LOVING FRIENDS, WHO HAVE DONATED THEIR TIME AND MONEY AND SUPPORT AND ENCOURAGEMENT; BECAUSE THEY BELIEVE IN US AND WHAT WE HAVE DONE IN THE PAST AND WHAT WE PLAN TO DO FOR OUR COMMUNITY NOW AND IN THE FUTURE.
You, our theatre patrons and aficionados’, are the heart of the vibrant FERRARO STUDIO THEATRE community.
PLEASE join with us, in Redefining Intimate Theatre and Performing Arts Education in Pasco County,
KEEP THE ARTS ALIVE...
We would greatly appreciate just getting the word out about our project, volunteering on stage or off stage, and above all, keeping us in your prayers...
With Our Heartfelt Thanks, Gratitude, Appreciation, and Love,
Jimmy and Dee Etta
TICKETS ON SALE NOW for their opening Musical/Comedy,
CHURCH BASEMENT LADIES: June 6 - 29th
CHURCH BASEMENT LADIES: June 6 - 29th
Let's start celebrating artists again rather than tearing them down.
Thank you ALL of the artists mentioned in this blog for the gifts you have given to the world and continue to give!
With grateful XOXOXs ,
A Testimonial from a recent Richard Skipper EventDear Richard-
Thank you for hosting a wonderful evening at Pier 701. It was a delight to join other performers and sing for an audience full of people happy to be there and having a great time! You are, indeed, a warm, inviting and very caring host- and as upbeat and giving a performer in your own right as anyone could wish. Hoping for more of your Celebrations at Pier 701!
Carole Demas, CaroleDemas.com
(Taken from Richard Skipper.com Guestbook)
Please do what YOU can to be more aware that words and actions DO HURT...but they can also heal and help!
Keeping LIVE entertainment LIVE!
TILL TOMORROW...HERE'S TO AN ARTS FILLED DAY
Check out my site celebrating the FIRST Fifty years of Hello, Dolly!
I desire this to be the definitive site for all things Dolly! If any of you reading this have appeared in any production of Dolly, I'm interested in speaking with you!If you have anything to add or share, please contact me at Richard@RichardSkipper.com.
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Please do what YOU can to be more aware that words and actions DO HURT...but they can also heal and help!
Here's to an INCREDIBLE tomorrow for ALL...with NO challenges!