Behind the scenes at Orlando Shakespeare Theater


Staff Spotlight: Dana Nichols, Director of Development

It takes a lot of time and manpower to run a professional theater like Orlando Shakes day in and day out. Between production meetings and tight deadlines, we can sometimes forget the impact our non-profit organization has on the Central Florida community. One person who never loses sight of that is Dana Nichols, the Theater’s Director of Development.  

d nichols headshotDana’s passion for helping people brought her to Orlando in 2002, when she began her undergraduate studies in Mass Communication and Nonprofit Management at UCF. She’s utilized that degree, along with an MBA from Rollins College, to gain experience at a variety of nonprofits including Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida, Kids House, and the Jewish Federation of Greater Orlando. “Working at a nonprofit gives you the unique opportunity to wear many different hats,” she said. “I love that I’ve been able to learn a great deal about so many different things like child welfare, community engagement, and the arts.”

When she’s not at the office, Dana spends most of her time with her adorable baby, Violet. She also runs her own Etsy shop, Chic Bunny Paperie, and enjoys photography and trying out new places to eat with her husband, Reid. “That’s become a little more challenging with a 16 month old,” she laughs.


One of Dana’s major roles at Orlando Shakes is overseeing the Theater’s upcoming 27th Season Gala: A Royal Affair (Sunday, September 20, 2015). As the organization’s largest fundraiser, the annual event is integral to our mission of providing the community with high quality productions like Monty Python’s SPAMALOT. To say this event is “important” would be an understatement, but Dana is up for the challenge. And, while she’s not new to Gala-planning, she’s excited about her first Orlando Shakes Gala. “What’s neat about planning events here is that we’re able to utilize what makes us unique–our performers and artists–to highlight what we’re raising money for.”

If you’ve been to an Orlando Shakes Gala before, you know to expect delicious food and great company, but Dana says to look out for some new twists too. Playing on the event’s ‘Royal Affair’ title, guests can anticipate an elegant evening fit for kings and queens, including a one-night-only cabaret performance featuring Les Miserables’ Michael Hunsaker and Broadway stars Davis Gaines (The Phantom of the Opera) and Dee Roscioli (Wicked) singing their most popular songs. Prior to the evening’s paddle raise, Dana and her Development Team will also premiere a special education-related video that will highlight what Orlando Shakes does for the youth in our community.

Wondering what priceless packages you’ll see in our silent auction? Two of Dana’s favorites are a weekend trip to Universal for four (“I still haven’t been to Diagon Alley!”) and, for the ultimate theater-lover, the unique opportunity to watch Bakersfield Mist from the stage manager’s booth.

Remaining Gala tickets ($150, $200, $250) can be purchased by phone at (407) 447-1700 ext. 1. Hope to see you there–in your formal wear!

Shakespearely Yours,
Melissa Landy, Public Relations Coordinator

Sing-A-Long(side) SPAMALOT Stars!

Screen Shot 2015-08-11 at 12.43.56 PMLast year, Orlando Shakes surprised the community with a Les Miserables flash mob that’s been viewed by over 1 million fans on YouTube. This year, we want everyone to participate! Join us as we sing-a-long to “The Bright Side of Life” and record a promotional video for our upcoming production of Monty Python’s SPAMALOT.

WHEN: Saturday, August 29 at 12:00 p.m. noon
WHERE: On the lawn in Loch Haven Park between Mills Ave. and Princeton St.

You’ll get the chance to perform alongside professional actors, as we lead you through a brief vocal warm up, learn a beginner’s dance routine, and sing the final chorus of the song.

So now you’re wondering what Orlando Shakes actors will be performing right by your side. Keep an eye out for the familiar faces below!

Davis Gaines, Musical Theatre West

Davis Gaines, Musical Theatre West

Orlando native and Edgewater High School graduate, Davis Gaines (Javert in last season’s Les Misérables), returns as King Arthur. Best known for playing the title role in The Phantom of the Opera more than 2,000 times in New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, Gaines remains Los Angeles’ longest-running Phantom.

Raised in South Florida and a graduate of Florida State University, Michael Hunsaker (Jean Valjean in Les Miz) plays opposite Gaines once more in the role of Sir Dennis Galahad. Broadway and National Tour credits include Children of Eden, Chess, Chance and Chemistry, and Ragtime. Hunsaker is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Film Production from Full Sail University.

Dee Roscioli (The Lady of the Lake) is best known for ‘defying gravity’ in the Wicked First National Tour, as well as the Chicago, San Francisco, and Broadway productions. She holds the record for most appearances as Elphaba. Additional credits include Grizabella in the 2002-2003 Cats National Tour and as Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd for Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival.

Local favorite T. Robert Pigott (The Big Bang and Into the Woods) will appear as Sir Robin. Other appearances include Caboose in the original cast of Starlight Express for Starlight Vegas Co. and Baby John in West Side Story for Austria’s Scala Musical Company.

Brad DePlanche (Henry V and It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play) joins the cast as Patsy. He has acted in productions across the country including Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival’s Around the World in Eighty Days and The Three Musketeers for People’s Light.

Philip Nolen plays Sir Bedevere, following countless Orlando Shakes appearances including Nicholas Nickleby and The Big Bang. The local actor/singer has also been featured at Mad Cow Theatre, Actors Theatre of Louisville, and the New York and Orlando International Fringe Theatre Festivals.

Chris Crawford takes on the roles of Prince Herbert/Historian, following his debut appearance as Fred in 2014’s A Christmas Carol. Other credits include Shakespeare Theatre Co.’s Edward II, Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre’s The Producers, and Boeing Boeing with TheatreSquared.

And now the only star missing is YOU!

Planning to join in on the fun? RSVP to let us know!

What’s Up? What’s New?

As we launch into our 2015-2016 Season, there are quite a few special events and improvements to look out for. Here’s a run down of some important happenings at the Theater:

  • Out with the old and in with the new!
    Our Box Office (with the help of the rest of the staff) has worked tirelessly this Summer to implement a new ticketing system. Patron Manager now offers YOU much more control when purchasing tickets online, including the ability to select the exact seats you want. Additionally, you no longer have to sign in to make an online purchase. We’ll be unveiling other enhancements throughout the season, so stay tuned! (Note: If you’ve bookmarked our previous ticketing site, please update the link to avoid any issues.) Take a peek at the new system now!
  • Check out that….website?
    That’s right! We are currently in the process of designing a brand new website to be unveiled this Fall. The new site will feature a fresh color palette, simpler navigation, and–best of all–will be responsive and compatible with mobile devices!
  • IMG_4674Watch your mailbox!
    The Marketing Department is rolling out our 27th Season brochure this week! The beautiful 28-page booklet reveals stars of our Signature Series productions including Monty Python’s SPAMALOT, The Tempest, and Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike. The piece also includes a complete 2015-2016 performance calendar, as well as information about discounts and how to become more involved with Orlando Shakes.

Mark your calendar for these upcoming events:

  • 3rd Annual Open House – Saturday, August 1
    Our FREE Open House is back and better than ever! This year’s event will feature demonstrations from the Theater’s production staff, princess story time, raffle prizes (including tickets to Monty Python’s SPAMALOT), and much more! Stop by for an hour or stay all day–we’ll have ongoing activities from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Click to RSVP!
  • 27th Season Gala: A Royal Affair – Sunday, September 20
    Hear ye! Hear ye! Join us for a royal evening in King Arthur’s Court in support of your favorite theater. Guests will enjoy tastings of Orlando’s finest food and beverages, along with a cabaret from select members of the cast of SPAMALOT and thrilling live and silent auctions. Funds raised help us fulfill our mission to produce bold, professional theater, develop new plays, and provide innovative educational experiences for all ages! Visit our website for additional info.

As I said, we’ve got a lot going on around here–and our 27th Season has barely begun! Want to always be in the know? Be sure to follow us on Facebook and sign up for our email alerts.

See you at the Theater!

Shakespearely Yours,
Melissa Landy, Public Relations Coordinator

‘Pick-A-Tick’ Raffle (Open House 2015)


For the third year in a row Orlando Shakes is opening its doors for a FREE Open House on Saturday, August 1st at the John and Rita Lowndes Shakespeare Center. Drop by for an hour or stay the whole time–we’ll have on-going activities from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

Festivities include crafts for the little ones, story time with costumed characters, creative demonstrations from the Theater’s production staff, an Artistic Panel Q&A with Theater artists, and MORE!

In addition, we’ll have a “Pick-A-Tick” raffle featuring some awesome prizes:

  • Orlando Shakes “Choose Your Own” 3 & 5 Season Ticket Packages (Value: Up to $235)
    Season ticket package includes one ticket to any 3 or 5 2015-2016 Signature Series shows of your choice, $5 off additional single tickets for friends and family, and parking alerts and show reminders.
  • CFCArts Ticket Voucher (Value: Up to $200)
    4 general admission tickets to Guys and Dolls (September 10 & 11, 2015)
  • Bach Festival Society of Winter Park Gift Bag (Value: $150+)
    Package includes two tickets to a single performance during the 2015-2016 Season, two seat cushions, and the All Is Bright: A Choral Christmas CD.
  • Orlando Museum of Art Dual/Family Membership (Value: $80)
    Membership includes free year-round museum admission for two adults (and any children under 18), free admission to 1st Thursdays, E-newsletter subscription, and a 10% discount on gift shop merchandise and educational programs.
  • Garden Theatre Ticket Voucher (Value: Up to $66)
    2 tickets good for any show in the 2015-2016 Season
  • Harry P. Leu Gardens Household Membership (Value: $50)
    Membership includes free admission to the gardens; discounts on classes, events, and gift shop items; and complimentary admission to movie nights.
  • Seminole Cultural Arts Council Hoooowl for the Arts Tickets (Value: $50)
    2 tickets for the 9th Annual Hoooowl for the Arts on Saturday, October 24, 2015 at the Seminole Harley Davidson
  • Theatre UCF Ticket Voucher (Value: $40)
    2 tickets to The Importance of Being Earnest (August 27 – 30, 2015) on the Mainstage


  • Tickets to Orlando Shakes productions—including Monty Python’s SPAMALOT!
  • Drink Vouchers at Harriett’s Bar
  • Vintage Orlando Shakespeare Festival show posters
  • Award-winning Magic Tree Housebooks and JetBlue merchandise
  • SPAMALOT swag
  • And more!

RAFFLE RULES: “Pick-A-Tick” raffle participants must be present at Orlando Shakes’ Free Open House on August 1, 2015. Raffle participants may purchase 1 chance (for a $5 donation) or 3 chances (for a $10 donation). CASH ONLY. Chances will be pulled and prizes revealed at the time of cash donation. All proceeds benefit Orlando Shakespeare Theater programming. ATM available on-site.

Want to stay up-to-date on all things Open House? RSVP to our Facebook event!

What a Shakespeare-ful Summer!

photo-1 (1)We’ve all sat in the Margeson Theater and watched professional actors bring stories to life before us, but what if YOU got the chance to perform on that very stage? In Orlando Shakespeare Theater’s production summer camps, students in Grades 5 through 12 get to do just that! The young actors are cast in a Shakespeare play and perform on the Margeson stage for family, friends, and Shakespeare fans alike. Marina Russell is no stranger to the Theater’s educational summer programming. She took a break from rehearsing to sit down with Marketing and Public Relations Intern Lexie Hoag to give her the inside scoop!

LH: Right now you’re working on The Young Company’s Macbeth. Can you tell us a little about the show?
MR: Macbeth is one of Shakespeare’s darker tragedies. The show takes place in a time of war, and it’s about the struggle for power. Macbeth will take any measures to get to the place of power that he wants, but he’s never satisfied.

LH: How do you feel “TYC” has been beneficial to your growth as an actor?
MR: The environment is so important. It’s very safe and the cast always works well together. We learn so much about acting techniques and how to develop ensemble, but the loving environment is what makes all the difference.


TYC’s Much Ado About Nothing, 2014. Photo by Landon St. Gordon.

LH: What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome throughout TYC?
MR: Taking off the “mask” that we all wear. It’s something that we need in the real world to survive, but in TYC we have to let it go so that we can discover moments that make the show special.

LH: Soon you’ll start rehearsals as Prospera for Shakespeare with Heart’s The Tempest. How would you explain that camp?
MR: Shakespeare with Heart is a two week production camp, and at the end there is a Shakespeare performance. The cast is an even mix of general education kids and students with special needs. We come together in a completely inclusive environment. It’s not at all one-sided–it’s a learning experience for everyone. And it’s just fun!

LH: What’s the most important thing you’ve learned from your previous Shakespeare with Heart experiences?
MR: To be open. Open-hearted and open-minded. Just take things as they come, and find the beauty in everyone.

LH: Why would you encourage others to become involved in Orlando Shakes’ production camps?
MR: It’s a great way to make friends and gain experience doing serious theatrical productions. It’s good to learn how to work in an ensemble, and to grow through the process.


Shakespeare with Heart’s The Merchant of Venice, 2014. Photo by Landon St. Gordon.

LH: What’s been your favorite role in your acting career thus far?
MR: Every role is so different, I don’t know how to decide! But I really loved playing Nerissa in Shakespeare with Heart’s The Merchant of Venice. I love sassy characters and getting to explore meaningful relationships with other actors on stage. I think Nerissa had the most important relationships I’ve built as an actor. Playing Ross now in TYC’s Macbeth is also fun, because I get to be a part of a major character arc that’s really important to the play.

LH: If you could give advice to a younger actor what would it be?
MR: Enjoy the process. Love what you do, love each step that you take, and love the challenges that you will overcome. Again, be open to everything. You’ll learn. We all do. And most importantly, have fun!

Want to support this new generation of actors? Catch Marina and friends in TYC’s Macbeth (playing July 10, 11, and 12–Click here for tickets) and Shakespeare with Heart’s The Tempest (playing July 24–Suggested $10 donation at the door).

IMG_20150312_172122Lexie Hoag is currently a Marketing and Public Relations Intern at Orlando Shakespeare Theater. After completing her AA at Valencia College, she plans to pursue her Bachelor’s degree in Public Relations. She can often be found rereading books, snuggling her puppy, and haunting local theaters.

A Study in the Art of the Understudy

Photo by Brittany Bly

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be an understudy? The answer is most likely “No”. It’s always exciting to dream of being the star of the show, but the hardworking stand-in is often overlooked. They spend hours watching from the audience, memorizing lines so they can be ready to leap on stage at a moment’s notice–not an easy job! Marketing and PR Intern Lexie chats with Sara Costello, understudy for Princess Calliope in our current production of The Frog and the Princess, as well as an alumni of the Theater’s summer camp programming and an aspiring young actress.

LH: First off, how did you catch the “theater bug”?
SC: I was inspired to join in after I watching my older sisters on stage. I’d participated in community theater, but didn’t take it too seriously until my junior year of high school. That’s when I really started putting my all into roles. I always knew I liked to act, but I don’t think I really knew how to.

LH: What was the first role where it just liked clicked for you?
SC: In high school I played Tiresias in Oedipus Rex. It was the first time I felt like I got lost in a character.

Oedipus Rex, Colin Peterson

LH: What have been the major milestones thus far in your theater journey?
SC: A major moment was when I discovered the English Speaking Union Shakespeare Competition. (Up until that point I thought I was going to be a nutritionist!) The annual high school competition is designed to celebrate Shakespeare with school-wide competitions across all 50 states. I got the chance to compete at the national level at NYC’s Lincoln Center, and that was another big moment. Performing on a Broadway stage is exhilarating and it makes you want to come back.

LH:  Who have been your most influential mentors?
SC: My high school teacher, Ms. Elizabeth Horn, always encouraged me even when I didn’t think that I was anything special. Also my college theater professor, John DiDonna, has opened a lot of doors for me including casting me in Phantasmagoria. He’s the one who encouraged me to do more auditions at Orlando Shakes, which lead to an understudy opportunity and even this interview!

LH: What’s your favorite role so far?
SC: I recently played Hunger in Metamorphosis at Valencia College. That’s a really fun character because it’s not a person–it’s the embodiment of starvation. I got to latch onto people’s backs and crawl everywhere. I think I had two lines and they were “yes” and “yes”. My favorite roles are ones where I get to embody something new and leave an impression on the stage. Whatever that may be.


As You Like It, Landon St. Gordon

LH: Let’s talk about your experience working on Shakespeare with Heart.
SC: Shakespeare with Heart is a summer camp program where young actors get the opportunity to perform in a professional theater. I participated in Summer 2013’s As You Like It. I worked alongside students with and without special needs, but in this camp nobody’s different. After the two week rehearsal process, we performed a Shakespearean production in front of our friends, family, and the public. These kids just blow you out of the water!

LH: Being an understudy in The Frog and the Princess is your first professional theater credit. What’s the biggest difference between working in a professional vs. an educational setting?
SC: I’ve always taken theater seriously, whether that’s good or bad. While working on The Frog and the Princess, I finally get to be around a group of people who feel the same way. We all want to produce the best work possible.


      Phantasmagoria, Michael Moran

LH: What is the most important thing you’ve learned about being an understudy?
SC: I learned that it’s a lot of work, which is something I didn’t know going in. You have to put in extra time, because you don’t have the luxury of all those hours in rehearsal.

LH: What’s the best part of the experience so far?
SC: The relationships that I’ve developed with the rest of the understudies and the main cast. It surprised me in a good way, because I’m just so happy to feel like a part of the team.

LH: What’s the most challenging part?
SC: Time management. I’m working on Phantasmagoria at the same time, and I also work at a bakery. I’m learning to give each event in my life the time that it needs.

LH: How are you and Princess Calliope alike?
SC: We ramble. Especially when she sees Gerwyn, she’s star-struck. She just starts rambling because it’s love at first sight. And that’s me. I ramble!

LH: If you could give one piece of advice to a younger actor, what would it be?
SC: Some of the best audition advice I’ve gotten is go in confidently. It’s not scary when you’re sharing what you love to do. And if they’re moved by that, you might get the part. Or maybe they love you and you still don’t get the part. You just can’t take it personally.

IMG_20150312_172122Lexie Hoag is currently a Marketing and Public Relations Intern at Orlando Shakespeare Theater. After completing her AA at Valencia College, she plans to pursue her Bachelor’s degree in Public Relations. She can often be found rereading books, snuggling her puppy, and haunting local theaters.

A Ribbitting Interview with a Princess

Shirilla_Kristin 2015You might remember the charming Kristin Shirilla from our production of Cinderella in 2012. This summer she’s back on the Goldman Stage once more as a completely different member of the royal court––Princess Calliope in The Frog and the Princess (playing through July 26, 2015).

Like many theater professionals, Kristin’s love of the arts started at a young age. “I would act out stories like Goldilocks and the Three Bears. I’d play Goldilocks and my mom would have to play all three bears.” Her parents were very supportive of the arts, and took Kristin and her brother to see shows often. With her family’s encouragement, the Ohio native decided to study theater performance at Ohio University.

Following her college graduation, Kristin was on the hunt for a year-long acting internship. Another Ohio University grad told her about Orlando Shakespeare Theater’s Acting/Education Internship program. “I really liked the focus on education,” said Kristin. “In high school, a local theater company would come and spend a week each year working on Shakespeare with us. Orlando Shakes’ internship offered that same kind of programming for the community.”

Since joining the Orlando Shakes family, Kristin has also appeared as Lydia/Mustard Seed in the repertory productions of Pride and Prejudice and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, as well as a dog and a little boy in Alexander Who’s Not Not Not Not Not Not Going to Move. (“Typecast, I guess.”) She also works full-time as a performer in Diagon Alley at Universal’s The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. “Basically, I’m a professional wizard and that’s pretty awesome.”

I sat down with Kristin to talk about acting, puppets, and smoochin’ frogs.


Kristin joking around with Cinderella co-stars Brandon Roberts & Alex Mrazek

ML: How is Princess Calliope different from Cinderella?
KS: Cinderella wasn’t a princess. She was a normal girl who had to figure out how to “princess it up”. Princess Calliope was born into royalty. She has to learn to let loose a little. I think falling in love inspires that.

ML: This is your fifth season with Orlando Shakes. What keeps you coming back?
KS: Orlando Shakes was my home for the first year I lived in Orlando. I met great friends and even my boyfriend here. The Theater has always welcomed me back––I’ve worked as a box office associate, an understudy for Snow White, etc. I’m happy to come back and do whatever I can to help.

ML: I’ve heard that you act alongside a few puppets in this show. What’s that been like?
KS: I’m pretty comfortable handling puppets because of my theme park experience. It’s challenging to remember to talk only to the puppet, not the puppeteer. But it’s important. It’s how we endow the puppet with a life of its own.

ML: What’s the best part about performing for young audiences and their families?
KS: Kids are tough. If you’re not 100% honest, they’re not going to be as engaged or give you the feedback that you need as an actor. You can tell the difference when performers talk down to children and when they treat them like adults. Adam Reilly (Prince Gerwyn in the show) is really great at that.


Kristin with her dog, Hulk

ML: When you’re not busy being a princess, what do you like to do for fun?
KS: I love playing with my two dogs, Hulk and Louise. I just bought a house in an area with alot of parks, so I’m excited to explore those. I also like to check out local farmers’ markets and try new food and beverages.

ML: Do you have a favorite line from the show?
KS: Prince Gerwyn’s line: “Couldn’t she have turned me into something cuter? Like a kitten? Princesses like kittens, I bet.”

ML: And finally, do you really have to kiss a frog?
KS: I guess you’ll just have to see the show to find out… Besides, I don’t kiss and tell.

Kristin and Adam Reilly. Photo by Tony Firriolo.

Don’t miss your chance to see Kristin and the rest of the gang in The Frog and the Princess, playing through July 26. Click here to purchase tickets now or call the Box Office at (407) 447-1700 ext. 1. Hop to it before we close the book on this hilarious fairytale!

Shakespearely yours,
Melissa Landy, Public Relations Coordinator


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