Theater lovers will enjoy everything about The Laboratory Theater in Fort Myers. Each season, the Laboratory Theater brings new and exciting productions to Southwest Florida’s cultural corridor.
Founded in 2008 as a teaching theater, The Laboratory Theater (AKA The Lab Theater) provides cutting-edge and brand new shows to the Southwest Florida region. It is also a place to learn about Shakespeare. Since its inception, the Lab Theater has become the premier venue in the region for new works. The theater stands by its welcome sign on the front door as a safe space for all people to create and to enjoy theater as a community.
We spoke with President Annette Trossbach to learn more about this iconic performing arts venue.
Who established the theater?
The theater was established by myself, Nicole Rizley, Louise Wigglesworth. I received a dual degree in acting and directing from the prestigious East 15 Acting School in London England. I have directed in the UK, Germany, and the United States before establishing the theater in 2008. Ms. Rizley has a degree in property design. She is an award-winning director and vice president of the board of directors of the theater. Ms. Wigglesworth is a nationally-recognized award-winning playwright and leads the theater’s playwriting course.
What is the mission of the theater?
The Laboratory Theater of Florida is dedicated to the promotion of the performing arts, through live performance, education, community outreach, experimentation, and the development of ensemble work. The company features ensemble productions, produces classic works, takes artistic risks, which both feature and challenge local performers.
Are the performers professionals, community/volunteers, or a combination?
Our performers are a combination of professionals, students, and community residents. As a teaching theater, our goal is to provide opportunities for everyone and train performers of all ages. We currently draw performers from Punta Gorda to Marco Island and Sanibel to Arcadia. This unique blend of skill levels enriches our theatrical repertoire with seasoned veterans and newly minted proteges.
What type(s) of productions does the theater feature?
The theater carefully selects shows that are both entertaining and have a community outreach component. This usually means we can offer something fresh and edgy. We showcase a lot of premieres. Patrons who are looking for fresh, innovative works are thrilled that there is a venue for them here in Southwest Florida. We also highlight shows that have a rich and powerful history. Past shows with audience talkbacks include Sordid Lives by Del Shores, The Crucible, Sex Tips for Straight Women from a Gay Man, Hedwig and the Angry Inch.
What are some past productions you consider highlights?
A few favorites includes Botticelli in the Fire, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, The Color Purple, The Crucible, Hand to God, Amadeus, Whatever Happened to Baby Jane: a Parody of the Horror, Othello, Sunset Schmoulevard, The Wolves. Again, almost all of these were regional premieres.
Does the theater offer classes? If so, for whom?
The Lab Theater offers both child and adult education classes, workshops, and community outreach events. Summer, winter, and spring day camps for middle and high-schoolers are popular. And playwriting, acting, and movement classes for learners of all ages are also available. This includes the Meisner certification with Meisner International founder Steven Ditmyer, and physical theater with Annette Trossbach. For people who are unable to make that kind of time commitment, we have events such as Speaker nights. Topics include equity and diversity in Southwest Florida theater, LGBTIQ stories, Holocaust remembrance events, and more.
How can community members get involved?
We work with hundreds of volunteers each year. Many retirees enjoy coming to the theater to build or paint or sew for our award-winning productions. People interested in volunteering can sign up in the lobby, online, or by calling the theater at 239-218-0481.
Is there anything in particular about the theater/performances that might appeal specifically to a LGBTQ audience?
We offer free shows, events, and support to LFBTQ teenagers, as well as a variety of theatrical offerings that appeal to LGBTQ adults. Past shows have included Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Sex Tips for Straight Women from a Gay Man, Whatever Happened to Baby Jane: a parody of the horror, Sordid Lives, Hush Up Sweet Charlotte, and The Legend of Georgia McBride. Additionally, we host community talk-backs on themes related to our shows. Topics include the danger of conversion “therapy,” trans issues, and more.
Where can prospective audiences learn more about future performances?
We encourage people to check out our website and our social media or call us at (239) 218-0481.
Enjoy the Magic of the Laboratory Theater
Whether you long to watch performances, or appear on the stage yourself, The Laboratory Theater in Fort Myers will fit the bill. Make your plans now to enjoy Southwest Florida’s premier regional theater.
Visit our Southwest Florida Arts & Culture guide for more info on what to do while visiting or living in the region.
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Also, while we do our best to highlight LGBTQ-friendly destinations and businesses, info provided is based solely on personal experience and recommendations by community partners. We hope that nobody experiences discrimination or homophobia while visiting Florida, but we make no guarantees. Please inform us if you experience discrimination or homophobia while visiting any destination so we can make updates to our recommendations.