Flagler Auditorium Stages Return To Live Performances In 30th Year

A buzz of energy surrounds you as friends greet friends and excited chatter fills the Flagler Auditorium lobby. Anticipation heightens as overhead lights blink on and off, prompting you to stroll inside to your chosen seat. The performance begins and soon you are in sync with the musicians belting out familiar songs. Whether tapping away in time to the tunes or singing along with favorites, from beginning to end, time flies.
Attending a live performance is often a communal, cathartic experience — one that we have all ached to repeat during the past 18 months. Happily, the yearning is over as opening night of the 2021-22 Auditorium Season is finally almost here.
Each show in this season will be a celebration of Flagler Auditorium’s landmark 30th anniversary. Excited to present their brand-new season, Auditorium Director Amelia Fulmer eagerly shared other innovative options for event-goers. “This year we are offering a subscription package. All you have to do is choose your seats for the season, and we do the rest. Patrons who don’t want to miss a thing also appreciate preferred seating, parking and other premium benefits.”
However, another reason so many buy a subscription or make donations is to help further the Auditorium mission: Arts Education for Flagler County Youth. Barbara Revels, a founding member of the original Governing Board, explained that the initial Auditorium-Flagler Palm Coast High School collaboration included an Arts Educational System requirement. Reflecting on 30 years of excellence in achieving that goal, which is still going strong, Barb says, “I am so proud to see the long term development of our county’s only fine arts facility.”
Amelia added that each live show and every ticket purchased supports Flagler County students in performing arts, stagecraft, event technology and many other arts disciplines. As important as monetary assistance, are the educational opportunities students gain to learn, create, and share their artistic talents. Amelia continued, “They depend on our commitment to bringing quality entertainment to our county’s residents.”
That quality will be first on display November 19 as the 30th season kicks off with a Frankie Valli Tribute. A gifted 4-piece band backs six amazing singers who share an innate ability to entertain through their crystal clear vocals and crisp choreography. The powerhouse group will perform all of Frankie Valli’s mega-hits including “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Walk Like A Man,” and “Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You.”
Amelia expanded on the significance of the choice, “Our first show this year, Let’s Hang On, A Frankie Valli Tribute is a great theme to start our new season. We know that we have a lot to be thankful for, like the spirit of resilience and tenacity that prevailed the past two years through these challenging times.” So many people joined together with the Auditorium leaders to fill the vacuum of communal local entertainment.
Amelia enthusiastically recalled, “We had musical shows and outdoor events that celebrated our community and local talent last season, and which we continue this year. We are more than an auditorium. This is the place to meet people that make Flagler County a great place to live.”
Governing Board President, Sandra Siepietoski agrees. “This institution is a hidden gem not just in the community, but the entire region.” She also praised the Auditorium Board’s dedication, much of it accomplished until recently through Zoom meetings. They are careful to ensure that “every show is different.” Sandra continued, “Variety is what makes the theater-going experience so special.”
That magical variety is highlighted November 27 as the Frankie Valli tribute is followed by Last Child, Aerosmith Experience. The top notch, high energy musicians of Last Child perform and celebrate 50 years of music from Aerosmith, the best-selling American hard rock band of all time.
Longtime patron Carol Wright enthusiastically advocates for the entire Auditorium lineup. “Show days always bring a happy anticipation,” says Carol. “And I’ve never been to a show I didn’t like.” A confessed closet chanteuse, she’ll no doubt be singing along when Darlene Love takes the stage on December 11.
Grammy Award Winner and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, Darlene Love has launched dozens of hits including “He’s a Rebel,” “The Boy I’m Gonna Marry,” and her signature song, “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home).” Flagler Auditorium’s website says of Love, “This holiday season, the music icon will bring these classics and more, for a one-night-only holiday performance: Darlene Love. It’s a rockin’ Christmas celebration you won’t want to miss.”
On hand to greet Ms. Love will be “back of the house” coordinator Elaine Gonsalves who excels at ensuring that professional performers have a pleasant experience. She decorates the backstage pre-show area, settles artists in the dressing rooms or make-up area, and arranges in-theater dining repasts for the artists.
Her efforts have helped ensure that many artists happily return. This season they include fan favorites like Abacadabra and One Night in Memphis. Also, The Bronx Wanderers who Elaine says, “have been coming here since they were kids.”
On December 17, another familiar artist returns who once graced the Auditorium stage in “Little Shop of Horrors” while still a student at FPCHS. Alejandra Martinez is currently one of The American Sirens trio. She and her co-stars will entertain with hits that traverse decades from 1958’s “Fever “to 1969’s “More Today Than Yesterday” all the way through to 2014’s “All About That Bass.”
Alejandra’s career is a reminder of the Auditorium’s ongoing mission, which is to provide support for youth arts education and not just on the stage. Because of donations and live opportunities, students from elementary to high school participate in dozens of school and community productions featuring many different art disciplines from dance to chorus to jazz bands. These opportunities provided many hours of enjoyment to our students, parents and citizens in well planned entertainment and arts enrichment.”
Amelia Fulmer illuminates the various ways that donations and ticket proceeds help students. “They may help buy art project supplies or costumes for elementary school shows, band books for middle school musicians, or uniforms for chorus and band members. Contributions can also send students to band, chorus, and dance competitions, or educational summer camps. They help build a high school student’s portfolio and provide art majors’ scholarships. It could also help a tech intern learn special skills for their behind the scenes work.
That’s where Auditorium Technical Director of 22 years, Jack Neiberlein, comes in. While most audiences are focused on the enchanting performances right before their eyes, much of that magic involves extensive backstage technical work. Once again, students trained in technical skills are paramount to what is usually and hopefully the hidden side of a show. Jack jokes, “You only know we’re there if something goes wrong,”
Along with Assistant Tech Director Cole Sever, Jack oversees their training through school classes and on the job training at actual productions. There are many opportunities for hands-on experience besides the 15+ professional shows. “For the approximately 100 school events, tech support is completely handled by our students.”
The backstage work involves many students, but those who love it most or envision a career path usually land in the Technical Theater Intern Guild. Jack stresses the advantage to interns of the FPCHS programs compared to other schools, “This facility and our visiting shows, some from Broadway, are state of the art. Other students will never get an opportunity to work with a $50,000 piece of equipment; ours learn on the best.”
“Cole and I both come from professional backgrounds,” says Jack. “That and the students working side by side with current touring pros on state of the art equipment is what elevates their cutting edge experience to the level of guild training.” Previously wary professional artists often declare that, “these are the best students we’ve worked with…” And occasionally, “… even better than some pros.”
“Guild members build a portfolio and tech resume” he continues, “that can run the gamut from industry careers or becoming educators themselves.” Jack and Cole are proud of the many Flagler graduates working in their field. In Florida alone, you can find them working in theme parks, on cruise ships, and in entertainment venues all over the state.
While Elaine, Cole, Jack, volunteers and students are managing the back of the house, Heather Turdo, Box Office Manager coordinates the front of the house and pre-show sales.
Heather is eager to assist every patron, sponsor, and customer to arrange ticketing or subscriptions for attending shows and creating memories.
It starts at the box office and culminates with show nights. “Talking to people and working to make them happy is my favorite part of the job,” says Heather. “They call or come in and we have conversations and build relationships. They have a friend at the box office.” She manages staff which, of course, includes students, both high school and college students, two of which currently are paid interns.
In addition, she flexibly coordinates up to 80+ volunteers of all ages assigning them to their preferred show nights and tasks. They gather an hour before the doors open to prepare before dispersing to work the lobby, ticket office, concessions, or the balcony, greeting the patrons, and being available to answer questions. The pre-show meeting includes the ubiquitous reminder to pull out and turn off their cell phones, which they often do together instantly. Heather happily reminds them, “Our dress code includes wearing a smile and a friendly expression. You are both our welcoming and our farewell committees.”
Heather said the rewards for herself and her volunteers on show night is being part of the attendee’s experience. “Every show is different, so every crowd is too, and witnessing their reaction is so fun,” says Heather. “You see their excitement. You see them clapping, tapping, sometimes even dancing, standing for ovations, and applauding. No matter the crowd, they all share their appreciation with us. They leave the show with smiles on their faces too.”
— Teri Pruden