Producing Executive Director Murray Chase

So…it’s been over seven months—223 days—since Hurricane Ian blew us up. It’s time for another update on our progress toward full recovery. Everywhere we go, and at every performance, we answer many of the same questions. What’s been happening? What’s still to come? The time frame? The cost? All of the answers we have are here on this page. Please browse through the information, photos, and drawings to learn about how we are coming back strong.

And, as our Director of Development Eric Watters says of raising the 4 million dollars needed to make all of this happen, “WE WILL SUCCEED!”

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Since Sept. 28, 2022

We’ve cleared the storm debris, established a secure perimeter, and removed the remaining parts of the destroyed fly loft.

The building now has temporary air conditioning, internet, phone service, and a working elevator and marquee! New drywall and flooring has been installed,.

Open for building, painting, rehearsals and more!

We’ve repaired the damaged roof and air conditioning in the Technical Arts Center, and re-established full temporary power.

Our third building to the rescue!

We’ve converted our third building on campus—The Raymond Center—into a temporary, 130-seat thrust theatre and have been producing there since Nov. 18. This includes seating from the Pinkerton Theatre and borrowed seats from our friends at Manatee Performing Arts Center, as well as rented lighting equipment on a huge discount from 4 Wall Lighting.

The Raymond Center was to begin a 6-month renovation into an Education Center beginning in November 2022; those plans are on hold until the Jervey Theatre is back up and running.

The Raymond lobby is great for our patrons and … holiday potlucks!
The Raymond stage with extra seating from the Manatee Performing Arts Center.
The Raymond booth “manned” by Technical Theatre Apprentice Alex LaBonte and Gypsy stage manager Kacie Ley
Brittany Hardison and Pinky Stewart working in the Raymond costume shop

Back to entertaining audiences!

We’ve re-energized and re-opened the Pinkerton Theatre and lobby in the main building, with performances beginning in January. This includes borrowed seating from our friends at Theatre Winter Haven, rehabilitated lighting and sound equipment, and temporary dressing rooms.

The Cemetery Club re-opened the Pinkerton in January.
The dressing rooms aren’t fancy, but they’re functional!
Our production of Arabian Nights, originally scheduled for the fall, was able to go up in February.
The booth is operational.
Xanadu was a huge hit in March. And now we’re having a blast with The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) [revised] [again]

We’re presenting concerts at three other local venues:

Venue Information - Venice Performing Arts Center
The Venice Performing Arts Center
Venice Community Center
Pine View School in Osprey Florida - undefined
Pine View School Auditorium

While availability this season was quite limited, we plan to present a lot more concerts in 2023-2024.

Fixing the hole

What we’ve done so far are temporary measures, to be sure. What really needs to happen to make the theatre whole….is to fix the hole. We must rebuild the entire stage house and completely rehabilitate the Jervey auditorium.

Much has changed locally since the theatre became a theatre, and since the fly loft was added. Some folks do not know that prior to becoming Venice Theatre, the building served as the gymnasium and armory for the Kentucky Military Institute. Basketball games were a staple of winter activity in the space.

As late as 1995, two other businesses were a part of the theatre’s city block. ABC Liquor/J.D. Penguin’s Bar sat behind the theatre (now the Technical Arts Center), and Stormin’ Norman’s Bar/Wedgewood Restaurant was attached to it on the east (now Michael Biehl Park). Those businesses went away during the expansion of the north bridge onto the island circa 2000. Venice Theatre purchased the old liquor store and parking lot in 2003. Subsequently the city ceded the former alleyway to the theatre, giving us contiguous property.

To that end, we plan to improve the building as we restore it. This will involve a small expansion, as well as substantial upgrades for volunteer and staff safety, industry standards and technology.

This will involve:

  • a 10-foot expansion of the backstage area toward the north of the building
  • raising the height of the fly loft, to improve visuals, staff and volunteer safety, and the top space to maintain and repair the system
  • raising the height of the stage left (eastern) backstage area, to allow scenery to roll off unimpeded (currently the limit is 11 feet).
  • providing a “load rail” for the counterweights, which currently have to be done with lots of people, lots of rope, and lots of hope.
  • providing a wheelchair lift backstage to improve accessibility
  • providing a cargo lift against the back wall backstage
  • providing stairs, not ladders to access higher levels


  • reimagining the shape of the stage opening for better visibility and operation
  • rebuilding the stage floor from ground up, as it was severely damaged by the storm

  • replacing the current seating, as it was ruined by the torrential rains after the theatre wall collapsed

  • replacing the old lighting, sound, and A/V systems with modern, more efficient technology
  • replacing old restrooms and restoring dressing rooms backstage for actors and crew
Also, we will need to the make the following infrastructure improvements:
  • Move FPL power source to a different location on the property, and the main power feed to the west side of the building. Additionally, some of the power line— and telephone and internet lines—will need to be buried. Power lines and panels within the building will have to be re-run in a more secure manner, to prevent destruction by a future hurricane.
  • Moving of all air conditioners onto the roof, which will require a stronger support deck.
  • New foundation being injected below the stage floor, due to severe storm damage to stage
  • Raising of the west sidewalk to satisfy FEMA elevation requirements


  • We’ve held the required Neighborhood Meeting, explaining publicly what we wish to do.
  • We’ve applied for a rezoning from the “Venice Avenue Business District” to the “Downtown Edge District.” The Downtown Edge District’s height maximums are more lenient, and part of the theatre’s property is already in the Edge District.
  • May 2 – The Planning Commission unanimously approved the rezoning request.
  • June 6 – The Planning Commission unanimously voted to recommend City Council approval of the height exception, for a taller fly loft.
  • Also on June 6 – The site-and-development plan was unanimously approved. The approval is contingent on the City Council adopting the ordinance rezoning the property.

In process

  • June 13 – The City Council  will take the final vote re: rezoning.
  • June 22 – We will present the Exterior redesign to the Historical and Architectural Preservation Board (HAPB) for approval.
  • June 27 – The Council will need to approve the height exception.
  • And, of course, we’re applying for all of the construction permits.

To get us back into the Jervey Theatre as soon as possible, we’re doing all of this simultaneously with parallel approval tracks. Of course, that could be risky in the event a major part of the plan is not approved. However, waiting for all of the approvals in sequence could take many more months.

Many thanks to Sweet-Sparkman, our architect, and Magnum Builders, our contractor, for moving this process forward. Thanks also to our theatre architectural consultant, Stages, of Highland Park, New Jersey. A special thanks goes to the Boone Law Firm, who is taking charge of the governmental aspects and donating its services.

Boone Law Firm


The rebuilding process is a real eye-opener for the uninitiated. The design and construction process is complex and time-consuming. While we had hoped to be open in a year, that’s just not realistic. The designs are moving forward, the contractors continue their work, and the legal processes are moving as fast as possible.

If no new obstacles arise, everyone’s hope is to begin actual construction in June/July of 2023.

The best timeline for completion: Summer of 2024.
A look ahead at the completed project

Meanwhile, we will continue to perform and present in our five different venues:

  • The Pinkerton Theatre,
  • The Raymond Center
  • Venice Performing Arts Center
  • Venice Community Center
  • and Pine View High School Auditorium.