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SoWal People: Jennifer Steele Art Scene Star

March 5, 2019 by Audrey Johnson

Jennifer Steele is a busy woman. Her role as the Executive Director of the Cultural Arts Alliance of Walton County keeps her busy enough. On top of that, she’s a mother, a partner, and the lead in the upcoming one-woman play “Bad Dates” presented by the Emerald Coast Theatre Company.

After a ten-year hiatus from the stage she’s back. Granted she has been doing other things, like producing the massively successful 30A Songwriter’s Festival and deploying the nation’s first Underwater Museum of Art.

With so much success to celebrate, what brings Jennifer back to the stage? In short, she felt like it was time to do something creative…for herself.

“I cannot say enough about the bravery that something like this takes,” says Director Whitney Rappana. “To do a one woman show and let the whole show rest on your shoulders, and to come back after having some time off and conquer it – it’s so brave and it’s so fun so anyone who’s willing to do it has already won.”

Bad Dates centers around restaurant manager and shoe connoisseur Haley Walker.  From the privacy of her bedroom, she relates a series of hilarious tales while preparing for, and recovering from, one dreadful date after another.

In order to bring Haley to life, Jennifer and Whitney bring an understanding of the nuances of being a woman – something a male director would have trouble pulling off. Jennifer also brings a playfulness that’s really fun to watch unfold. The more comfortable she gets, the more she plays, and the more fun the audience has.

So, how does Jennifer relate to her character on a personal level? “I definitely identify with her on the single mother level, and tad frantic level. And she loves food and wine and I love food and wine,” she says.

At its core, Bad Dates is about how women function in this world, adjusting to demands from all angles. The play is really funny, and the audience will also be treated to some beautiful serious moments about the difficulties that come with just being a woman and walking through life as a female.

“I’m having a lot of fun. It’s a lot of hard work mentally and physically and emotionally but it’s fun to challenge myself in a way that I haven’t in a long time,” says Jennifer. “I’ve never challenged myself on the stage like this because I’ve never been on stage by myself for 75 minutes. I wanted to shake things up and this is definitely doing that.”

Jennifer is used to shaking things up. She’s one of the founders of the Seaside Repertory Theatre, celebrating its 20th anniversary this year.

“I love the arts, but I also like making things happen. In the area at the time there wasn’t a lot going on creatively and so it was fun. We were 24 and stupid (laughs) and we just made it happen. It’s so great to see that the work that I chose to do on such a small scale is still going,” she says.

Twenty years is the blink of an eye in hindsight. After accomplishing so much on the South Walton arts scene in such a short time, what’s left?

“My hope Is that this community is known for creativity. That people think about Walton County not just as a beach town, but as a creative destination. That people choose to live here because it’s a creative place to live and raise your kids and they can go to theater classes and art classes. They can have a well-rounded experience with access to resources that organizations like ECTC and CAA can provide,” says Jennifer.

Emerald Coast Theatre Company is a great, and necessary, addition to our arts community. The company continues its 6th season by presenting the Northwest Florida premiere of Theresa Rebeck’s comedy, Bad Dates, starring Jennifer Steele and directed by Whitney Rappana.

“Jennifer is going to be in charge of all of her props, all of her costume changes, all of the scene changes. In a play you hope things go seamlessly - they never do – but if we do our job well then the audience will never know how much work this was,” laughs Whitney.

“Haley also gets to wear a lot of really beautiful shoes. So, anyone who loves shoes will definitely appreciate it,” adds Jennifer.

The performance runs Thursday, March 7 (opening night) through Sunday, March 10 at ECTC’s performance space located at 560 Grand Boulevard (upstairs) in Grand Boulevard at Sandestin.

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Purchase Tickets at, www.emeraldcoasttheatre.org/tickets

Bad Dates  March 7th- 10th
Restaurant manager and shoe connoisseur Haley Walker is finally ready to re-enter the dating world. From the privacy of her bedroom, she relates a series of hilarious tales while preparing  for, and recovering from, one dreadful date after another. One of the most popular shows in Huntington history, this 15th anniversary production of Teresa Rebeck's sweet and sharp comedy will be the hottest date night in town and a triumphant night out for women of all ages.

All professional mainstage productions schedules are Thursday (opening night) through Saturday at 7:30pm with Sunday matinees at 2pm (unless noted otherwise). All ECTC productions will be staged at ECTC's space located upstairs at 560 Grand Boulevard in Grand Boulevard at Sandestin, located in Miramar Beach.

The main stage Professional Productions are as follows:
The Spitfire Grill | Sept. 20th - Oct. 7th, 2018
It's a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play | Dec. 6th - 23rd, 2018
Dancing Lessons | Jan. 17th - Feb. 3rd & Jan. 20th, 2019
The Snowy Day & Other Stories by Ezra Jack Keats | Feb. 16th, 17th & 23rd, 2019
Bad Dates | March 7th - 10th, 2019
Around the World in 80 Days | March 28th - April 7th, 2019
The Wind in the Willows | May 18th & 19th, 2019

ECTC 2018-2019 season will include a musical comedy, a hilarious one-woman show, a live radio play, a romantic comedy and a adventure-filled classic play. ECTC's expanded programming includes a new Storytelling series and, by popular demand, additional evening performances of the Educational program productions. 

Emerald Coast Theatre Company (ECTC) is located at Grand Boulevard in Miramar Beach, Florida. ECTC’s mission is to enrich and entertain the Emerald Coast community through professional and educational theater. ECTC operates year-round with a two-fold mission to provide both educational and professional offerings to the Northwest Florida community. Educational outreach includes after school and home-school programs, touring and staged productions, summer camps, workshops and classes. The professional theater efforts are focused on thought provoking productions, festivals and collaborations as well as acting and improv workshops and classes for adults. emeraldcoasttheatre.org.

To make a tax-deductible donation, become a member, volunteer or learn more about Emerald Coast Theatre Company, find them on Facebook, call (850) 684-0323 and visit www.emeraldcoasttheatre.org.

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Audrey Johnson's picture

Upon realizing that life is too short not to follow her dreams, Audrey moved to the beach and became a writer. SoWal’s pristine beaches inspire her to explore further, look deeper, and do better.

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