The Little Palm Family Theatre on Florida's Boca Raton beach
By Andrew Regan
Situated between West Palm Beach and Pompano Beach, Boca Raton is one of South Florida's most beautiful towns. Among its past and present residents are Iron Maiden drummer, Nicko McBrain, and prolific tennis player Andy Roddick. Despite being home to just 20,000 people, its recent historical and political importance is certainly notable: it was the site of the first anthrax attack in the USA in 2001, and is also a famous liberal stronghold, with over 60% of its votes polled for John Kerry in 2004. However, hidden underneath all of this is the Little Palm Family Theatre, a wonderful and widely applauded community theatre which is completely run by volunteers.
The idea underlying the community theatre is a popular one: all participants are amateurs, however the players are generally respected as highly as their professional thespian counterparts. The heart of the ideals enshrined in the tradition of community theatre is that it provides a forum for a wide array of amateur or aspiring artists to practise their art in a public space that everyone can access. Boca Raton's Little Palm Family Theatre has been heralded for doing exactly that in a small Florida town where theatrical opportunities may be harder to come by than its big cities.
That said, the theatrical scene surrounding Boca Raton is far from dead: nearby West Palm Beach is home to the Royal Palm Performing Arts Theatre, the first of its kind in the county. Established in 1922, this is also a not for profit organisation, made up entirely of volunteers who claim their sole wish is to inject culture into the community they serve. While Royal Palm Performing Arts Theatre is a member of the Southern Theatre Conference, the Florida State Theatre Conference and the Palm Beach County Council of the Arts, Little Palm Family Theatre is an altogether smaller affair. Its shows are performed at Jan McArt's Royal Palm Festival Dinner Theatre, on Boca Raton's Mizner Boulevard. Their past productions have included Winnie the Pooh musicals, and this is very much representative of the type of performance art on offer at Little Palm Family Theatre: wholesome, fun musical performances geared mainly towards children. This highlights the clear lack of self-consciousness that community theatre possesses: community theatre is unlikely to use this label for itself, as in their eyes there is no difference between their art and a standard theatre group. Yet the importance of community theatre cannot be underestimated, as its value to society is crucial to building up a rich and vibrant cultural scene.
Certainly, the Little Palm Family Theatre is an important focal point among many entertainment highlights in Boca Raton. The Bocanuts Comedy Club, decorated with pictures of the Three Stooges and the Marx Brothers, is popular evening hotspot, and the International Museum of Cartoon Art is sure to please visitors of all ages. Similarly, the Boca Raton Museum of Art attracts over 90,000 people each year, and the Sports Immortals Museum possesses over a million pieces of sports memorabilia. With all these cultural attractions, as well as the conveniently placed accommodation at the Hilton Suites, Boca Raton seems an essential stop off point in any tour of Florida.
About the Author
Andrew Regan is an online journalist who enjoys socialising at his local Edinburgh rugby club.
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