From Kentucky, to New York City, to our beloved Florida Suncoast, Rick Kerby, Producing Artistic Director of the Florida Cultural Group, says his whole life has been a rehearsal for this job.
Take a listen at how the events of 9/11 led him to take the helm of the Manatee Players and learn about their amazing upcoming season of shows.
All that and more on this week's episode of the Suncoast Culture Club podcast.
Come along and join the club!
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Robyn Bell: Lookie here,lookie here my Culture Club, friends I have with me today, the famous Rick Kerby. He is the producing artistic director of the Florida Cultural Group, who performed at the Manatee Performing Arts Center producing shows by the Manatee Players. And I have asked him to join us on the club today to talk about well himself and the very exciting upcoming season for our beloved Manatee Players. So Rick Kerby, welcome to the club.
Rick Kerby: Thank you so much.
Robyn Bell: Now, when we have a guest on for the first time, I always like for them to tell us their background. So, Rick, how did you first get involved with theater and musicals? Where did you get your training? What brought you to the Suncoast of Florida? And what experiences had you had that led you to become the Producing Artistic Director of the Florida Cultural Group?
Rick Kerby: How long has this podcast?
Robyn Bell: Hey listen, I get paid by the hour. Take your time.
Rick Kerby: So I grew up in a tiny little town in rural Kentucky and actually my biggest outlet musically was my family. So I had that sort of history loving music and performing with my father and my brothers. And so That was really my biggest outlet because we didn't have have resources. And the little town that I grew up in, I went to a college that was near me and I got a scholarship my junior year. So kind of knowing where it was going to go. It was just the nearest college was at Eastern Kentucky University they said to me well you have a music scholarship, but when you get here, you're going to have to go through a dance audition.
Robyn Bell: Let me ask you, this was your music scholarship for singing's. Okay. Got it.
Rick Kerby: So that scared the Jesus out of me. So I was like, well, I better learn how to dance, I guess. So I called up the only dance teacher in my entire town. Her name was Erla True. So I went into Erla True's basement and took private classes with her for a year. And I told her she wasn't allowed to tell anyone. No of my parents. Nobody knew
Robyn Bell: Super secret dance lessons.
Rick Kerby: Yeah, it was. And when I got to college, I audition going into as a freshmen and I got Riff in West Side Story.
Robyn Bell: Wow.
Rick Kerby: So I was lucky that there was some very talented teachers there at that time. And they said, listen, you don't even know the talent that you have. And you're going to take this class, this one, this one, this one. And that's really what kicked it off for me. And I found this new love of musical theater. I'd never been in musical theater ever.
Robyn Bell: Wow. I was going to ask in high school, they didn't have that outlet for you or drama or anything like that.
Rick Kerby: We had a one drama class that you're only allowed to take your final semester. As a senior. So let's really building a department, right?
Robyn Bell: That's crazy. Were you in the choir though
Rick Kerby: Yes, I sang, I was in band, so I was very anything musical. I kind of, I wasn't there.
Robyn Bell: I have to take a guess at what instrument you played. All right. Narrow it down. Was it woodwinds, brass or percussion?
Rick Kerby: Yes.
Robyn Bell: You were a Jack of all trades. You played everything
Rick Kerby: I did. And I love marching bands. So if they needed a trumpet was my main. Oh instrument. Yes. But when they needed a baritone player tenor sax, or I played xylophone one year, just whatever, whatever. I just loved it and was ready to jump in.
Robyn Bell: I don't want to derail your story. I want to hear it. But I'm thinking that that experience has probably helped you like with the pit orchestra stuff and knowing what sounds you want and what instruments you need to fill? That kind of thing.
Rick Kerby: Absolutely. I feel like my whole life has been a rehearsal for this job. I mean, any sort of nugget I've learned along the way I've used that. So, yeah. Yeah. So true.
Robyn Bell: I love that my whole life has been a rehearsal for this job. I feel the same way. I've never thought about it. That's awesome. Okay. So you're Riff and West Side Story. You're singing and dancing and
Rick Kerby: right. Really started to concentrate on theater and musical theater. And our theater department took a spring vacation trip to New York and being young and dumb. I was like, I'm going to go to auditions. So I walked into actors equity. It's pretty much their reaction as well. And they said, well, you can't audition. You're not a member, but sometimes they will see them at the end of the day. Sometimes they won't. If you want to wait in that corner over there, you can say you did. I waited. And it was a tour of Oklahoma. And I got seen and probably coming off the farm. I was a perfect for him. So I got cast and I packed my bags and moved to New York. And I'm so happy. It happened that way because I came into New York with a job. I was so afraid of that big city. I never would have done it on my own.
Robyn Bell: It's really remarkable.
Rick Kerby: So that kind of just kicked me off into a whole life of. I, I, I really believe that if you do a good job, that job will get you another job.
Robyn Bell: That's right.
Rick Kerby: And so it kind of really just snowballed. I made these acquaintances and friends,
Robyn Bell: You started out then as a traveling Broadway show person, and you were a performer, but somewhere along the way, you transitioned into being the head cheese, as they say, when did that first happen?
Well, I did a lot of touring and summer stock, and I eventually became a dance captain along the way.
Oh, must be a great dancer.
Rick Kerby: So it meant that I was kind of like the keeper of the Bible for the shows. So when I did the Seven Brides the choreographer wasn't able to do the next production of that. So she recommended me as the dance captain to come in and start choreographing. And again, because I did a good job once they invited me back again. So my first kind of transition job was as a choreographer. And because I did a good job as choreographer, sometimes I would get asked to come back to direct and choreograph.
Robyn Bell: Wow.
Rick Kerby: So it was building this resume at the same time I was still performing. So I kind of was like this dual track
Robyn Bell: yeah.
Rick Kerby: And then because of that, I met friends who have said, do you want to try teaching? So I started teaching some, I worked at a. Wagner college on Staten Island and AMDA in New York City. I taught there for a while. Did that for many, many years. And then I'm getting a little older now.
Robyn Bell: Yes. My dance moves are slowing down just a little. Yup,
Rick Kerby: Exactly. And my job before I came here, I was the entertainment director for the USO of Metropolitan New York. So I was doing that and they'd lived through 9/11 during that horrible time in New York.
Robyn Bell: Wow.
Rick Kerby: And felt really beat up by the whole thing, the whole experience. So I was like, I need a vacation and a friend that I made who was a doctor on board when the cruise ships that I worked lived in Sarasota is like, come down, enjoy yourself. So it came down for a couple of weeks and I was like, I don't want to go home. I don't want to go.
Robyn Bell: That's how it started here.
Rick Kerby: And he said, well, they're looking for an Artistic Director at the Manatee Players. Why don't you just go talk to them? So that's how ended up here.
Robyn Bell: Wow. Really? Thanks to 9/11.
Rick Kerby: That's true. It's true.
Robyn Bell: That's fascinating that the Manatee Players they've been around for a very long time. Right.
Rick Kerby: They were formed in 1947. At the women's club, actually.
Robyn Bell: Okay. Stood the one that's still on there on Manatee Avenue. Unbelievable. Well, they have this very unique niche in our community. What is the mission of the Manatee Players and how do you fulfill that from both the performer aspect and the patron side of things?
Rick Kerby: Well, we really are about providing quality entertainment, but I think we're so much bigger than that. We like to say that we don't only entertain, we change lives. So we're trying to like reach out into the community. I really think we're a service that we put out there. We do a lot of collaborations with other nonprofits. So I really think that that is what I see us as as our biggest goal is to really reach out and involve as many people in our community and not just entertain them, but to find a way to like really touch them.
Robyn Bell: And you know, someone here who does the Pops Orchestra, which is a community orchestra. We have our first chair players are paid professionals and we put on very entertaining concerts. We sell out and, you know, 1800 people who come see a show over a weekend. And there's that mission to entertain those people, but I hope you feel the same way that it's also part of our mission as the community orchestra to give those musicians a place to play. And that's the other thing that I love about the Manatee Players is that you give these community performers an outlet to perform,
Rick Kerby: We are a volunteer organization, we are professionally administered but all of our actors are there because they love to be there. And I love that aspect. There's nothing like doing community theater. It kind of has a bad cache when you say those words, community theater, but our actors either. have a new passion that they're building on, or sometimes are actors who have been in New York, working for a million years as a professional and said, I want a family. I want to be able to have a dog and a house, you know, so they've come back to Bradenton or Sarasota area. And they need that outlet, that artistic way to express themselves. And we're there for them
Robyn Bell: A hundred percent. That is so much a mission of community theater, community bands, community orchestras, it's this two way street of giving those adults and sometimes students a place to perform, but then giving the audience members that wonderful entertainment value. And I get that from audience members all the time that they enjoy watching people perform for the love of doing it and not for a paycheck.
Rick Kerby: Right?
Robyn Bell: Yeah. It's a whole different experience.
Rick Kerby: The quality that we have in this area. We're so lucky. We're just saturated with very talented people. So it's nice to be able to give them an outlet
Robyn Bell: the other day about this, especially community theater, because there's you guys, there's The Players, there's the Island Players. Venice Theater. Right? It's so different here than any place else.
Rick Kerby: I actually volunteer with American Association of Community Theater. And so we have these national conventions where we all sit in a circle and we talk about problems and solutions. But when I tried to describe this area with these giant community theaters with multi-million dollar, we're all like spitting distance between each other. I mean, it's just, it's a very unique area.
Robyn Bell: It is And that's one of the reasons I think I could start this podcast and get so many different listeners because whatever you're interested in, we have that to offer be it theater. We at musicals be a plays, opera, ballet, whatever. It's amazing. And I love how our community supports our community performers. It's it's, it's amazing. So what does your organization, I mean, you have that mission. I totally get it and understand it and feel it, but what does your organization mean to you and to our community?
Rick Kerby: Good question. To me, I feel like it's a resource that I want to share.
Robyn Bell: That's beautiful,
Rick Kerby: Especially coming from a space where I had nothing and I look at this great building and all the people we have working for us. And I just want to share that I want to have more and more people come into our building and be able to just build on that. Just the time that I've been at the Manatee Performing Arts Center and Manatee Players. The growth that we've had. And I just want to see that continue in the more outreach and get more and more people involved.
Robyn Bell: Right. And to bring joy to those people's lives through what you're doing and what you're providing to them and that beautiful space. It's just one of my favorite places in the whole Suncoast is the Manatee Performing Arts Center.
Rick Kerby: I'm very, very proud of it. Yeah. We worked hard for it to
Robyn Bell: Sure did. And you're not done. I remember you bought those old rundown apartments across the street. And now we have a really nice parking lot when we go to shows there you bought some space downtown to do some other cool stuff. Tell us about that.
Rick Kerby: Well we are going to be converting the space in to studios and rehearsal space and education. We feel like that's our next big growth for us, really, because we're limited as beautiful and as big as our building is. We don't have the space to really do a concentrated educational program. So we know that that's our next big goal in,
Robyn Bell: Down on the Riverwalk there's really no more space to grow there. They built the apartments all around. You don't get me started on that. Why couldn't we've had some restaurants there where we could. Whatever, they don't listen to me or me, I guess people have to live somewhere. Do you find those people that live in all those places around you? Are they patrons? Do they come to the shows?
Rick Kerby: You know, they do some do, and we're really starting to reach out to them. To make sure that they know where there. It's amazing how many people walk by and don't know who we are and what we're doing. So we're just trying to educate people. Yeah. Especially if you can walk to us, you know,
Robyn Bell: is your timeline for the educational space in that extra building? Where is it downtown again?
Rick Kerby: It's on Third Avenue. So it's just about two blocks, further West of us. So it's very close and it's nice that it's Walkable distance between the two buildings. Within the next year is our goal to have that up and ready.
Robyn Bell: Okay. And it'll be a place where people can go for private lessons for tech stuff. What a well are you doing there? We're
Rick Kerby: We're going to have a recording studio in there. Practice rooms on the first floor and the second and third floor will be rehearsal halls and also space for us to have our classes,
Robyn Bell: You know, we should connect because we're in the process, we're in, it's a two year process, but we are going to establish an associate of science degree in sound recording, engineering so there's gotta be some great symbiotic relationship there where we have students that we're putting out with a two year degree, they can go right to work in tech stuff or get some training maybe at your place. And yeah, we need to stay in touch about that. Yeah. Yeah. Now Rick come March 13th, 2020. We'll never forget Friday 13th. Our performing arts world shuts down. Do you remember where you were when you heard the entire rest of your season had to be canceled?
Rick Kerby: Whew. I think I was sitting in my office and we just had a little meeting. What do we do now? You know?
Robyn Bell: Yeah. Like everybody's looking at each other, like what?
Rick Kerby: Yeah. And then we all went home for quite a while. And so we were staying in touch with each other through zoom or through a lot of phone calls, just trying to figure out what do we do next?
Robyn Bell: Were you in the middle of a production?
Rick Kerby: It was opening week for Doubt.
Robyn Bell: So you had worked all this time, you got to show
Rick Kerby: and that show, the set is still on our stage right now, because we're determined we're going to do that show. We did eventually go back and do a recording so that we could at least have that to send out to our patrons. And so we do have that one performance that they did of that show.
Robyn Bell: Okay.
Rick Kerby: We were also in rehearsals for Titanic. So, and I had a beautiful cast. That score alone just makes me want to weep when I hear that's beautiful choral sound out of these wonderful cast that we had.
Robyn Bell: Yeah. And well, that's the most disappointing of all because me doing college, student and community music makers to have to say, sorry, we can't rehearse or, you don't know. Our last concert has been canceled. That was tough. And we had to collect Melodie Dickerson and I sat on the sidewalk the last week of classes and we're collected music and folders. And, Oh, it was a nightmare because they had just gone home. Right. We had instruments to collect dresses, tuxedos. You know what I mean? You can run the whole gamut. Oh yeah. Well, we made it through though.
Rick Kerby: Yeah. Yeah. We're going to do those shows again, you know.
Robyn Bell: Well, we're going to talk about that, but during those first several months, maybe even well into the fall, how did your organization stay engaged with your performers, your staff, and your audience members?
Rick Kerby: Well, we kind of regrouped pretty quickly. So we decided that we were going to do what we could do as safely as possible. So we did have a summer camp that we did in June and July, but we kept it to 10 kids max and we had them at their own tables distance. The whole time everybody wore a mask, we did temperature checks. You, we had the fogging every day.
Robyn Bell: Yes. Everything they say you're supposed to do.
Rick Kerby: Right. It wasn't really a moneymaker for us because we had such a small group, but we felt like that what we could do, we should do always trying to reach out and involve community.
Robyn Bell: And that group of students, those 10 will never forget that summer. You know what I mean?
Rick Kerby: That's true. Yeah.
Robyn Bell: Did you end up putting on any kind of show?
Rick Kerby: We did not. We did, video of each kid performing individually, and then we sent that home with the kids. So yeah,
Robyn Bell: Your normal summer camp though, would end in a performance. Okay.
Rick Kerby: So like we're doing Moana JR. And Dalmatian
Robyn Bell: This summer. Yeah. And how many students do you expect to be involved in that?
Rick Kerby: We're capping it at 30, which is about half of what we normally do. So we're still trying to ease our way back into full speed.
Robyn Bell: That's still a lot of kids to keep track of
Rick Kerby: It is it is, but I feel like we have a system in place that we're ready for it.
Robyn Bell: That's really cool. And I went to something. I think it was over the summer. You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown. Did I go to that over the summer? Right?
Rick Kerby: You did.
Robyn Bell: Yes.
Rick Kerby: So that show was also another show that was kind of put on hold. They were rehearsed, ready to go. And they kept that show in rehearsal for probably a year. I mean, literally they would meet once a week on zoom that would go through their lines or they would play some sort of theater game together just to keep them all engaged. And a part of it. We did have one cast replacement because they just had to go off to college or whatever.
Robyn Bell: I just had to go off to college,
Rick Kerby: But eventually they did do the show and we turned a parking lot into a drive-in movie theater experience.
Robyn Bell: I went to, yeah, we drove up, we got a bag of popcorn.
Rick Kerby: Yeah.
Robyn Bell: And we had the big screen and we kinda tailgated. It was fun.
Rick Kerby: It was fun. It was a different experience. It's not like life theater, you know, nothing is, but well,
Robyn Bell: You're not getting that audience immediate feedback to your production,
Rick Kerby: Right. Plus the kids were there performing to no one, you know, so there was no clapping. There's no laughing.
Robyn Bell: So weird, isn't it?
Rick Kerby: Yeah. It's so bizarre
Robyn Bell: I kept telling the students, we did the same thing here. We had all these performances all year round. I mean, the students signed up for a class. You have to get credit. We have to perform with no audience. And our attitude was this is what it's like on a film set. Or a television studio without, an audience that you perform, and there's no immediate feedback,
Rick Kerby: Right
Robyn Bell: Yeah. That's how we kind of approached it to make it not so weird. But yeah, it was weird.
Rick Kerby: It's a learning experience, right?
Robyn Bell: It is.
Rick Kerby: We all grow.
Robyn Bell: And you guys have continued that there's been the outdoor movies in the parking lot and some other outreach. And what I've noticed is even as you continue to put on shows, there's been options. You can come sit, you can enjoy it on the live stream. You can enjoy it from your car. It was just great.
Rick Kerby: Yeah. We tried to make everybody as comfortable as we could, you know, so if you weren't and we had a very limited audience inside the building but if you weren't comfortable coming back yet, you had two other options. You could just stay at home and we'll send you a link to watch the show. come to the movie theater experience
Robyn Bell: On a scale from 1 to 10. How would you rate the success of what you were able to do with these productions over the pandemic?
Rick Kerby: We got better at it as we went, we kind of started off as a two or three. So by the time we got to, I Do, I Do, which is still some of those same parameters. I think we got to a seven, eight, nine, you know, so I was happy at the end.
Robyn Bell: Yes. And we figured it out. As we were, every time we had another rehearsal, every time we had another performance, it became more normal and we were figuring it out. And towards the end, it was just like an old hat. We've been doing this now for years.
Rick Kerby: Can we go back to the old way now? We've forgotten how.
Robyn Bell: We certainly hope so. Let me tell you, I was telling somebody the other day, because running rehearsals. We did all of our rehearsing on the Neel stage because we couldn't fit everybody in the rehearsal room. And of course I have to wear a mask but they can't hear you if I conducting, you know, and I stopped giving instructions. And so. I had to get this special mask. I have a very small face and my masks fall down. But I had a clip on microphone and we had speakers and you're rehearsing. You're moving a lot is hot as all get out. Yeah. With a mask on. And
Rick Kerby: If you have glasses involved, forget it.
Robyn Bell: Oh yeah. They all fog up and stuff. So I am really looking forward to running a rehearsal without a mask on,
Rick Kerby: Right. Me too. Me too. We're almost there. We're there.
Robyn Bell: I think so. I think so. Well, I was very excited to see your 2021-2022 season announcement come over my email yesterday. It looks like you have some amazing shows playing for us, starting out with Mama Mia in October. Tell us about that.
Rick Kerby: Well, it's a show that has been requested so much from us. And we've tried every year for probably the past seven, eight years of how long has been around. And we've always been denied, so,
Robyn Bell: Oh, that's where you have to ask. Yeah.
Rick Kerby: Yeah, we have to apply for the rights. And if somebody is within a 60 mile radius, who's going to be touring or a professional theaters doing it. We're blocked out. So finally they said yes. So we're excited, was excited and cool. Yeah. A lot of those ABBA tunes will get us moving and have a good time. We need a party right now.
Robyn Bell: Yes, we do. So that's an October Mamma Mia, really looking forward to that. And then what do you have next?
Rick Kerby: For our holiday show. We're going to be doing Cinderella Rogers and Hammerstein classic.
Robyn Bell: Very nice.
Rick Kerby: And we're doing the updated recent Broadway revival version of that show, which changed a little bit, and the orchestration is a little bit different. So it's got a fresh new face and I like it.
Robyn Bell: He's very fun. Very good. And then. One of my favorite people of all time.
Rick Kerby: Yeah. Chaplin
Robyn Bell: Charlie Chaplin.
Rick Kerby: Yeah. A biography musical about his life and kind of a little Valentine to the silver screen. And nobody's done this show. We always looked for things that are going to be new for audiences and new for our actors. Wants them to be excited.
Robyn Bell: Yeah. I mean, you got to have the perfect person cast there.
Rick Kerby: Yeah, fingers crossed, please. If you're listening, come to auditions.
Robyn Bell: I was thinking about auditioning for Charlie Chaplin. No, it probably wouldn't work.
Rick Kerby: I'm all for it. Let's try it.
Robyn Bell: Nobody would put a mustache on me. Okay. What do we have after Chaplin,
Rick Kerby: Another biography musical, but it's done in a completely different way. It's Will Rogers Follies and a show that I've performed in and directed before. So I'm really excited to bring that to our audiences.
Robyn Bell: Good. Now, so far, is that the only one you've done before? Have you done , some of the others?
Rick Kerby: No, that would be the first one that I've actually repeated at this point.
Robyn Bell: That's kinda cool. You know, I feel like, as a conductor, when I'm putting together a program, There's pieces that I have conducted before, or maybe played as a trumpet player. And you know, those, you feel like you have ownership of those,
Rick Kerby: Right.
Robyn Bell: And to sandwich those in-between brand new stuff. That's new to me that I'm going to be learning.
Rick Kerby: Well, to me, it's a second chance, you know, I look back at what I did. What were the successes? What really worked and what can I improve on this time?
Robyn Bell: So, yeah. Do you use the same? Like, do you have a script? Do you have all these notes and you keep a script library and do, or do you go back like, like fresh ideas and a new clean slate?
Rick Kerby: I keep everything. Yeah. So I go back and I dig out that first and it's kind of fun to look at. I'll even keep the set designs with the prompt list or, you know, so it gives me a little headstart. I feel like it's still that, looking back and see what I did. Right. And what it could improve on,
Robyn Bell: Whereas from the others, you've got to start from scratch.
Rick Kerby: Yeah.
Robyn Bell: It's a lot of work.
Rick Kerby: It is a lot of work. People don't realize that it takes a lot of planning and a lot of time
Robyn Bell: It does. Yeah. And then I see you're ending with one of the shows that we've already talked about. So you're kept this you're going to bring it back. I'm so excited.
Rick Kerby: I love Titanic. Love that the score is just so lush and beautiful. Yeah. And we're going to be doing it with live string instruments. So that's going to be fun and different and inviting the people that were a part of it originally back. I know a lot of them, you know, lives, change and schedules change, and some of them can't come back. So we will be auditioning and filling those people in
Robyn Bell: I heard Leonardo DiCaprio's coming. No, the king of the world. Now, one of the things that I love about your press release so that I got. Is that it doesn't just have the show dates. When I know I can buy the tickets, but it has the audition dates. And you know, that always peaks back in mind that you have to do auditions and pick people for all these shows. And it's. Kind of one thing at a time, right? Two very important dates there for you to, balance. So say someone wants to audition for one of your shows. What do they have to prepare to come and say, Hey, I want to be in Titanic or I want to be in Chaplin. What are you looking for?
Rick Kerby: The one thing that we ask them to come prepared with is a song. We want a song that's going to show you off. Do you have to learn something from the musical that you're auditioning? No, I'd rather you not cram a song that you don't know into your brain the day before, do something that you're comfortable with. That really is a showcase for you. After that we'll talk to you a little bit. I'll get to see your personality and how I feel like maybe you could fit in and then I'll give you a side and you'll go to your corner and work on that for a bit. And I'll bring you back into read. And then we do a dance call depending on the show. So a lot of callbacks,
Robyn Bell: Do you ever have any injuries.
Rick Kerby: Now that I think about it. I think we have carried one or two out.
Robyn Bell: Okay. Cause we might have some listeners that maybe they were in high school musical, maybe in college and they haven't done much. And they would like to be a part of something
Rick Kerby: we're always looking for fresh faces and new energy and new talent to come in.
Robyn Bell: Do you have some of your go-tos though, that kind of a core group that audition, and you sort of know, or you can reach out to say, Hey, I really need Charlie Chaplin. You'd be great.
Rick Kerby: We don't precast. So I want everybody to have the same shot when they walk in the door. So I, sometimes I will say. You know this, a great show for you. If you please come out and audition, it'd be great. But I will never say you have this position because you don't know who's going to walk in the door. And so I want everybody to feel like we're being fair.
Robyn Bell: I bet it's really cool to have those moments that you have open auditions and someone comes in that you've never heard before and you go, where have you been all my life?
Rick Kerby: I can tell you how many times that happens.
Robyn Bell: Yeah. That's probably, I would think one of the best things about the job.
Rick Kerby: Yeah. It's wonderful.
Robyn Bell: Very, very, very neat. Matter of fact, I'm like, okay, which one of these shows am I going to have time to be? And I think I really would want to be in Titanic, but now you don't do live orchestras for all of the shows. It gets very expensive.
Rick Kerby: We usually do. We try to, not every show, but. That's our usual go-to is to do a small pit band that usually between five, six, maybe eight we've gone up to live. That's what I love to do.
Robyn Bell: Sure.
Rick Kerby: However, sometimes, especially with the COVID we're saying it's, our budgets are down and unfortunately that's one place we can kind of.
Robyn Bell: Yeah, because the pit orchestra is not volunteer.
Rick Kerby: No, we pay per performance, we pay our orchestra.
Robyn Bell: Yeah.
Rick Kerby: So unfortunately, cause I love those people and I wish I could have them back. But. Right now, it just doesn't want to work for us.
Robyn Bell: And it's really time consuming to ask someone to volunteer for that. And the charter so hard for musicals. You really need pro people on all those parts.
Rick Kerby: Yeah. And they often will, play three, four instruments. So it's not like. That's right. Anyone off the street to do that
Robyn Bell: Nowadays with all the technology, we can cover a lot of stuff, with synthesizer. So that's helpful. And in some cases you really think you're listening to an oboe or a trumpet. It's truly amazing. Here at the college, we were really fortunate to have a guest speaker this year who was the concert master for Hamilton in the pit orchestra. Yeah, she was great. And her husband plays trombone. And he's played in Beetlejuice and King Kong and a lot of the shows and to hear how they describe how they do a pit orchestra, in some cases where the drummer will be three blocks away, you know? And it's just like,
Rick Kerby: How do you do that?
Robyn Bell: They have click tracks and videos. Well, and they call them conductor cams. But it's just like you really with the right amount of money. And technology, right? You could have all the musicians just at their house and eat dinner and go play a show. It wouldn't do good. Now when you have space there for how many people, I guess is my question, can you fit in your pit?
Rick Kerby: We have an enormous pit. I could put 40 musicians down there easily. I'll never afford 40 musicians. Our theater was designed with a pit that kind of expands beyond the stage and it goes underneath the stage and we even have a trap room so that we can do some mechanical things from below as well.
Robyn Bell: Yeah. Well, I think there's something else that we could talk about some sort of collaboration with the State College of Florida in the Manatee Players, because we do a musical only in the fall semester, but we do a pit orchestra and there's kids that love it and they just want to do that. You know, they love playing musical. So I'm wondering if down the road, I mean, they're good. Yeah, I think they're good. There couldn't be some sort of joint effort there where they could fulfill that desire to play in pit orchestras. And you could fulfill your need to have a bigger live group, you know?
Rick Kerby: Yeah.
Robyn Bell: Seriously. That would be awesome. Okay. Rick Kerby, we have reached our Rapid Fire section.
Rick Kerby: I'm scared.
Robyn Bell: Don't, don't be scared. Nobody's died yet. And you're number 59. So it was pretty good. That's pretty good. Okay. Are you ready?
Rick Kerby: I'm ready.
Robyn Bell: I think based on something you said earlier, cause craft, these questions beforehand, but based on something you said earlier, I think I know the answer to this West Side Story or Hamilton.
Rick Kerby: West Side.
Robyn Bell: I have found this to be a generational answer because everybody my age and your age says West Side Story.
Rick Kerby: I love the both though.
Robyn Bell: I know. And everybody in the younger, you know, thirties and twenties, they say, Oh, Hamilton, like, you must not know West Side Story enough, but yeah, they're both great.
Rick Kerby: Yeah.
Robyn Bell: I saw the live production of Hamilton in Chicago. I never made it to New York because I'm a community college professor and it was tickets were $8,000. Okay. To perform or to direct
Rick Kerby: Direct.
Robyn Bell: Yeah, less, maybe less for me. Like, I don't like to play my trumpet. I just like to conduct us like it doesn't hurt my face.
Rick Kerby: I think what kind of reflecting, what I said before it's performing was almost rehearsal for it getting to direct access. And it gives me a perspective from so many different ways. I'm glad I was a performer because I have that empathy now and kind of kinda relate to that.
Robyn Bell: Yeah. Yeah. That's great. I think you, and I would agree with that. A day at the beach or a day by the pool
Rick Kerby: Beach.
Robyn Bell: Nice, good, good. Best Broadway show you have ever seen.
Rick Kerby: Wow. I think it has to be Hamilton.
Robyn Bell: Yeah. Yeah. The most moving experience. Oh yes. Like I didn't want it to stop. Like even the songs I never wanted them to end
Rick Kerby: And it's simple, you know, there's no like. Fireworks and, you know, spinning set pieces. It's storytelling, you know, it's really what it's about.
Robyn Bell: Yeah. A hundred percent. That's a great answer. Intermission or no intermission
Rick Kerby: Intermission. Gotta sell some drinks. Come on. Yes.
Robyn Bell: This is a financial answer. A lot of people in my repertoire, close friends, they're like, can you please cut out the intermission? And why are they go, Oh, we just want the show to go on. And we want to get out a little earlier and so I've been thinking now with the pandemic because they're like, Oh no intermission. So that nobody goes, you don't do it. I'll go to the bathroom at the same time. But then if you have an hour and a half an hour and 45 minutes show, can people really sit there comfortably that long. Do they need to get up and stretch their legs?
Rick Kerby: Well, we've had this conversation because we did away with all of our intermissions. But when you look at the old school musicals act one was an hour and a half hour, 45 minutes. So it doesn't, I think our attention spans are kind of like not we've lost that skill, I think is just sit and really be attentive for that long.
Robyn Bell: We can sit through a 4 hour football game. No problem. What's right. What's wrong with us?
Rick Kerby: Right.
Robyn Bell: If only we could get up and scream and cheer and order a beer from our seats, like, yeah, we may be onto something. I had this idea at the college to do tweet seats where you've paid maybe a little extra money and you sit in a specific seat and you were allowed to be on your phone, tweeting about the show the whole time.
Rick Kerby: I've seen that before, actually.
Robyn Bell: So it's not, not a new idea. Oh my God, you ruined it for me. Okay. Here's three choices, Rogers and Hammerstein, Lerner and Loewe, or George and IRA Gershwin.
Rick Kerby: I'm going with Gershwin.
Robyn Bell: Weren't they just the best.
Rick Kerby: I mean, just those melodies. They're just, so
Robyn Bell: it was so sad. I know. Imagine if he had lived a full life, God. Hmm. , I agree. Rodgers and Hammerstein is kind of for me, the start of, the Golden Age of Broadway, right. But George Gershwin with his music and Ira with those lyrics, it was just special.
Rick Kerby: I agree.
Robyn Bell: Really good stuff. What is your favorite thing about putting a musical together? Start to finish.
Rick Kerby: I like the creative side. So I like putting the sets, knowing how, you know, to be like the eye ball over everything. I just love that.
Robyn Bell: Okay. Okay. So that's a big umbrella thing. If I asked you to go minuscule, like what is like your favorite? Oh my God. I loved shopping for props or I, I, I love hammering this. What, what do you like? You just can't wait to get up in the morning and do that for that particular show.
Rick Kerby: I love being in the studio by myself, choreographing. So doing my homework.
Robyn Bell: Yeah.
Rick Kerby: Just there's something about nobody else's there. There's no right, no wrong. I put on the music and just like, let the music, tell me what's
Robyn Bell: Let it go. Do you do all the choreography yourself?
Rick Kerby: I do.
Robyn Bell: Wow.
Rick Kerby: Well, for the shows I'm directing, I also choreographed. We hire outside directors and choreographers.
Robyn Bell: Okay. I see. Okay. Opposite question. What's the most dreaded aspect of a production, like, Oh, I hate having to do this.
Rick Kerby: I hate calling people and telling them they didn't get cast. That's such a horrible thing. It's horrible.
Robyn Bell: Yes. I know that feeling.
Rick Kerby: And there's nothing you can say. That's going to make it better. You can say it's just not this show. It's just, you know, you try to get them involved to come back and try because every show has its own needs,
Robyn Bell: Yes. You have to do it in a way. You have to let them down in a way that they are still inspired to come try again.
Rick Kerby: Right.
Robyn Bell: Yeah. And, you know, we had a situation here where we had a student in our symphonic band that was in Damn Yankees and we had a concert scheduled on opening night. Yes. And it was, I was thinking through this process when I was having discussions with all your staff members about is the student who's getting a grade and credit and chari flute going to be at the concert or a Damn Yankees. And. Well, where my heart went was that we've got five other flute players. I mean, I needed him for certain, but I started thinking globally about how difficult it must be when you put on a run of a show and it's every night and you had these auditions and you said, look, you're in the show. You have to be at every rehearsal. You have to be at every performance. It must be to me really hard when somebody gets sick or is in a car wreck or they have a death in the family and you're like,
Rick Kerby: and we don't have understudies. We don't have that luxury. So if somebody's out, you're scrambling or sometimes we have to say, show is canceled. We just can't do it.
Robyn Bell: Wow. Yeah.
Rick Kerby: So thank you for letting us borrow him.
Robyn Bell: You know, it worked out pretty good. It was what was the funniest thing about that? Our flute teacher said, you know, I'll come in and play the concert, which was great in our college president who comes to all of our productions. She's so supportive. Carol Probstfeld was in the audience. And the next night she was singing the National Anthem for Damn Yankees and so when I, recognized our faculty member that was playing Dr. Jane Hoffman. And I said, the reason that she's playing is because our first chair flute player is a Damn Yankees. And so Dr. I'm doing that tomorrow night, you know, it was a neat aha moment for everyone that our students or multitalented. And we have a community that supports all of the arts and, and it turned out really well. So I hope Raejon and he's a great dancer.
Rick Kerby: He's very talented,
Robyn Bell: Very, very talented. Okay. Here's your last question is a doozy. Take your time. Best pizza in Bradenton.
Rick Kerby: Well, I like Primo. Is that Bradenton or
Robyn Bell: no? Primo? Yeah. That's Bradenton a
Rick Kerby: I love the brick oven.
Robyn Bell: Yes. That's on 41
Rick Kerby: Bari Bari pizza from Primo.
Robyn Bell: Okay. I'm good. So go in there. As soon as we're done, I'm heading straight there cause I'm starving. Well, congratulations, Rick Kerby. That's ourin studio audience, you are now officially part of the club. So tell our listeners where they can go to learn more about the Manatee Players, Manatee Performing Arts Center and the Florida Cultural Group. Maybe they want to buy tickets, inquire about auditioning for shows, where do they go?
Rick Kerby: Certainly our website. That's where all that information is going to be located. And it's manateeperformingartscenter.com.
Robyn Bell: Awesome. And we are going to put a link to that in our show notes. So anyone listening through our website can just click that's my, that's my sound effect for a click right there, and they'll go straight to your website and they can check out the shows. They can find out how to audition. They can buy tickets. I know you're, you're offering a 10% offer season tickets right now.
Rick Kerby: That's right. And also I would just want to quickly mention that we're kicking it off with Pippin. We're not making that a part of the package for our season, but Pippin opens in August and I love that show. We're adding circus elements. And so it's gonna be really exciting.
Robyn Bell: Now when people buy season tickets for the Manatee Performing Arts Center, they choose, they get the same seat, like for all the shows.
Rick Kerby: Yeah. If you are a seasoned subscriber, you are guaranteed your seat and you get to pick that out from the very beginning. And there's no exchange fees for that for your tickets. If you have to change your date and you also get 10% off, any other Manatee performing Arts Center produced production. So that's, Pippin. That's any of the concerts we do any of the lectures that we do. So everything else
Robyn Bell: Great. And you guys do so much there. I mean that. Place is popping and hopping.
Rick Kerby: Yeah. I hate seeing an empty theater.
Robyn Bell: No, well, it's been empty for about a year, but all of them car and we're ready to get back. So Rick Kerby, I can't believe I have lived in Manatee County for 12 years. And this is really the first time you, and I've had a chance to sit down and visit how crazy is that. It is not how wonderful it's been to get to know you better and learn about this amazing significant theater company here. It means so much to Manatee County community. I just want to thank you for sharing your passion and continuing the great work over there. I can't wait to see the upcoming shows a season.
Rick Kerby: Well, thank you. It's been wonderful.