50th Anniversary: 4th Decade

2004 - Summer Spectacular Camp

"One of the things that has always impressed me about The Hippodrome is the attention to detail in terms of costumes, sets, lighting, props, and sound, as well as the excellent education department run by Gabrielle Byam. Gabby is a kid whisperer in my mind. She has inspired so many young artists who will remember what they learned in The Hippodrome’s theater camps for years to come."

Catherine Fries Vaughn, Actress

2004 - Summer Spectacular Camp

"I remain humbled by the goodwill, creativity, and perseverance of the youth who participated in and contributed to these programs, from the 5 year-olds to the teens."

Marcia Brown, Education Director

“My first experience with the Hippodrome education department was in the mid-90s during the revival of its Theatre for Young Audiences state-wide touring program. Soon after, I had the pleasure of joining the HITT program as part of a four-person core team and participated in several of HITT’s FAVACA outreach trainings along the way. When the department added a 5-6-year-old camp to its Summer Spectacular roster, I eventually headed that. I remain humbled by the goodwill, creativity, and perseverance of the youth who participated in and contributed to these programs, from the 5 year-olds to the teens. And I am forever grateful for the education department heads who guided us, the production team, building management, admin pros, college interns, high school aides, DJJ staff, and classroom teachers who worked alongside us to bring our young participants’ plays to life.”

2002 and 2003 - The Santaland Diaries

"The Santaland Diaries was a solo show that was produced two years in a row. It had a very small crew, including Bob Robins who was stage managing and running lights and sound. I would arrive in the dressing room and my fresh laundry was already there and set up. There was a house phone and I would call Bob to let him know I was there. He’d announce the time on speaker. I'd go do the show, leave my laundry in my basket, close the dressing room, turn off the lights, and leave. I never saw anyone else. Talk about solo."

Mark Chambers, Actor

2002 and 2003 - The Santaland Diaries

"During the run, Bob called and said there was a group sale, and there were challenged young adults in the audience, some in protective gear. I broke out in a fever blister as there was a passage that referenced them, plus it was staged to be directed right to that crowd. I got to the line that could be offensive, and they laughed and cheered and said we are included. wheh."

Mark Chambers, Actor

A Tuna Christmas

"I did this show 8 or 9 times - mostly with the amazing Mark Chambers and once with Billy Sharp. Wow. This show is. So. Hard. I was the first woman in the country the writers allowed to play the role. This is a BEAST of a show to put up. The biggest part of the show was backstage. The costume changes happened in seconds - we had 3 dressers each. Seriously. Each show was like working out at the gym."

Lauren Caldwell, Actress

A Tuna Christmas

"The trick was to let the comedy play without being a cartoon. And we did that. We got the writers to approve cuts to the script that streamlined the show and the writers actually came to see us."

Lauren Caldwell, Actress

A Tuna Christmas

"When I directed it later, it was surprising how easy it was to let go of the choices I had made and let the wonderful Cameron Francis and Brendan Powers make new choices. What a show!"

Lauren Caldwell, Director

A Tuna Christmas

"Working as a dresser with Sara Morsey on A Tuna Christmas for three years, dressing the incomparable Mark Chambers and Lauren Caldwell! So much focus and fun!! I still think of quotes from that show often."

Sandra Dietel, Backstage

2005 - Our Town

"I had poo-pooed this show. I thought it was overdone and something high schools did, that it had nothing new to say. But we put it in the 2005 season. I was in my 40s at the time, and as I prepared to direct, I was shocked. I was so blown away by the depth of the story, the grasping of the moment of now, and how touching and incredible this simple story is. I realized the story isn’t simple. I had finally matured enough, lived life enough, to see the beauty. If I had directed this show earlier in my life, it would never have been the show it was. And what a show it was. "

Lauren Caldwell, Director

2006 - Alice in Wonderland

"This was a devised piece that the actors and I created together. We went into a dark tunnel, explored dark creativity, and we couldn’t see how we would get back to the light. But we were brave and followed our creativity. This process certainly took us out of our comfort zone and the result was very controversial. This is one of my favorites because it was such an original experience. I treasure the memory."

Lauren Caldwell, Director

2006 - The Great American Trailer Park Musical

"I was in NYC with Lorelei and we happened to walk by New World Stages and saw Trailer Park was playing - we saw it and my god, this would be fabulous for Gainesville. The show, the cast, and the community just clicked. I will always remember Kelly Atkins doing the pole dance. In NYC, that was hidden in the background, but we moved it right up center and she stole the show! The Mayor of Starke (where the musical is set) was livid - he thought we were poking fun at Starke. Jessica Hurov managed to get him to come to the show and he loved it - and became our biggest fan!"

Lauren Caldwell, Director

2006 - The Great American Trailer Park Musical

"My favorite job at The Hippodrome was their highest selling production, The Great American Trailer Park Musical, directed by Lauren Caldwell, in both 2006, and 2009. 22,000 people came to see this production the first time we did it, and almost that many the second time. What has stayed in my mind is the sound of uproarious laughter coming from the audience every night, and the opportunity to work twice with such talented actors as Mark Chambers, and Kelly Atkins Morgan. The music was brought to life in such a wonderful way by musical director, Bryan Mercer. Because the theater is smaller, it felt like the audience was truly part of the story. The theater was so packed full of people that it felt like they were literally in my trailer with me. People came back to see us two and three times! It was a highlight of my career."

Catherine Fries Vaughn, Actress

2006 - The Great American Trailer Park Musical

"The summer sensation that was The Great American Trailer Park Musical was very cautious to open as it was set in Starke, Florida - a close town. Most concerning, there was a stripper in the story among the residents. We all were overwhelmed at the terrific reception that it garnered. Especially moving to me was having the honor to sing a rare trio song, "It's Never Easy/ He’s Mine" with the 2 leading ladies Catherine Fries Vaughn and Kelly Atkins Morgan. That song, among many, was a standout moment of a man with his wife and his girlfriend, and the audience was pulled into the complexity of the story. We revived the show and it too was a great success."

Mark Chambers, Actor

2009 - Eurydice

"I was honored to be in the room with this material. Sarah Ruhl is an amazing playwright, but she leaves so much unsaid on purpose. We had to explore the roles of the rocks - who were they? What was their purpose? We had to have the courage to make our own choices and make the show completely our own. Carlos Asse designed that set - god I loved it."

Lauren Caldwell, Director

2012 - Sirens

"Written by Debra Zoe Laufner - great lady. She came to see our production and loved what we did with it and how we made it work. I love the collaboration between playwright and director when it can happen. We worked so closely together on this show, she gave me so much to think about - working together to make moments in the script work. We also did her End Days in 2011 - that is a one of a kind script - READ it if you don’t know it. And we did Leveling Up in 2014. That was a challenging show for us and again, Debra came to see it. This time, she liked our choices, but wanted it to be wilder / have more youthful energy in the end. Our characters were tipped into adulthood, but she thought it worked better if they were on the child side of the equation."

Lauren Caldwell, Director

2012 - Sirens

"I was an audience member first! As a BFA student in Theatre Performance at UF, I went to see almost everything playing at The Hipp as a professional development resource. I auditioned multiple times while in school, but wasn't cast in anything. After I graduated and had been living in NYC a while, I sent in a video audition for Sirens, and this was 2011 - pre-pandemic - so video submissions were fairly uncommon and the assumption was that it wouldn't be enough to get cast. I guess Warhol (Lauren Caldwell) saw something in me that spoke to her and embodied the character in a way she connected with, and I was thrilled to say yes!"

Lauren Norvig, Actress

2012 - A Midsummer Night’s Dream

"I think we really found our voice with this production. We found a fun, very original way to express this wonderful magical world of forest and fairies. This was probably the most successful Shakespeare I did."

Lauren Caldwell, Director

2012 - A Midsummer Night’s Dream

"In the production of A Midsummer’s Night Dream I did in 2012, I was playing “Demetrius” along with one of my great friends and company members, Filipe Valle Costa, who was playing “Lysander”. In one of the scenes we had together where we were yelling at each other, Filipe was doing this childish pointing action telling me to leave. Well, in one performance, he did it in such a way that he hooked the colorful sunglasses he was wearing by accident when he pointed that it shot the glasses all the way across the stage. He and I almost broke out laughing because it wasn’t supposed to happen. We froze in that moment, which felt like forever, but I’m sure it was merely seconds. I could see his lip quivering trying not to laugh, which only made me try to squeeze my lips tighter so I wouldn’t laugh. Luckily, we moved on thanks to the audience laughing because they thought it was part of the show. We laughed our asses off about it backstage."

Ryan George, Actor

2012 - Other Desert Cities

"To be a local company member is to be part of a scrappy, energetic group of artists who truly love this theatre. I am proud to be an acting company member."

Michelle Bellaver, Actress

The Hippodrome Theatre is a revered institution. When I arrived in Gainesville in 2011, I remember the first time I walked into the mainstage to see a show. I was visiting in spring of that year to decide if the graduate program in acting at UF was the right fit for me and wanted to see a show at the local, professional AEA theatre. The theatre was intimate and magical. I was told that were opportunities for UF actors to work at this professional theatre. I never thought that would happen for me. But it did – four times before I graduated, and it changed my life forever by making me an AEA member during my last contract before graduating.

At the beginning of my second year as a grad student, I was cast to play Brooke in Other Desert Cities with a small, but mighty cast of seasoned professional actors, many of whom are now in the acting company at The Hipp. Most of these actors, and the director, were local and it was what impressed me most about The Hipp. It still supports the local theatre artists who make Gainesville home. I left grad school and moved to NYC, but the shows I did at The Hipp were some of the best productions I have ever been in. I moved back to Gainesville in 2020 and am happy to call The GNV and The Hipp home. To be a local company member is to be part of a scrappy, energetic group of artists who truly love this theatre. I am proud to be an acting company member.

2013 - Venus in Fur

"There were several headshots from Florida actors used as a prop in this show. One of these headshots somehow ended up in the tech booth. Josh Allen (the lighting intern and board operator at the time) and I started passing the headshot off to each other. Then it became an elaborate prank. I would find it in my mailbox, he would find it on his windshield, and so on. We named her Stacy after the popular Ting Ting song at the time "That's not my name." Josh made the move to New York in the spring, so I mailed the headshot to him feeling we had found closure in our game that lasted for months. On opening night of Avenue Q that summer, someone told me that there was an opening night gift in the booth for me. At the Stage Manager desk, I found a gorgeous cake, with the headshot printed into the icing. Needless to say I screamed and cried and decided there was no topping his final move."

Nichole Hamilton, Stage Manager

2013 - Venus in Fur

"I was a complete mess in my dressing room and felt tons of pressure, and in the seconds before going onstage, my mind was totally & absolutely blank and I thought "Oh no...this public failure will haunt me the rest of my life." Then, and I'll never forget it, I burst through the door for my entrance & made eye contact with Tim (my scene partner and also my old college professor [scandalous, given the material]), already on stage, and he gave me the most mischievous look that I've ever seen in my life. His eyes twinkled with knowing merriment & in that moment I thought "OHHHHH is THAT how it's gonna be? This is a play and we're gonna PLAY...ok, game on, Altmeyer!"

Lauren Norvig, Actress

We were already in the extension of our run when I got wind that EVERYONE I cared about or whose opinions mattered to me were going to converge in the audience on ONE night – I’m talking parents, fiancé, soon-to-be-in-laws I was meeting for the first time, college professors, friends, & even an ex-boyfriend – to watch a show about BDSM where I am wearing thigh-high heels & a dog-collar, mind you! Even though we had already been doing the show to rave reviews for weeks, I got so nervous because THIS was the one where it had to be perfect. 

I was a complete mess in my dressing room and felt tons of pressure, and in the seconds before going onstage, my mind was totally & absolutely blank and I thought “Oh no…this public failure will haunt me the rest of my life.” Then, and I’ll never forget it, I burst through the door for my entrance & made eye contact with Tim (my scene partner and also my old college professor [scandalous, given the material]), already on stage, and he gave me the most mischievous look that I’ve ever seen in my life. His eyes twinkled with knowing merriment & in that moment I thought “OHHHHH is THAT how it’s gonna be? This is a play and we’re gonna PLAY…ok, game on, Altmeyer!” 

This wordless exchange happened instantaneously but I knew that he had my back and I had his, and my anxiety melted away and was replaced with such a sense of flexibility and POWER & it turned out to be hands-down the best performance of the show we’d do. That gift of Partnership & Play is still one of the highlights of my life and I was/am so grateful.

"The Hippodrome Theatre is a special artistic home for me. This is where I learned how to be a professional actor. I am deeply thankful for all the valuable lessons I've taken with me from my time onstage at the Hippodrome. End Days, Carrie, A Christmas Carol, Dracula, Over the Tavern, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Sirens. These are all experiences I will never forget for the memories and the life long friends they gave me. I'm proud of the Hippodrome as an artistic home that continues to hold and support so many other artists today."

Filipe Valle Costa, Actor

Pictures by Micheal A. Eaddy