New artistic director takes stage at Garden Theatre

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  • | 7:01 a.m. June 25, 2015
New artistic director takes stage at Garden Theatre
New artistic director takes stage at Garden Theatre
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WINTER GARDEN — The Garden Theatre has added a consulting artistic director to its staff, but he is no stranger to the venue’s history and unique programming.

Rob Winn Anderson’s original plays have been performed at the theater, and he has directed a number of shows there through the years. Last season, he directed and choreographed “Hairspray,” and in the coming season, he will direct “La Cage aux Folles.”

“I’ve worked with the Garden Theatre for so long now, and we have such a strong relationship,” he said. “I admire the people who work here a great deal. They are visionaries. When they say something will happen, it actually happens. People come forward with thoughts and dreams, and they actually make them a reality.”

Right after college, Anderson came to the Orlando area with his wife to perform at Walt Disney World. Four years later, the couple left to perform all over the world, including Japan, but ended up back in Orlando in the late 1990s.

“The opportunities were just better here, because we had spent so much time right out of college establishing some really terrific relationships,” Anderson said. “It was great to come back to those relationships.”

After 18 years as a performer, Anderson moved to the other side of the stage and started to direct and write plays.

Anderson was on board with the Garden Theatre since it was restored and reopened in 2008. He wrote and directed its opening show, which was a tribute to the theater’s longtime standing in the Winter Garden community.

“I got to interview people from the town who were around when the theater was built,” Anderson said. “We built the show kind of around the history of the Garden Theatre.”

The theater has commissioned two of Anderson’s original plays — “Alice Lost in Wonderland” and “Christmas by Committee.” He directs at least one or two shows each season.

When Anderson asked Garden Theatre Executive Director Alauna Friskics whether he would be able to deepen his involvement at the theater, she said she already had been thinking about having him join the staff as a consulting artistic director. It is not a permanent position, but he is on contract for at least the next year, after which the staff will evaluate how to move forward.

“Bringing Rob on in this capacity is a logical choice, given his broad creative experience and his wonderful connection to this theater and to its staff,” Friskics said. “We are very excited to see where this collaboration takes us, in terms of artistic choices, innovation and quality of our programming and shows.”

Anderson said some of his goals as consulting artistic director are to continue to do challenging pieces and shows that audiences might not always expect to work in such an intimate venue. He also wants to use digital technology to allow for bigger shows and more creativity. And, there could be extended use of the space in the future.

“The five shows (each season) are great, but it’s always terrific to be able to do more, because there’s just so much out there to do,” Anderson said. “I would love — and I know the staff feels this way, too — for this to become an important regional theater in the Southeast, that is known nationwide and that is known consistently for quality in its work. And I fully believe that all of that can be accomplished.”

Contact Catherine Sinclair at [email protected].


Rob Winn Anderson has written eight full-length plays and many 10-minute plays he mostly uses as practice for writing and to keep his creative juices flowing.

Inspiration can strike for Anderson at any time. Some of his ideas have come from radio talk shows, newspaper articles and books, as well as the life stories of real people he has met.

It usually takes him three to five weeks to produce a first draft after he feels ready.

“I will think for a very long time,” he said. “I don’t sit down to write until I’ve sort of thought through the whole thing in my head, and that could take months. And then when I finally sit, I usually spit it out very quickly.”

His plays have been awarded by the SART ScriptFEST, Southern Playwrights Competition, Christopher Brian Wolk Award for Playwriting and Stanley Drama Award.

Synopses of and photos from Anderson’s original plays and more information about his work are found at