Murray Chase has led Venice Theatre to national stardom.

In the 20 years since Murray Chase came to Venice from Corinth, Miss., as executive/artistic director of then-Venice Little Theatre, he has boosted the community theater’s budget from $450,000 to $2.7 million; expanded ticket buyers to nearly 60,000; renovated both its main and Stage II theaters;

introduced edgier plays; strengthened an education program that now reaches 10,000 students annually; catapulted the volunteer base to 1,500; and hosted an international community theater festival not once, but twice. The quadrennial AACT World Fest will return to Venice in 2018. Yet Chase, married for 30 years to actress Lori Chase, says at heart he’s still “a Southern boy who just enjoys life.”  —Ilene Denton


ON COMMUNITY THEATER:

“If you’re directing a doctor, a flower child and a schoolteacher, aren’t the conversations a whole lot more interesting?”

A REALLY BIG SHOW

“Venice Theatre is the second-largest community theater in the country by measures like budget, number of people reached and number of volunteers. The largest is the Omaha Community Playhouse.”

A FAMILY AFFAIR

“We’re offering enough stuff that families want to see together—it becomes a shared experience. You can attend our theater as a child for a very small amount of money, or we’ll bring it to you.”

OUR TROUPE IN A TRUCK

“Goes to every South County elementary school with shows based on behavioral messages, like anti-bullying. There’s lots of audience participation. We [also] have partnerships with Boys & Girls Clubs and the Loveland Center. Plus between 600 and 800 students attend classes here.”

COMMUNITY THEATER IS GRASSROOTS

“It’s where theater begins in our country. It’s where everybody has access to the arts and so many top-end professionals got their exposure and training.”

I READ VORACIOUSLY

“Mostly American history. I read scripts here at the office [and] Shakespeare for pleasure. And I love to watch the History Channel, Pawn Stars, believe it or not.”

I’M A HUGE BASEBALL NUT

“I root for the Rays. We love to go to Disney just to be kids; we have annual passes. And we love roadside America; we stay off the interstates and seek out things like the world’s largest purple spoon, near Glacier National Park in Montana.”

I WON AN ARTS LEADERSHIP AWARD

“In October from the Arts and Cultural Alliance of Sarasota County. It was a hell of a surprise.” |||

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