ANNA MARIA – Operating for 75 years, the Island Players is the oldest community theater group in Manatee County, but the history of their home dates back another 75 years.
How the theater got to its current location on the corner of Gulf Drive and Pine Avenue is one of the fascinating subjects featured in a new documentary film about the Players.
Tens of thousands of people have attended plays at the historic theater that is as much a part of Anna Maria Island as the sand and palm trees. But most who walk through the doors have no idea that if somebody had not decided to saw a mid-19th century home in half and float it down the Manatee River, the theater simply wouldn’t exist. The story had to be told and a local filmmaker decided to tell it with his documentary, “The Anna Maria Island Players,” which was accepted and featured at the 2023 Sarasota Film Festival.
“When I pitched this to the studio, I asked if anybody had heard of this little wooden theater that got cut in half and floated down the river,” Director Lucas Piety said. “They didn’t know what I was talking about, but that’s how it all started.”
Piety said without the resources of the Manatee County Clerk of Court and the Anna Maria Island Historical Society, this project would have been impossible.
“The Anna Maria Island Historical Society has a museum right down the street,” Piety said. “If you’re interested in learning more about the history of the Island, I strongly encourage you to go visit it and learn more about the Island. I learned that a lot of money that went into the early years of this Island came from the creator of Fig Newtons; I had no idea.”
Piety said that he feels that Florida history doesn’t get the same attention as other states to the north and he wants to change that. He said it’s important that the history of Florida is shared with the world and, although this film may be a small contribution in the grand scheme, it’s a start, and he hopes more of the same will follow.
There will be no spoilers here, but, fortunately, the film is now online and can be viewed for free online.