Spotlight On


Frantic Assembly

Mark Taper Forum at LA’s Centre Theatre Group 50th Anniversary

MCC Theatre

St. Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn

The Everyman Theatre

Boston Playwrights’ Theatre

1st Stage Theater

59 E 59 Theater

Young Vic of London

Theatre Huntsville

Dance Place in Washington, D.C.

Alabama School of Fine Arts 50th Year Celebration

Rennie Harris at Baltimore Center Stage

Ronald Rand’s new book “CREATE! How Extraordinary People Live to Create and Create to Live”

What is FAFA? The Florence Academy of Fine Arts in Alabama

Rose Bruford College of Theatre and Performance – London’s International Drama School

Alabama Music Hall Of Fame

Historic Zodiac Playhouse — The “Z” in Florence, Alabama

Shoals Symphony Orchestra at UNA

“Grand Ball in the Belle Epoch” – Edwardian Period Style Salon


“Write if you will: but write about the world as it is and as you think it ought to be and must be—if there is to be a world.”
– Lorraine Hansberry

“The highest result of education is tolerance.”
– Helen Keller

“We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right.”
– Martin Luther King, Jr

“This is perhaps the most noble aim of poetry, to attach ourselves to the world around us, to turn desire into love, to embrace, finally what always evades us, what is beyond, but what is always there – the unspoken, the spirit, the soul.”
– Octavio Paz

“I see little of more importance to the future of our country and our civilization than full recognition of the place of our artists. If art is to nourish the roots of our culture, society must set the artist free to follow his vision wherever it takes him...Art is not a form of propaganda, it is a form of truth...Art establishes the basic human truths which must serve as the touchstones of our judgment.”
– President John F. Kennedy

“You dance love, and you dance joy, and you dance dreams.”
– Gene Kelly

“The poem, the song, the picture, is only water drawn from the well of the people, and it should be given back to them in a cup of beauty so that they may drink - and in drinking understand themselves.”
– Federico Garcia Lorca

“Living consciously involves being genuine; it involves listening and responding to others honestly and openly; it involves being in the moment.”
– Sidney Poitier

“The artist must be a leader. He must be true to what is most eager, vital and boldest within himself. Only in this way can the audience gain something from him. By being awake himself, the artist must awaken the audience. This ultimately is what the audience also desires – to be awakened.”
– Harold Clurman

“Life is short, Break the Rules. Forgive quickly, Kiss SLOWLY. Love truly. Laugh uncontrollably And never regret ANYTHING That makes you smile.”
– Mark Twain

“One must surrender entirely to the power of one’s artistic nature. It will do all the necessary things. Do not impose any solution upon yourself in advance.”
– Yevgeny Vakhtangov

“All I insist on, and nothing else, is that you should show the whole world that you are not afraid. Be silent, if you choose; but when it is necessary, speak—and speak in such a way that people will remember it.”
– Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

“As an artist, I feel that we must try many things—but above all, we must dare to fail. You must have the courage to be willing to risk everything to really express it all.”
– John Cassavetes

 Historic Zodiac Playhouse — The “Z” in Florence, Alabama

Located in downtown Florence, Alabama, at the corner of Court Street and Hermitage Drive, the Historic Zodiac Playhouse, also known as The Z, has taken on a new life enormously due to an inspired group of individuals who love theater and love making theater, becoming part the active Shoals theater scene.

Amanda Perry, Martin Dean and the other founding Board of Directors members: Tim Rhodes, Amber Rhodes, Suzanne Tidwell, JC Hester, Gena Rawdon and Rance Czermak, with over twenty contributors, literally “saved” the theater to preserve its history, making it a new and exciting theater for the Florence community.

In the past, former University of North Alabama professor Robert Allen Holder created the Zodiac Players in the early 1970s, and over the years, the Shoals Community Theatre used the theater space for rehearsals and auditions.

“Bus Stop” by William Inge

Since The Z opened their doors in June, 2017, they have hosted seventeen events, including William Inge’s“Bus Stop;” improv nights featuring The Wickets and Sustainable Differences, two local improv troupes; an independently produced new play by Jesse Sockwell, “A Day With Rey;” participated in the W.C. Handy Festival with six events in eight days. Their most recent production, Language of Angels” by Naomi Iizuka, was directed by Amanda Perry, Martin Dean was technical director. The cast included David House, Sarah Prrejeant, Alexandra Perez, William Page, Maggie Fowler, Jesse Fowler, Gena Rawdon, Brandyn Burget, Vivian Scites, and Heather Repphold.

“Bus Stop” by William Inge

Some of their Board members share their dedicated passion about The Z. Amanda Perry, Director and Board Member: “Since beginning work on The Z, we have spent countless hours talking to people and reaching out to artists of all kinds, both in the Shoals community and to those who have ties to the Shoals community. We have tried to make it very clear that this is a labor of love, a chance to preserve a piece of the artistic history of the area that we were all in real danger of losing forever.”

“Bus Stop” by William Inge

“Our purpose in keeping the venue open is to provide a space that is friendly to all artists to practice their craft. Currently, we are not a production company but a keeper of the space. We want to include as many people as want to be involved. We envision a space that is friendly not just to traditional “theater,” but to artists of all kinds who need a space to perform in.”

“The Z was where somebody first gave me my shot at a real role...and I fell head over heels in love with the whole thing, on stage and off, in rehearsal and performance. I opened the show

with a solo of the first song, a mere three feet from the front row. I joined the cast less than three weeks before opening and I was terrified I wouldn't measure up.”

“Language of Angels” photo by Berryhil Photography

“I remember sitting backstage at The Z making the very first thing I ever made for my oldest son (before he was born) during rehearsals for “Greater Tuna.” I also sat onstage turning pages for the pianist during “The Fantasticks,” feeling that same son dancing around inside, hoping I wouldn't go into labor before the show closed. (He was born less than 2 weeks later). And I sat beside Robert Allen Holder, one of the theater founders, as the assistant director on that show, taking notes in the dark, trying to decipher them to the cast in the dim light.”

“Years later, when I returned to theater after a six-year hiatus, The Z is where it happened for me. Because of “Snow White,” I was given the gift of some of the best friends I've ever had to this day. I had the privilege of sharing the stage with Tom Ed Moore in the very first show he did in the Shoals area and in the last one he did, before he passed. I have directed here at The Z, acted, stage managed, worked running crew, worked in the booth, and built sets. I have stayed until the sun came up to finish a set and been the first one to arrive to get into costume. It’s my home away from home. We just put our most recent production, “Language of Angels, which I directed.”

“Language of Angels” photo by Berryhil Photography

Martin Dean, Set, Lights & Sound Designer, Director, Board Member: “It all began for me when I was first “pushed” on stage in 1978 in a fledgling theatre group called Gingerbread, teaching me a love for the lights, costumes and the applause. In high school, an understanding came that the art is deeper than mugging on stage, and over the years I have performed on or directed on every venue in the Shoals area, but nothing beats the intimacy of The Z.”

JC Hester: “I'm involved in Theatre because I like telling a story, which could stem from spending time as a child at my grandparent's farm. My grandmother would read stories from “The Saturday Evening Post” to my brother and I. There was no TV until I was in my teens. I like working at the Z because of its intimacy. It's almost as if you can "wear" the audience.”

Gena Rawdon, actress and Board member, who recently played Danielle in “Language of Angels” at The Z shared: “Theater is my Church. Theater seems to consume me. I know, it seems crazy. But I feel the presence of something much, much greater than me in that space at The Z. When I hear an audience laugh hysterically during a show of which I am a part, I feel blessed that I played some small role in bringing that laughter to them. You never know who in the audience might be struggling, desperately needing a break from their reality. So many times, I was the person needing it as well.”

“Over the years I’ve appeared in several shows around the Shoals area. Back in 1992, I was cast by Michael Green cast me in “I’m Not Rappaport “at the Ritz Theatre in Sheffield. A couple of weeks after, I found out I had a rare type of cancer and had to go to Houston, Texas for six weeks of treatment and surgery. I received a card from everyone in the show while I was undergoing treatment. I still have that card. That was when I knew that theater would change my life

forever. Just going to an audition, the theater bug bit me hard. I vowed that I would come home from Houston with a clean bill of health and be at the next audition that was on the Shoals theater calendar!”

“I survived cancer. In 1993 I was cast in “Of Mice and Men “and had the privilege of performing on the Ritz Theatre stage. It was my first show and I was scared to death. I paced the backstage scene area, reading my lines over and over and over again. I needed that show. Things in my life were spiraling downward and I had no idea what would come next. My mom, who had been diagnosed with cancer right before me in 1992, didn’t survive. It was an extremely painful time for me for many reasons that go beyond the pain of watching a parent waste away a bit at a

time. The cast and crew of this show were amazing, always supportive and never judgmental of how I was handling my grief. They carried me through those difficult weeks, and I learned so much from them all. They taught me about theater and life and how if you just keep putting one foot in front of the other, things will get better.”

“I continued to audition and was fortunate to work at the Ritz and Zodiac between 1993 and 2000. I moved to Madison in April of 2000 and auditioned for Theatre Huntsville, and Huntsville’s theater community embraced me. I felt blessed to be working with the folks there as I was to work with my theater friends at The Z, and other theaters in the Shoals.”

“To all those who have shared the stage with me, found or made me a costume, gathered my props, gave me a spotlight, sold tickets, slapped a wig on my head to make me look older or slapped a lot of makeup on me to make me look a bit younger, thank you from the bottom of my heart. To every person who offered a “break a leg,” a giggle backstage, picked up a missed cue (and I have had plenty of those), to every kind audience member, every supportive friend and family member, I want to say thanks. You all have enriched my life a million fold.”

During the fall, the Histpric Zodiac Playhouse hosted Goodwill Cultural Ambassador & Performing Artist, Ronald Rand, who shared his 2 hour “Art of Transformation” Workshop at The Z. Part of The Z’s plans for the new year is to present more exciting workshops and classes. During the month of January, Ronald Rand will be presenting an extended 4 week (2 session a week) “Art of Tranformation” Master Workshop, which will be extremely useful for beginners or those with experience. All particpants will have the unique opportunity of learning how to use Constantin Stanislavsky’s acting chart of Physical Actions. The Workshop will also be useful for working on skills and monlogues for giving your best audition. Email or call the theater for details.

For info: Historic Zodiac Playhouse — The Z 416 North Court Street, Florence, AL 35630, (256)768-5586,,

"It is a law of life that man cannot live for himself alone. Extreme individualism is insanity. The world's problems are also our personal problems. Health is achieved through maintaining our personal truth in a balanced relation of love to the rest of the world. No expression is more emblematic of this relation than the creative act which we call art. No art by its very constitution typifies the social nature of that creative act more than the theatre. The theatre, to be fully understood and appreciated, must be seen as a manifestation of this process of interchange between society and the individual. It must be judged as a continuous development of groups of individuals within society, a development which becomes richer, acquires greater force and value as it grows with the society in which it originates. Only in this way can the theatre nourish us.  - Harold Clurman

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