Coral Shores High School Drama and Music Director Suzanne Gagliardini pictured with the cast of the upcoming comedy, Puffs. KELLIE BUTLER FARRELL / Weekly Keys


The bright lights of live theater will soon shine on Coral Shores High School as the cast prepares for their first production in two years. COVID-19 has abruptly dropped the curtain on performance in 2020, leaving many aspiring comedians struggling to fill the void.

“Theater is kind of an escape for me, a home, so without that with the companions that come with the theater, it’s been really hard to keep going,” CSHS senior Gabi Rivera said. Rivera and 13 other actors are busy rehearsing the Harry Potter-inspired comedy, “Puffs.”

“I’m really excited because my freshman year the production we were doing was canceled due to COVID, as well as our state competition, so that kind of feeling has risen from the ashes and it’s a rebirth of the program. “said junior Aleisa Crumb. Crumb also serves as the student director for the play.

The play involves a lot of improvisation, with the actors having to think quickly. Coral Shores music and drama director Suzanne Gagliardini says that aspect will add to the excitement.

“On the evening of, I don’t know what story they will invent. It’s very, very exciting. They amuse me. There is so much talent, it’s extraordinary,” said Gagliardini.

As Coral Shores prepares for opening night on Friday, May 13, the Key Largo School has learned that it has received two grants, totaling $21,750, to start a theater program. The after-school program will be led by Michele Zofchak, who was instrumental in developing the drama program Coral Shores before taking a job at KLS.

“Kids really need something to keep them happy and involved and connected in school and theater has so many opportunities,” Zofchak said, “not just for extroverts who want to be on stage, but for children who want to be behind the scenes and do makeup and hair and costumes and build sets and be stage managers She plans to start the drama program at the beginning of the next school year at KLS.

The Keys Children’s Foundation donated $11,750 to KLS for the theater program and $10,000 was awarded by the Community Foundation of the Florida Keys (CFFK) in conjunction with the Key Players.

“We’re going to be supporting them by helping them with production, helping them with publicity, basically anything she needs,” said Jonelle Kop, president of Key Players. Kop has volunteered with the nonprofit community theater group for 21 years and says this grant will be well spent. “Kids these days are constantly on the phone,” Kop said, “and having interpersonal communication with people and being able to speak in front of a group of people like an art form is getting lost and theater brings that out.”

Kop said the Key Players are thrilled to help KLS with this new theatrical venture even as they work to find a new venue for their productions. Their former home, the Lions Club, was recently sold. The Murray Nelson Center is an option, but Kop said performing at the government center now costs more. Kop is looking for other rehearsal and performance locations and invites anyone with a possible location to call him at (305) 942-4339.

Puffs runs Friday, May 13 and Saturday, May 14 at 7 p.m. A matinee performance will take place on Sunday, May 15 at 2 p.m. Monroe County students attend for free. General admission is $10 at the door and tickets can be purchased in advance at Coral Shores High School.

The puffs take place inside the CSHS Performing Arts Center at MM 89.9.

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