In 1969 Bob and Roberta decided they did not want to bring up their son Ben in New York. Roberta's parents had retired to a wonderful little (at that time) town on Florida's west coast, Sarasota. They finished up the summer stock season at Ft. Worth's Casa Manana and went to Sarasota for a vacation. They loved the town and had a great time there. Bob went back up north to direct a show and left Roberta and Ben with her folks. A few days later Roberta called Bob and told him that she had bought them a house. They moved soon after.
So he could stay close to Sarasota, Bob got a job teaching directing and acting at USF in Tampa. Because of his contacts in New York he was able to produce for the school a tour of West Side Story starring many students from USF (including Mark Goldbaum and Elayne Boosler) and professional Equity actors brought in from New York (Harry Danner and Denny Shearer). The show toured all over Florida and was a big success for the fairly new school and brought enough goodwill to Bob that he and Roberta were able to raise the money to start their own theatre in Sarasota. With two very talented women that Bob brought with him from Casa Manana (Musical Director Janet Aycock and Stage Manager/Lighting Designer Sissy Pulley) the Golden Apple Dinner Theatre was born.
Over the next 42 years Bob and Roberta brought many wonderful actors to Sarasota. Bob directed over 350 of the Golden Apple shows and Roberta either directed, but mostly starred in over 150 of them as well. They brought up both their children, by now Ben had a charming little sister, Kyle, and taught them every part of the business from the Box Office to backstage. They had plenty of actor friends who had extensive Broadway credits and they would come down to Sarasota and star in a show they had been in on Broadway (Betty O'Neil, Ted Scott, Bill McDonald, Ian Sullivan, Betty Gillett, Larry Raben, David Engel, Luce Ennis and many more). Bob and Roberta produced over 400 shows and gave countless professional jobs to talented local actors. Some went on to work professionally in New York and LA (Morgan Fairchild, Betty Buckley and Malcolm Gets). They also provided a wonderful training ground for many talented young Sarasota-born performers. Roberta often said she looked at herself as a modern day Eva La Gallienne, helping young performers learn the art and craft of theatre.
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