Soap star Tom Pelphrey kicks off SoapFest
Fans mingle with the former 'Guiding Light' ...
If you go: A Night of Stars
What: A catered buffet dinner with the stars, autograph signing, photos, question and answer, auctions. Auction items include original artwork by actors, private tours of studio sets, Emmy Awards ticket packages and lunch with selected stars. Bidding onsite only.
Where: Bistro Soleil, Olde Marco Inn, 100 Palm St., Marco Island
When: 6 p.m. Saturday
Tickets: $100; limited VIP tickets: $150 (guaranteed dinner seating with selected actors); additional ticket packages available on SoapFest.com
Celebrity Bartender Bash
What: Karaoke event featuring soap stars singing and serving refreshments
When: 10 p.m. Saturday
Where: CJ’s on the Bay, the Esplanade at South Collier Blvd., Marco Island
Tickets: $50; discounted tickets are available when combined with tickets to the “Night of Stars” event
Cruisin’ Boozin’ & Schmoozin
Sightseeing tour of Marco Island with soap stars, autographs, photo opportunities, games and raffle prizes
When: 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday
Where: Marco Island Princess Cruise, 951 Bald Eagle Drive
Tickets: $75 including buffet lunch, cruise and entertainment
A Night at the Theater
What: Live play reading of “Specter” starring Emmy award-winning and former “Guiding Light” actor Tom Pelphrey and “As the World Turns” actor Marnie Schulenburg, story by author Don Nigro. All proceeds from the inaugural event benefit the nonprofit Apothecary Theatre Company (ApothecaryTheatreCompany.org).
When: 8 p.m. Sunday
Where: Marco Players Theater, 1055 N. Collier Blvd.
Tickets: $50 including cocktail reception with the actors after the play
MARCO ISLAND — This weekend, soap opera fans from across the United States and from as far away as the Netherlands, New Zealand, Argentina and Australia will descend on Marco Island. It’s the 12th annual SoapFest Charity Weekend, with nearly two dozen stars of daytime drama expected to attend.
The stars, from “All My Children,” “One Life to Live,” “The Young and the Restless,” “As the World Turns” and “Guiding Light” will be available to meet and spend time with fans at several events throughout the weekend. SoapFest 2010 raises money for local children’s charities including Eden Florida’s Eimerman Center, an educational outreach service for children with autism. While doing it, the festival gives fans a chance to meet the stars and the stars a chance to soak up some Florida sun and sports. This year, it even offers them some alternative stage work, with a dramatic reading of “Specter” on Sunday.
There are many soap opera fan festivals throughout the world, but organizers and the stars say the Marco Island-based SoapFest is different.
“The difference between our event and all the other soap events is that ours is smaller and attendees get to spend a lot more one-on-one time and socially with all of the actors,” said Pat Berry, SoapFest founder and executive director. “It’s such a fun event, you don’t even have to be a soap fan. The other thing is that soap stars are normal people who don’t look at themselves as big stars who are very appreciative of everything we do for them.”
SoapFest actors are slated to participate in Art 4 Autism which allows the stars to paint alongside children and young adults with autism and other special needs. The canvases will be auctioned throughout the weekend.
Walt Willey is one of daytime drama’s most beloved actors, playing Jackson Montgomery on the long-running show “All My Children.” Willey is SoapFest 2010 master of ceremonies, a reprise for him.
Willey lives in New Mexico with his family and has until recently, commuted to New York City where the set of “All My Children” was based. The show set has moved to Los Angeles.
He is a scuba diver and has enjoyed surfing, so any time the actor gets a chance to visit a place like Marco Island, he jumps at the chance, he says.
But it’s not just the water that lures Willey to Southwest Florida’s shores. The fans keep him coming back, he says. Willey calls his long standing career “a pretty good deal” and credits fans like those who will be at Marco Island’s SoapFest for his continued run on television.
“I know how corny this sounds when I say this, but I love fan events,” said Willey. “My father worked almost 50 years in the coal mines and glass factories of Illinois never complaining, while the fans have given me this beautiful life for more than 25 years. They’ve given me this wonderful opportunity to be a working actor.”
Being an emcee isn’t heavy lifting for Willey, whose experience with live performance reaches to stand-up comedy. Like so many actors who have achieved lifelong success in an industry known for short careers, Willey’s background is deeply rooted in the theater. He continues to stay immersed in a theater environment, having founded the WilleyWorld Community Productions theater in his Illinois hometown. He has brought in veteran actresses Jill Larson and Julia Barr to act alongside him in a variety of shows.
“If there is a major perk to this job, it’s being able to do things like revive the arts in your hometown,” Willey said.
Many of the actors attending SoapFest 2010 began their careers in theater. Tom Pelphrey (“As the World Turns” and “Guiding Light”) received a bachelor’s degree in acting at Rutgers University. As well as daytime drama and theater, he’s a familiar face on prime time, with work on “CSI: Miami,” “Ghost Whisperer,” “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit” and most recently on the hit show “The Good Wife.”
Pelphrey will launch the inaugural “A Night at the Theater” at the Marco Players Theater on Sunday night. The event includes a live reading of “Specter,” directed by Dennis Flanagan, and a cocktail reception with the actors after the play. The reading will co-star Pelphrey and “As the World Turns” actress Marnie Schulenburg. Proceeds from the inaugural event will benefit the nonprofit Apothecary Theatre Company which Pelphrey co-founded.
“I’m excited to come back to Southwest Florida,” said Pelphrey, whose theater company will debut the Off-Broadway show “In God’s Hat” at Playwrights Horizon this summer.
“I really appreciate the support from the fans and people who just love live theater, and this is a great opportunity to come see an exciting and intelligent piece of theater done by a company who has produced many shows in New York City.”
John Driscoll (Philip “Chance” Chancellor) from “The Young and the Restless” will be at SoapFest for the fifth year in a row. Driscoll’s grandparents lived in Naples when he was a child and Driscoll says he spent many a summer in Naples frolicking around Naples Pier and local restaurants.
“SoapFest raises money for a great cause and I’m really happy to be a part of it,” said Driscoll. “To paint alongside the children at this event, it’s amazing — they don’t care what show you’re on or what you do, and to see the kids enjoy themselves is a huge perk for parents, the kids and for us.”
At SoapFest 2009, Driscoll revealed that he was joining the cast of “The Young and the Restless.”
For Driscoll, coming to the Naples area has become all about the people.
“There are so many people who repeatedly attend SoapFest that many of them are not as much fans as they have become friends,” said Driscoll. “This by far has been one of the most constant and selfless organizations I’ve worked with.”
In addition to Walt Willey, Tom Pelphrey and Driscoll, several “All My Children” cast members, actors from “As the World Turns” and “Guiding Light,” and “One Life to Live” Emmy-Award-winner Susan Haskell (Marty Saybrooke) are scheduled to attend.
Attendees can buy tickets online or by phone but will only receive a confirmation number, not an actual paper ticket, which they can present at the check-in desk. Wristbands in varying colors will identify entry to specific events. For more information or tickets, go to SoapFest.com or call 394-0080.