Theater company brings Broadway to Florence

Music, wine and food awaits those who visit the fundraiser “Way the Heck Off Broadway” Sept. 22 at 7 p.m. in the Kennedy-Douglass Art Center’s Southall-Moore House.

This event is a fundraiser for the theater company Optidefno. Florence residents Eli Flippen, Rick Richey and Richard Wallace created the company in 1997, said Optidefno Artistic Director Richard Wallace.

“We have been on and off for the past 19 years,” Wallace said. “We are hoping to build a company that’s devoted to doing contemporary theater and musical theater. We want it to involve the Shoals premier talent which are music, fashion and visual arts.”

Wallace said tickets costs $40 for the general public and $20 for UNA students who show their mane card. People can buy tickets at the door or online at

“I think it’s amazing that they are having this event,” said sophomore Rosie McClendon. “I also like how they are making it more accessible to college students. I know that most students wouldn’t go to an event that costs a lot.”

Wallace said the event will have three singers performing show tunes.

“Two are coming in from Birmingham, and one is coming from New York,” he said. “We’ll be doing a selection of Broadway standards and some contemporary musical theater songs. It will be a relaxed evening where you can hear all of these wonderful singers and enjoy some really good food and wine.”

The singers performing are Florence native and New York based actress Ashlie Roberson, Atlanta and Birmingham based actor Caleb Clark and nationally acclaimed baritone Daniel Seigel, Wallace said. The singers will perform about 20 songs.

“This is a great chance for students to be exposed to this type of music from people who have done it professionally,” McClendon said.

Wallace said he came up with the idea during his junior year of college 17 years ago.

“I was directing a show called ‘John and Jen,’ and we needed to raise money for the rights and to pay for the music,” he said. “My friends and I came up with this idea at the time to raise the money. We did it then, and it was really successful, and I’m hoping I can duplicate that success again.”

Wallace said the group will hold more fundraisers.

“We are planning to do another Halloween event, and just continue to do some fundraising to build our brand to do shows,” he said. “We want to build our audience, and doing these fundraisers will help.”