‘Sunshine State has weirdness for everyone.’ So he’s taking ‘Florida Man’ Off-Broadway

Michael Presley Bobbitt, a Florida real estate appraiser and playwright/board member at Gainesville’s Acrosstown Repertory Theatre, wrote a new play, “Florida Man” and it will play Off-Broadway in July and in Florida in October.
Michael Presley Bobbitt, a Florida real estate appraiser and playwright/board member at Gainesville’s Acrosstown Repertory Theatre, wrote a new play, “Florida Man” and it will play Off-Broadway in July and in Florida in October. Courtesy Michael Presley Bobbitt

Producers at NBCUniversal’s Oxygen network have already announced plans for a TV series based on the mythic “Florida Man.”

You’ve assuredly read of the collective Florida Man and his wackadoodle exploits. He’s often naked, like the Daytona Beach man who was wearing only socks at the airport baggage claim. He’s often carrying an alligator — sometimes even into a convenience store.

And now, with apologies to radio’s Howard Stern, meet the new King of All Media: Florida Man.

He’s the subject of a new play, written by a Florida man, and making its debut July 31 Off-Broadway at New York’s Theatre Row Studios on 42nd Street, the Gainesville Sun first reported.

“Florida Man” was written by Michael Presley Bobbitt, a commercial real estate appraiser by day and a playwright and board member at Gainesville’s Acrosstown Repertory Theatre — which will get its crack at the play in October after it completes its Off-Broadway run.

Bobbitt also “raises goats for no reason at all,” according to his website. He lives in Gainesville with his wife, Laura, and son Liam.

The play’s central character is Billy Crud, a man who loses his father before he can “resolve a laundry list of regrets and hurt feelings between the two men,” according to Bobbitt. The comedy of errors is set against a backdrop of Florida folklore.

The logo for Michael Presley Bobbitt’s play, “Florida Man.” The show will play Off-Broadway July 31-Aug. 3 and as part of the 2019-20 season at Acrosstown Repertory Theatre starting in October. Courtesy Michael Presley Bobbitt

The play’s synopsis, according to National New Play Network/New Play Exchange:

“A Florida Man, racked with guilt, digs up his dead father to give him the proper Viking funeral he always wanted. Set in the wild world of the Florida Man headlines that have captured the nation’s attention, this comedic odyssey explores some of the deeper human issues that affect us all — that exploration coming partially in the form of a jelly-donged homemade sex machine.”

Bobbitt says his real estate job has him traveling across Florida’s 67 counties — “from the Keys to Pensacola” — and that certainly has exposed him to the state and all its great fodder for left field stories.

“Florida Man” was his winning submission in the Broadway Bound Theater Festival, which helped land it a stage Off-Broadway just blocks from current Tony-winning shows like “The Cher Show” and “The Ferryman.”

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“Florida Man” Billy Crud, from the imagination of Gainesville playwright Michael Presley Bobbitt, will make his New York debut on this Theatre Row stage Off-Broadway July 31-Aug. 3, 2019. Jamiya Wilson Courtesy Michael Presley Bobbitt

“I am in the throes of a long-term, obsessive love affair with Florida,” he told the Miami Herald. “Its history and folklore possess my imagination in an unhealthy way. I especially appreciate what we locals call the real Florida — off the beaten path, far from Disney World and condos on the beach.”

Bobbitt, 43, grew up in Polk County, “a hard-scrabble citrus and phosphate community of piney woods and swamp and the Peace River,” he says.

“Even now, in 2019, there are parts of Florida that remain wild, untamed, a dwindling American frontier that I am keen to chronicle and archive before it fades into the creeping sprawl that sucks the life out of a place,” he said. “I want to tell stories about Cedar Key and Micanopy and Bartow before everything is indistinguishable from Kissimmee.”

Bobbitt also wanted to set the record straight, so to speak, on the spate of Florida Man stories that have sparked a nationwide giggle.

“I wrote ‘Florida Man’ because the outrageous headlines that have captured the nation’s attention do not accurately represent us,” Bobbitt said. “They are fun to read, but they paint a cartoonish portrait of our great state, one that revels in the surface-weird without digging down into the truly bizarre guts of this wild place.

“‘Florida Man’ is a deep dive into the heart of a swampland culture where everyone is more than they appear,” he continued. “The Florida Man phenomenon has captured the imagination of the nation. A drive-thru employee being assaulted with a live alligator, a scientist kidnapped to help a Florida Man clone his dog, a house burned down to get rid of vampires, a naked Florida Man breaking into a restaurant to play bongo drums — the Sunshine State has weirdness for everyone.”

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The “Florida Man” play premieres July 31 and runs to Aug. 3, 2019, at New York’s Theatre Row Studios on 42nd Street. Courtesy Michael Presley Bobbitt

If you go

What: “Florida Man,” a new play by Michael Presley Bobbitt

When: July 31-Aug. 3

Where: Theatre Row Studios, 412 W. 42nd St., New York

Tickets: $30

Information: 352-278-2115 or FloridaManPlay.com

Also: “Florida Man” will play the Acrosstown Repertory Theatre on 619 S. Main St., Gainesville, on Oct. 25-Nov. 10.

Think you can play Florida Man better than, er, Florida Man? Auditions for the Florida run will be held at Acrosstown on Sept. 15-16.

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Miami Herald Real Time/Breaking News reporter Howard Cohen, a 2017 Media Excellence Awards winner, has covered pop music, theater, health and fitness, obituaries, municipal government and general assignment. He started his career in the Features department at the Miami Herald in 1991.
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