Casey Dressler hears voices inside her head. And it’s all because of the Keys.
“There are so many tourists coming through the Keys, so many accents. I started working at Anthony’s Italian Restaurant in Key Largo when I was 14. Every day was almost like going to a dialect class,” said Dressler, 31, an actor-playwright. “I developed quite an ear. As a result, by the time I started going to acting class, I was able to do many accents, from British to New York-Puerto Rican.”
Dressler grew up first in Islamorada, then moved to Key Largo with her family at age 12.
“I think the Keys forced me to think outside the box. There wasn’t much to stimulate us growing up,” she said. “This was before video games got popular, and the two movie theaters near us changed movies rarely. But my brother and I would write sketches and perform them at family parties. We would play <i>Star Search<i> and do a mini talent show.”
Things changed once Dressler was in middle school, when she became a part of The Key Players community theater, and then moved on to Coral Shores High School’s theater program.
“My drama teacher, Tracy Dobson, really, really inspired me as a kid,” Dressler said. “She had a lot of great acting exercises, and it was one of the first times I felt connected to school. She was very warm and kind. She got me.”
After graduating in 2001, Dressler went to New World School of the Arts in downtown Miami on a full scholarship. While there, she met her future best friend and theater co-producer, Luis Sosa, 35.
“Yeah, it’s very funny actually, when we first met we couldn’t stand each other,” she said laughing. “But we were both theater majors, so we were forced to get crew hours in the costume shop at the same time. And we’ve been best friends ever since.”
Dressler left New World sophomore year and graduated from the Acting School of South Florida conservatory program. Eventually, she fell into another notoriously dramatic industry.
“I lived briefly in Fort Lauderdale, then came back to the Keys and needed to make a living,” Dressler said. “I got a job behind the front desk at The Islander Resort, where my sister worked. I became a manager, then one thing led into another and I got into wedding planning.”
Crazed brides-to-be and their beleaguered wedding planners have inspired a million reality shows, and Dressler confirms the profession “is stressful. You are in charge of the most important day of their life. But I have to say, it was a beautiful day to witness as well, and I cried at every wedding I saw. And also, I realized there were a lot of parallels between wedding planning and theater. You have to deal with the lighting, the costumes, the high stakes. The show must go on, regardless of what happens.”
Dressler moved on from wedding planning a couple years ago when she decided to finally devote herself to her passion. New York City snobs might be surprised — with her current home base in Fort Lauderdale, she has been able to make a living in theater in South Florida (performing with such companies as Parade Productions Florida Theatre and The Women's Theatre Project).
But she and Sosa never lost their long-cherished dream to take a project together to the renowned Edinburgh Festival Fringe. And the moment has arrived: Both have written one-act plays and are raising money to go across the pond this August to present “Driving With the Parking Brake Up: A Comedy in Two Solo Acts.”
Dressler will perform “The Wedding Warrior” (inspired by her time as a planner), and Sosa will enact his work “Mangos & Rice.”
Dressler and Sosa will first stop with the show June 27 and 28 in Plantation, Fla., then move to New York City in July. As one can imagine, taking a play to New York and Scotland is a pricey undertaking.
“We are 100 percent self-produced and are asking family and friends and crowdfunding for donations,” Dressler said. “The money will go toward theater expenses, such as performance-space rentals, tech people and insurance policies.”
So with all the headaches and expense involved in taking a play to Scotland, why do it?
“The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is the largest theater festival in the entire world,” Dressler said. “It’s a magical place. It’s a way for us to put our show out in the world with hopefully good reviews and workshop it, and then have the credibility to do a full run here in the States. But really, my desire comes from a place of loving theater. I’m 31 and don’t have kids, and I think in a way it’s now or never.
“Going to Edinburgh and New York is the ultimate. I’ll treasure this experience for the rest of my life. The payoff is in doing it. What comes afterward is icing on the cake.”