Grantee Feature: Florida Studio Theatre in Sarasota, FL

Founded in 1973, Florida Studio Theatre (FST) is a professional regional theatre located in downtown Sarasota and has grown to serve more than 230,000 live attendees each year. The largest subscription theatre in the state, FST has six core programs: Mainstage, Cabaret, Stage III, Children’s Theatre, Education, and New Play Development. 

As Florida Studio Theatre was forced to close its five stages on March 15, FST is now down to a crew of about 30 people. Still, the theatre is moving forward, and is readily preparing to reopen in early 2021. In the meantime, Sarasota’s acclaimed contemporary theatre is continuing to find new ways to serve its loyal audience.

Michael Grieve and Heather Michele Lawler in NNPN Women in Playwriting Festival workshop performance of The Forest by Lia Romeo. Photo by Sarah Haley.

INVESTING IN THE BEST NEW PLAYS OF TOMORROW

Over the past seven months, FST has increased its investment in New Play Development. With funding assistance from the Paycheck Protection Program, FST launched a new artistic initiative: The Playwrights Project.

Development session of a new play by Jacqueline Goldfinger. Photo by Sarah Haley.
Playwright Collective Members Rachel Lynett, Jacqueline Goldfinger, and Mark St. Germain. Photo by Sarah Haley.

The Project employed 33 playwrights, sketch comedy writers, and musical theatre developers as full-time staff writers for eight weeks, each creating new work that will be considered for future production on FST’s stages.

But the creative process did not stop when the Project came to a close in mid-June.

Several Project artists have gone on to join FST’s Playwright Collective, a brain-trust of top tier playwrights from across the country, working closely with FST’s artistic staff to develop new work for the FST stage. More than a dozen new plays are currently in process and headed for Mainstage production.

THEATRE TRAINING GROWS ONLINE

One of the most significant ways that FST has been able to serve the community is through The FST School. Since May, students from as far as California, Connecticut, and Mexico have explored Acting, Theatre Writing, and Improvisation without leaving the comfort of home, thanks to FST’s new online classes.

Alexa Doggett leads a virtual movement class. Photo by Sarah Haley.

“I almost didn’t sign up, as I feared my creativity had been buried under the weight of the present day,” said past student Kate H. “But I’m glad I did. I spent this morning writing, instead of being glued to the news cycle.”

Minita Gandhi in NNPN Women in Playwriting Festival workshop performance of MUTHALAND by Minita Gandhi. Photo by Sarah Haley.

“My daughter has always had a knack for performing arts, but has had a hard time overcoming her shyness,” shared FST School parent Shaina N. “Since she started taking classes at FST, I’ve noticed an immense improvement in her confidence!”

Kate Alexander and Josh Ford lead virtual summer camp. Photo by Sarah Haley.

Also, in order to serve those who are doing so much to serve us, The FST School has expanded its scholarship program to include teachers, front-line workers, and their families as well.

THEATRE IN THE SCHOOLS

Logo for Arts Power’s Chicken dance. Photo from Arts Power.

FST is partnering with another Sarasota arts organization, Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, to inspire young audiences through theatre with new virtual programming!

Logo for Arts Power’s Anne of Green Gables. Photo from Arts Power.

Instead of traveling within classes to FST and the Van Wezel to experience the magic of live theatre, elementary schools will have free access to two online musicals adapted from beloved children’s books: Chicken Dance and Anne of Green Gables.

In addition to these two streamed online musicals, FST is offering an interactive, virtual adaptation of its award-winning, arts-in-education initiative, WRITE A PLAY, to area schools entirely free of charge.

Now in its 30th year, FST’s WRITE A PLAY program gives students the example, tools, and inspiration to write plays of their very own.

Denee Lortz leads a playwriting workshop as part of FST’s WRITE A PLAY program at Holy Name School in Camden, NJ. Photo by Caroline Kaiser.

Although just the ghost lights remain on in FST’s five stages, we know that this is only “intermission”. The curtain will rise again. And when it does, we can’t wait to see you there.

The Division thanks Florida Studio Theatre for their participation in this feature!

For more info about FST and their programs, be sure to visit their website at www.floridastudiotheatre.org, and on social media: Twitter at @FSTSarasota, and Facebook and other platforms at @floridastudiotheatre!

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