SARASOTA, FLA.: In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Florida Studio Theatre (FST) has announced the cancellation of its 2020 summer mainstage and cabaret seasons. Additionally, the company’s 12th annual Sarasota Improv Festival, scheduled for July, has been postponed to 2021. FST will continue to develop new works with a new initiative called the Playwrights Project.
“We held back as long as we could on cancelling the summer season to see how the situation was going to evolve and whether a later start date would be possible,” said FST’s producing artistic director Richard Hopkins in a statement. “The health and safety of our audience, staff, and artists is paramount. Therefore, we came to the difficult decision that we must cancel the summer season. But we will not be sitting idly by this summer. We are using this time to move forward and make plans for our future. We have hired over 30 of the country’s top theatre artists to create new work that speaks to our shared humanity. We are engaging with our community online through classes, workshops, and discussions. We are heartened by our audience and are looking forward to the day that we can open our theatres to them again.”
Subscribers to the 2020 summer season will receive tickets for next summer’s season at no additional cost. This year’s cancellations, however, are projected to cost the theatre over $1.5 million in lost revenue, according to Hopkins, and the organization is asking for contributions from those in a position to donate.
FST hopes to rejoin its community through special programming in the Court Cabaret and Bowne’s Lab Theatre in the near future. FST recently opened the outdoor areas at its Green Room Café & Bar, where diners can enjoy performances from artist Alayna Gallo and FST’s resident pianist Jim Prosser. For those missing FST Improv, FST’s resident comedy troupe, fans can tune in to Instagram live shows on Saturday nights. Other special programming will be announced soon.
FST’s Playwrights Project brings together 32 playwrights, sketch comedy writers, and musical theatre composers and librettists from across the nation to develop new works. Funding for the project comes from the federal Paycheck Protection Program, and new works generated through the program will be considered for future FST Mainstage, Cabaret, Sketch Comedy, and Children’s Theatre programs.
FST will partner with Phoenix’s Arizona Theatre Company (ATC) to develop the play Tampa, about two brothers who take different paths in life. ATC’s artistic director, Sean Daniels, will work with the FST artistic staff on the play. The Playwrights Project will also include Thomas Gibbons, the playwright in residence for Philadelphia’s InterAct Theatre Company, who will work with FST associate director at-large Kate Alexander on a new play exploring the dilemmas that arise with the prevalence of digital manipulation, and Kenneth Jones, a New York-based playwright, librettist, and lyricist, who will work with Alexander to create an original play about a family business in the American South that is at a crossroads. Additional collaborators include director Gabriel Barre, writer Deborah Brevoort, writer and producer Jason Odell Williams, performer Carole J. Bufford, and playwright Sandy Rustin.
Founded in 1973 by artist Jon Spelman, Florida Studio Theatre started out as a small touring company, traveling to migrant camps and prisons. After later settling down in the former Woman’s Club building, now renamed the Keating Theatre, FST has earned renown presenting contemporary theatre in its five theatre venues: the Keating Theatre, the Goldstein Cabaret, the renovated Gompertz Theatre, the John C. Court Cabaret, and Bowne’s Lab Theatre.