Embracing Sarasota’s unique relationship with the arts and fine performances, the Florida Studio Theatre (FST) has been entertaining guests with exquisite plays and performances since its opening in 1973. Over the span of 45 years, they have grown into the third largest subscription theater in the nation.
FST may be widely known nowadays around the United States, but it originates from humble beginnings. By 1977, the theater increased its capacity from only 72 seats to 165 seats, having only 100 subscribers. However, after 45 years, FST is located in the historic Sarasota Women’s Club building and enjoys 200,000 subscribers with an annual budget of $6,000,000.
The organization now controls a village of theaters, ranging from the historic Keating and Gompertz to the John C. Court Cabarets. The buildings are full of character on the outside yet feel modern and clean on the inside. Large enough to seat a decent crowd of people, yet maintain a quaint and intimate atmosphere, the theater helps the audience feel as if they are a part of the performance.
The play seasons typically coincide with winter and summer, split between Mainstage and Cabaret productions. The 2018-2019 Winter Season is currently in full swing. Mainstage productions are more traditional performances, with a larger stage and audience, while cabarets are viewed over a meal or at a table. Productions for Mainstage include “A Gentleman’s Guide for Love and Murder” from Nov. 7 to Jan. 6, a musical comedy, and “Wednesday’s Child” from April 3 to May 24, a murder investigation. The Winter Cabaret lineup includes “Unchained Melodies” from Oct. 3 to Feb. 3, which celebrates male harmony groups of the ’50s and ’60s, and “The Wonder Years” from Feb. 9 to June 9, a musical ride through the Boomer years.
Students may get involved in the theater through year-round or summer classes. These programs offer students a professional understanding of theater, which ranges from acting methods to stage technique to playwriting. The courses are available for group ages 4 to 12 as well as ages 13 to 18. One-third of students participating in the program are doing so on a full or a partial scholarship, providing a diverse mix of students from different backgrounds. Members are sponsored by donors who contribute to the Children’s Scholarship fund.
Eleventh-grader Gigi Langer has been attending FST’s after school program since second grade, and has recently become an ambassador for the program. “FST has allowed me to grow, starting from when I was in their little theater program around second grade. It was an environment that I needed to be myself and express my emotions unapologetically, through music, acting and dancing. Becoming an ambassador for them over the past year and volunteering takes me to a place of joy and inspiration, while also being another home,” Langer said.
Refreshments can be served to guests in certain theaters if they arrive one hour prior to the performance. In other cases, guests can visit the Green Room Café and Bar at the corner of First Street and Coconut Avenue, in the Gegner Theatre wing. Show times vary, so be sure to check the time before attending a production. Florida Studio Theatre is located at 1241 N Palm Ave, Sarasota, FL 34236.
Rating: 5/5 torches