New plays matter because they speak to the contemporary consciousness.
FST has been developing and producing new plays since the mid-’70s when Jon Spelman founded the theatre. Our New Play Development Program was ‘formalized’ in the mid-’80s. FST has produced over 100 new plays that have gone on to productions throughout the United States.
We do it because new plays matter.
• New plays matter because without them we would have only Old Plays.
• New plays matter because they lead to diversity of thought.
• New plays matter because they lead to refreshing new ideas.
• New plays matter because they capture the spirit of the day.
• New plays matter because they speak to the issues of our day.
• New plays matter because they are NOW.
In the past year our audience has seen the World Premiere of Mark St. Germain’s Relativity, a new play commissioned and premiered by FST. That play was selected by the National New Play Network as a Rolling World Premiere and has gone on to productions throughout the country.
Last summer our audience saw the Rolling World Premiere of Doublewide by Stephen Spotswood, which is being prepared for additional productions at Williamston and other theatres. And this spring, FST audiences will be treated to the World Premiere of Honor Killing by Sarah Bierstock.
Our commitment to new plays takes many forms. We produce three plays in the Burdick Festival Series every spring. Our Literary Department under the guidance of Associate Artist Catherine Randazzo, produces dozens of ‘closed door’ readings and workshop sessions throughout the year. We produce the Young Playwrights Festival which encourages thousands of youth throughout region to write plays. And they do! Every year we reach nearly 50,000 youngsters with the program and they generate between as many as 5,000 plays.
And next year FST will launch the Playwrights Collective, which will include eight of our favorite writers executing residences and commission right here in Sarasota to develop plays that matter to Sarasota audiences. Mark St. Germain is already hard at work on Wednesday’s Child, his next play for FST, and Jackie Goldfinger just finished her early draft residency for Babel and will return in the Spring for a public reading in the Richard and Betty Burdick Reading Series.
New plays matter.
As Sarasota’s Contemporary Theatre it is our aim to create the uncreated conscience of the race through the development of new works that speak to a rapidly evolving audience.
I recall a story told many years ago by the Artistic Director of a large, prominent Regional Theatre in Los Angeles. He hired a new Associate Director and charged the new director with finding out why more people were not attending the theatre. Well, the new Associate Director, with a strong background in anthropology, set out to fulfill his mandate. On Monday he walked one mile West of the threatre in search of audience. On Tuesday, to further study the world inhabited by this theate, he walked a mile to the East. The next day he walked a mile to the North, and on the Thursday day he walked a mile to the South. On Friday he came back to the Artistic Director’s office with his report: “I have good news and bad news,” said the Associate. “The good news is that people in Los Angeles are attending the theatre. The bad news is, they’re not attending your theatre.”
Then he went on to explain how the needs of the Latino audience differed from the needs of the Asian audience, and how all of these many diverse cultures of Los Angeles needed to have their stories told.
This story has led me on a 25 year journey to better understand my art in context of the audience. Which plays speak to a large universal audience? And which plays speak to a limited few? Which plays speak to an elite crowd? And which speak to the many. What kind of play attracts the “uninitiated theatre goer” and what kind of play speaks to the seasoned theatre goer. Are there plays that speak to both?
It is human nature that we attend the theatre for three fundamental reasons:
• First, we attend the theatre to see ourselves.
• Second, we attend the theatre to see our neighbors.
• Finally, we attend the theatre to see the “Other.”
We believe that as the stories of “the people” are told on our stages, the people will show up in our audience. Until their story is told on our stage they will find their story somewhere else. This is why, for nearly a quarter century, Florida Studio Theatre has been a Florida leader in developing new plays. We want to develop plays and we want to develop audiences. You can’t have one wihout the other.
And this is why FST’s audiences have continued to grow and deepen. FST boasts one of the most adventurous audiences in Florida. An audience willing and eager to confront the issues of diversity and inclusion in America. An audience willing and eager to embrace the World Premiere of Honor Killing.
We have a GREAT audience. FST’s audiences are on a journey. They are on a journey with FST artists to discover all that’s new and good and true and honest in the American Theatre.
That’s why new plays matter.
Producing Artistic Director