FST Leading the Way

(Abridged From Dangerous Ladies Shindig – February 24, 2020)

When I arrived in 1980, we started with 72 seats and tin cans for lights. We had 103 subscribers and a budget of $140,000. That year, we survived and grew to 450 subscribers.

I remind myself: Never forget your roots, Richard.

We wanted to make great contemporary theatre that our friends could afford to come and see. We charged $18 for a 6 show subscription series. That’s $3 per ticket. About the price of a movie.

Never forget your roots, Richard.

We wanted to create plays that would challenge. So we produced Betrayal by Harold Pinter.

We wanted to make plays that would entertain. So we produced The Good Doctor by Neil Simon.

And I was reminded, “Those who live to please, must please to live.” (Samuel Johnson, 18th Century)

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Seth Eliser, Alayna Gallo, and Dale Obermark perform at FST’s Dangerous Ladies Shindig (February 24, 2020). Photo by Sarah Haley.

We wanted to produce all that’s good and true and honest in the American Theatre.

Every year we grew a little more. The quality grew. And the audience grew. From 450 to 1200 to 1800, and finally to 2,400 subscribers. It took five years, but we had an audience!
And they kept coming. And we kept growing.

People said it couldn’t be done.
“You can’t have high quality and low prices. That’s not possible.”

We proved the nay-sayers wrong.
High quality, plus low price, equals high volume.

And while the average theatre in America today plays to 60% capacity, we play to nearly 100% capacity.

And while half of the theatres in America today are in debt, Florida Studio Theatre is in the black. And has been for a quarter century!

The average theatre in America plays to 4,200 subscribers.
This year we are playing to 39,000!

We rank annually in the top five largest subscription theatres in the United States of America. Pretty good!
But, last year we played to 230,000 people.
They said it couldn’t be done.

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Hopkins speaking at FST’s Dangerous Ladies Shindig (February 24, 2020). Photo by Sarah Haley.

But we have invented a new model and people are following it.

Theatres around America calling, asking questions, studying our operations, visiting us to see how we do it. We’ve created a new model.

Florida Studio Theatre is leading the way.
Florida Studio Theatre is small enough to know you; large enough to serve you.
Florida Studio Theatre is where the street meets the elite.

Everyone is welcome at FST. Every race, color, creed and ethnicity. Every democrat, republican, capitalist and socialist. Everyone is welcome.
Because this is where we can have a safe dialogue.
We’re not Democrats, we’re not Republicans.
We’re Shakespearean – Shakespeare believed in everything. Judged nothing. Described the world honestly. Held a mirror as “’twere to nature.”So that we might see the actions, foibles, comedies, and tragedies of our lives and those of our neighbors.

We believe in the everything of life.
We put the ideas on the stage and you make the decision.
We believe in the wisdom of the crowd.
We don’t pretend to have the answers.
But we do portend to have the questions.
The theatre will question.
The crowd answers.
That’s the heart of Florida Studio Theatre: Always questioning.

We’ve been breaking down the barriers for five decades!

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Catherine Randazzo, Alayna Gallo, and Jannie Jones perform at FST’s Dangerous Ladies Shindig. Photo by Sarah Haley.

Someone once told me, “I like FST because when I come I don’t feel like a speck. When I attend FST, I count. I’m not a speck.”

Remember your roots, Richard.

I want an intimate theatre.
I want a theatre where you can feel the pulse of creativity on the stage.
I want a theatre where I am viscerally engaged.
I want a theatre that does meaningful work.
I want a theatre that is courageous enough to entertain,
And I want a theatre that is courageous enough to challenge.
I want a theatre that has the courage to create.

So when we decided to build another theatre, we didn’t build bigger. We built small. We created intimacy on a grand scale.

People thought we were crazy. “You can’t run FIVE theatres. That’s INSANE!”

Well, this past Saturday all five theatres were full and running at capacity. And nobody got hurt. And the audience was ecstatic.

And the actors love the cross pollination of straight plays, musicals, improvisation, edgy work, and little ones coming here on Saturday mornings, their chauffeurs in tow.

Last week we performed 43 performances in five theatres. Next week we’ll do the same. That’s more than the average theatre performs in a month. Guess what?! We’re not average.

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Guests gather outside at FST’s Dangerous Ladies Shindig. Photo by Becca Jennings.

And this year we will perform 1,500 more performances.
That’s how we reach 230,000 people.
One or two hundred people at a time.
That keeps it intimate. That makes it electric.
Florida Studio Theatre is leading the way. And people are following.

And we’ve done all of this by staying true to our values:
• Clarity
• Integrity
• and Effectiveness

And we’ve done it all for the audience.

We’ve done it all for what I think is one of the best audiences in the nation.

Thank you for your support.