By Benedict Burgess
New plays are the lifeblood of FST. As Sarasota’s contemporary theatre, FST remains committed not only to presenting the best new plays of today, but also to investing in the creation of the best new plays of tomorrow.
Since 1983, FST’s New Play Development Program has helped shape and share some of the most modern plays in American theatre. FST’s award-winning arts-in-education initiative, WRITE A PLAY, continues to foster new generations of playwrights. And the annual Richard and Betty Burdick Reading Series has helped FST identify and produce over 30 World Premieres and more than 90 Regional Premiere Productions throughout our 47 year history.
Now, FST is taking new play creation to the next level with the latest project in our decades-long commitment to new play development: The Playwright Collective.
WHAT IS THE PLAYWRIGHT COLLECTIVE?
FST’s Playwright Collective is a brain-trust of top tier playwrights from across the country dedicated to supporting one another as they develop new works for the stage.
“We look for plays that speak to our shared humanity,” explains FST Producing Artistic Director Richard Hopkins. “We look for pieces that are accessible in thought and represent the world we live in today. Our goal with this program is to connect the playwrights to the theatre, and, most importantly, to connect the audience to the playwrights.”
That connection is already being forged, as many members of the Collective have already had their works—old and new—produced by FST.
“An established relationship is essential to playwriting,” says FST Associate Artist Catherine Randazzo. “It takes time to build that trust. Our workshop process is detailed, focused, and thorough, and can continue even after the first production.”
HOW DOES IT WORK?
There is no magical formula for writing plays. That is why FST’s Playwright Collective exists – to support playwrights—whatever their individual needs, career goals, or creative ambitions may be.
“We are dedicated to the voice of the playwright,” says Randazzo. “We provide support from multiple angles within FST. We ask, ‘What would be most helpful to you at this time? What should we be listening for with this draft?’”
“It’s not our job to write the play,” adds fellow FST Associate Artist Jason Cannon. “Our job is to stoke the playwright’s creative fire by asking questions instead of prescribing fixes.”
FST’s process of providing this kind of creative support to playwrights has proven itself time and time again. Past Playwright Collective projects that have premiered on FST’s stages include Sarah Bierstock’s Honor Killing and Mark St. Germain’s Wednesday’s Child, with even more currently under consideration for future productions, such as Jacqueline Goldfinger’s Babel, a daring dystopian dark comedy last seen as part of the 2019 Richard and Betty Burdick New Play Series.
“I’ve developed work all over the country, and I’ve never seen a staff so firmly committed to supporting the unique needs of artistic development,” says Goldfinger. “Their professionalism, commitment to supporting original voices, and ability to work with the needs of a writer in a workshop process is unmatched. They’ve become a second home – my creative family.”
And, of course, that creative family would not be complete without Sarasota audiences.
Through this program, FST patrons are among the first to experience some of the hottest new plays in the nation.
Playwright Collective members also give back to the FST community by serving as guest teachers with the FST School, participating in FST Forums, and mentoring early career playwrights.
“We want to develop plays and we want to develop audiences,” says Hopkins. “You can’t have one without the other.”
While theatres may be dark right now, the Playwright Collective is lighting the path to the future. Thanks to FST’s recent investments in playwrights through similar projects, the Playwright Collective has doubled in size since the shutdown, with even more voices joining the conversation from across the country.
“I love theatre,” says new Collective member Rachel Lynett, “and in times when everything feels so uncertain, it truly was life-changing to be given the opportunity to keep writing. Now, I’m working, and I’ve got a support team to help me. It’s like a dream come true.”
New members also include José Casas, a children’s theatre playwright currently developing a bilingual adaptation of Frankenstein, and Kate Hamill, author of recently acclaimed Off-Broadway adaptations of Pride and Prejudice and Little Women.
“Our aim at FST is to put the world on the stage,” says Hopkins. “We do it because new plays matter. New plays matter because they speak to the issues of our day. New plays matter because they are now.”
And now, we bring this world to you. Stay tuned to FST Stage Directions for in-depth interviews and behind-the-scenes sneak peeks of the exciting new plays percolating at the Florida Studio Theatre.
Welcome to the future of theatre.
Welcome to the Playwright Collective.