FST is Back in Full Swing – A Personal Note from the Producing Artistic Director

Welcome back. It’s the beginning of a new season. And this new beginning is filled with anticipation, excitement, and just the right amount of gleeful fear. Why? Because now, we set out on a journey to bring the best in Contemporary Theatre to one of the best audiences in the land.

I am entering my 43rd Season as your Artistic Director. When I started in 1980, FST was a small, alternative touring theatre. The focus was on taking contemporary theatre to new audiences. And over the years, as FST and the audience have evolved and expanded, we have grown even more fervent in the value of contemporary theatre.

We have grown fervent in our belief that theatre must be affordable and accessible to as many people as possible. We have grown fervent in our belief that FST must entertain with as much gusto as it challenges.

Cast of FST’s production of Something Rotten!. Photo by John Jones.

We have welded our ideas to actions. We have welded our actions to feelings. And as a result we have welded the audience to the theatre. Together, we have created a Fervent Theatre.

In my years of leading FST, I have focused on three things: People, Places, and Plays.

Let me explain…

We all love the intimacy of FST’s theatres: The Keating Mainstage, The Goldstein Cabaret, Bowne’s Lab, the Court Cabaret, and the Gompertz Mainstage. The personal engagement between actor and audience is what we love. Those small theatres are not an accident. At FST we are purposeful in the choice of an intimate theatre experience for the audience. We know that there is no better theatre than an intimate theatre. In our theatres, you can feel at home. You can feel the pulse of the actor. And “you’re not a speck,” as one audience member commented. You matter.

At FST, you can come as you are: this is where the street meets the elite. At FST, the audience comes to see theatre. Not to be seen.

Audience before a Mainstage production in FST’s Gompertz Theatre. Photo by FST.

It is a fact that the best theatre is made up of the best people: the people who work here and the people who attend. The theatre is only as good as its audience. And the audience is only as good as the theatre. When the pandemic hit we said, “Our greatest asset is our audience. We must find a way to preserve it.”

And we did. And we have some of the best people working right here at FST.

You can see the excellence of FST people in the personal engagement of the Box Office staff with the audience. You can see the excellence in FST people in our Casting & Hiring department, where pros spend 40 hours a week, day in and day out, finding the best professional talent in America to perform in our intimate theatres. That’s testament to the best.

Nicholas Caycedo, Lipica Shah, and Almeria Campbell in FST’s World Premiere production of America in One Room (2022). Photo by John Jones.

You can see excellence in our Literary department, working year-round reading and analyzing scripts. The Literary team develops new plays from scratch to help find and create the very best selection of plays for our five stages, all designed to meet the needs, hopes, and dreams of our audience.

The fact that I spend 40 to 50 days of every year in New York City casting and recruiting the very best talent to create FST plays for Sarasota audiences is testament to the best.

The fact that more than 250 professionals from New York, Chicago, L.A., Miami, and right here in Sarasota, grace the FST stage every year is testament to excellence because they know high-quality theatre when they see it. And that’s why so many of them keep returning.

We are standing on the shoulders of hundreds of America’s best artists and theatre workers who have gone before us on the stages and in the wings of Florida Studio Theatre. We are fully aware that hundreds more will follow in the years to come as the art of theatre continues to grow and flourish on the FST stage in Sarasota.

Pictured: Eddie Weaver and Jannie Jones in FST’s Cabaret production, The ’70s: More Than A Decade. Photo by John Jones.

I saved the best for last. “The play’s the thing….” And at FST we pride ourselves on finding, developing, and producing some of the best contemporary theatre in the state of Florida. From World Premieres and Regional Premieres, to the best from Broadway and beyond, our play selection has lived up to our mission to challenge with as much gusto as we entertain.

This year, we are doing work by the some of the brightest and best plays of our era, including the Broadway hit Something Rotten!, the Obie Award-winner What The Constitution Means to Me, Network, by Lee Hall and based on the screenplay by one of America’s finest playwrights of the 20th century, and finally, the World Premiere comedy by Bruce Graham, Visit Joe Whitefeather (and bring the family!).

FST is what you love in theatre. FST is big enough to serve you, and small enough to know you. Florida Studio Theatre provides excellent theatre at affordable prices.

Florida Studio Theatre boasts the largest subscription audience in the state of Florida. Over 200,000 people like you enjoyed the riches of authentic, visceral, and meaningful theatre last year. Our subscriber-based audience is in the top three in the United States, according to Theatre Communications Group surveys.

And through all this growth in audience, facilities, and artistry, we have remained your theatre. FST is a Fervent Theatre. Welding ideas, actions and feeling into a community portrait.

Welcome to the journey. Another season begins.


Richard Hopkins, FST’s Producing Artistic Director