10 things to know about Florida Studio Theatre

Here's a little bit of about Florida Studio Theatre’s nearly 50-year history producing theater in Sarasota.

Jay Handelman
Sarasota Herald-Tribune

Here's what to know about the Florida Studio Theatre: 

» Florida Studio Theatre was founded in 1973 by Jon Spelman, a former associate artistic director of what is now Asolo Repertory Theatre.

» Richard Hopkins, a former resident actor at Asolo State Theatre and founding director of what is now American Stage in St. Petersburg, was named Artistic Director in 1980. He is now Producing Artistic Director and CEO.

The Woman’s Club of Sarasota, which was completed in 1915, became the home of Florida Studio Theatre, which was founded in 1973.

» The original FST space is located in what was originally the historic Women’s Club Building in downtown Sarasota. It originally seated 72 people.

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» FST established an education department for area school children in 1982. Its Write a Play program, launched in 1991, in which teams of actors visit schools and encourage students to write plays, reaches more than 50,000 children throughout the state and culminates in live performances each spring.

» The theater attempts to have at least 25 percent of the cast members for each production be veterans of past FST shows.

» Florida Studio Theatre once operated out of one theater space, now known as the Keating Theatre. Today it operates five theater spaces. The Keating and Gompertz theatres are for mainstage productions; the Goldstein and Court cabarets are for primarily cabaret musicals and Bowne’s Lab is the home of FST Improv and more experimental works like the annual Stage III series.

» The Gompertz Theatre is located inside the Hegner Theatre Wing, which contains three of the theater spaces, the Green Room restaurant and a bar. The building is located on the former site of the Palm Tree Playhouse, which was founded in 1950 by Stuart Lancaster. For many years, the building was the home of Theatre Works, which operated more than 20 years before the building was sold to FST.

Florida Studio Theatre has expanded from one theater to a five-theater operation, including the addition of the Hegner Theatre Wing, which features three performances spaces.

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» In 1992, FST expanded and launched summer seasons. Hopkins has cited a 1986 production of “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” which was extended many times into the summer, for indicating a desire for theater in the summer season.

» In 1996, FST opened its Goldstein Cabaret Theatre as the initial home for its cabaret productions with 3,000 subscribers. The theater began experimenting with cabaret-style performances in an extended arrangement with the Paradise Cafe, a restaurant bar that was once located on the site of what is now Selby Public Library in downtown Sarasota. 

» In 2016, the theater launched a Children’s Theatre series, which operates during the school year on Saturdays with performances geared for family audiences. 

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