Florida Studio Theatre (FST) is Sarasota’s contemporary theatre.
© Greg Wilson 2013
Founded in 1973, FST has grown to a village of five theatres located in the heart of Downtown, Sarasota.
Each theatre is small in size and large in impact — providing intimate and engaging settings for high-quality, professional performances.
Today, FST has established itself as a major force in American Theatre. FST is the largest subscription theatre in the state of Florida and among the largest in the country,* serving more than 230,000 live attendees each year across its diverse programs: Mainstage, Cabaret, Stage III, Children’s Theatre, FST School, New Play Development, and FST Improv.
Even with its growth, Florida Studio Theatre remains firmly committed to making the arts accessible and affordable to as many people as possible. Under the leadership of Producing Artistic Director Richard Hopkins, FST develops theatre that speaks to our living, evolving, and dynamically changing world. Hip and historical, entertaining and challenging, we are the theatre where the street meets the elite — where everyone is welcome to engage in the art of theatre.
*Source: Theatre Communications Group (TCG), 2017 survey of professional American Theatres
The Mainstage is FST’s flagship program, producing the best in contemporary theatre. From new works to the latest Off-Broadway and Broadway hits, seven annual Mainstage productions reflect our living, evolving, and dynamically changing world. Over the course of its 45+ year history, FST’s Mainstage has produced more than 30 world premieres and more than 90 regional premieres. The Mainstage series embodies FST’s mission “to challenge with as much gusto as we entertain” by embracing a diverse range of contemporary plays and musicals. Through these challenging and entertaining works, the Mainstage provides a platform for contemporary issues and ideas both on stage and within the community.
Launched in 1996, the Cabaret Series has become one of FST’s most popular artistic endeavors – generating new audiences along with new artistic opportunities. To date, FST’s Cabaret has created over 40 FST original music revues, spanning a wide range of popular musical genres. This beloved series celebrates the lyric poets of our day, drawing inspiration from Gershwin to Billy Joel, and is also home to social and political satire-inspired works. Set in FST’s intimate Parisian-style dinner theatres, six Cabaret productions each year provide a relaxed and engaging atmosphere that is fun for everyone – artist and audience.
For the adventurous theatre-goer, FST’s Stage III series is dedicated to presenting plays that are challenging in content and unique in form. With such past productions as Robert Askins’ Hand to God, Markus Potter and David Holthouse’s Stalking the Bogeyman, and John Cameron Mitchell’s Hedwig and the Angry Inch, this series truly speaks to FST’s mission “to present theatre that challenges with as much gusto as it entertains.” Stage III also reconnects FST to its roots. During its early years, FST toured to alternative performance spaces like migrant camps and prisons, connecting with audiences who did not attend the theatre, but who were intimately familiar with the play’s themes. Today, this work to tell the challenging stories of our time lives on in Stage III.
FST offers two theatre programs for young audiences: Our WRITE A PLAY program in schools and our weekend Children’s Theatre series on our downtown theatre campus. FST’s award-winning WRITE A PLAY program is a year-round arts-in-education initiative, providing students with the example, the inspiration, and the skills to write their own original plays. Plays generated through the program are then invited to be submitted to FST’s annual Young Playwrights Festival playwriting competition. Winning plays are selected to be mounted in a professional production and brought to life by FST actors. Since its inception in 1991, WRITE A PLAY has impacted over one million children throughout the state of Florida and as far as Scotland, Russia, and Israel. On site at FST, the weekend Children's Theatre series, launched in 2016, is designed for children and families to explore the world of theatre arts.
The FST School
Founded in 1982, the Florida Studio Theatre School offers classes year-round for students of all ages and experience levels in acting, music, dance, theatre writing, and improvisation. Led by FST’s teaching staff of trained theatre professionals, students learn solid acting method, stage technique, literary skills, and more. The FST School is also home to youth Spring Break and Summer Theatre Camps, as well as FST’s VIP program, serving students with behavioral, emotional, and developmental special needs. Furthering FST’s mission “to make theatre as accessible and affordable to as many people as possible,” our Scholarship Program offsets the cost of enrollment for 15% of Florida Studio Theatre School students.
New Play Development
New Play Development is the lifeblood of Florida Studio Theatre. Our philosophy of new play development is one that goes beyond the world premiere. FST receives over 3,500 new play submissions annually from established and emerging playwrights. From these plays, FST selects work to be cultivated through our many New Play Development initiatives. Regular reading series provide select works in progress with a platform, a live audience, artistic support, and valuable feedback. In addition, FST’s Playwright Collective is a brain trust of some of the top playwrights in the country, working to develop new plays for the FST stage. To date, FST has produced over 30 world premieres, many of which have been supported and nurtured through FST’s New Play Development program.
Since its founding in 2001, FST Improv has grown into a robust, year-round program, offering never-before-seen shows week after week. FST Improv celebrates the full spectrum of Improv disciplines, going beyond game-focused Short-Form improvisation, to also incorporate Long-Form, Musical, and Free-Form styles. FST also produces the annual Sarasota Improv Festival, bringing the best improv troupes from across the country and around the world to Sarasota each year for a whirlwind weekend of spontaneous art. Today, the Sarasota Improv Festival is the premier festival of its kind in the Southeast United States.
Florida Studio Theatre’s mission is inspired from the wellspring of the creators of Theatre, the ancient Greeks.
It takes a village to make Florida Studio Theatre the leading regional theatre it is today. Learn more about our Staff and Board of Trustees.
History of FST
Learn how FST has grown to become the regional theatre leader it is today while remaining true to the theatre's founding principles.