We are entering our 50th Anniversary Season celebration at Florida Studio Theatre. Founded in 1973, we have been producing theatre for 50 years. It is a time for both reflection and celebration.
When I started in 1980, FST was a small, alternative touring theatre. The focus was on taking contemporary theatre to new audiences. Over the years, as FST and the audience have evolved and expanded, we have grown even more fervent in the value of contemporary theatre. In my time here, we have grown from a small theatre with 106 subscribers to a large theatre with 40,000 subscribers that serves over 225,000 people annually.
We have grown fervent in our belief that theatre must be affordable and accessible to as many people as possible. We have become passionate about our belief that theatre must challenge with as much gusto as it entertains.
We have welded our ideas into actions. We have welded our actions into feelings. And as a result, we have welded the audience to the theatre, and the theatre to this community. Together, we have created a fervent theatre – excellent theatre professionals engaging with experienced, intelligent audiences.
And the result has been one of the most successful regional theatres in America.
The result has been one of the largest subscription audiences in America.
The result has been a theatre that has operated with fiscal responsibility for half a century.
The result has been a truly public theatre for you.
So, what is the formula, exactly?
It’s simple: excellent theatre at affordable pricing equals a huge, diverse audience. Excellent theatre, in my view, boils down to three things: People, Places, and Plays
It is no secret that the best theatres—indeed, the best institutions—are made up of the best people. It is the people who make FST extraordinary. The people include the artists, the staff, the volunteers, the Board of Trustees, and of course, the audience.
We have been blessed with an extraordinary Board of Trustees under the leadership of Dennis McGillicuddy, who has been Board President since 1991.
They have been willing to free us to work with an entrepreneurial spirit; to work "out of the box" and to form a theatre that puts people first and follows an artistic mission that is financially sound. Empirical studies have proven that the best companies and the best theatres are driven more by core ideology than profits, but they still prosper. But such endeavors are rare. FST is rare because of the people who make it work. FST is "artist led” and “board supported.”
FST is composed of five intimate theatres: the Gompertz and Keating Mainstage Theatres, the Court and Goldstein Cabarets, and the Bowne’s Lab Theatre.
Those small theatres are no accident. We know that intimate theatres are the best theatres. We know that contemporary theatre is best performed in unique, intimate, and sometimes "funky" theatrical environments that enhance the personal engagement between the actor and the audience. We all know that theatre, at its very essence, exists in the moment when the actor and the audience meet in the same darkened space. We know this moment works best in intimate spaces. As one patron has said, “I don’t feel like a speck. At FST, I feel like I count.”
At FST we perform in purposefully intimate theatres. The personal engagement between actor and audience is what we love. Intimacy on a grand scale.
I saved the best for last. At FST, we pride ourselves on finding, developing, and producing some of the best contemporary theatre. We practice a form of “radical humanity.” From new premieres, like this year’s Troubadour, to the most recent Broadway hits, like The Lehman Trilogy, to wonderful musical revivals like Little Shop of Horrors, our play selection has lived up to our mission “to challenge with as much gusto as we entertain.”
We have the guts to entertain and the courage to challenge. We love the art of theatre, and we love this audience that loves it back.
FST is what you love in theatre. FST is big enough to serve you and small enough to know you. After 50 years, FST is a fervent theatre.
Thank you for your support.