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As Seen on TV

February 9, 2023

“I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!”

Sound familiar? This famous line originally comes from Paddy Chayefsky’s 1976 Academy Award-winning film, Network. This Season, FST is proud to produce the Regional Premiere adaptation of this timely play on our Mainstage.

Network tells the story of Howard Beale, a veteran news anchor who has just learned he’s being let go for not bringing in the ratings. In his final broadcast, Beale unravels on live TV, announcing that he’s going to end it all—while everyone watches, stunned, from their couches. Rather than cut to commercial break, call security, and never to allow Beale near another newsdesk for the rest of his days, the TV network smells an opportunity. They decide to do something radical: give the viewers what they want.

The producers let Howard return to the set, continue his unscripted rant, and sell his “mad as hell” perspective to an audience all too eager to be fed. The result? Sky rocketing ratings.

“The movie had a lot to say, and there’s more to say today,” said show Director Richard Hopkins. “It speaks to the way we human beings use media. In the 1970s, you focused only on television, but there’s more than TV today—Facebook, TikTok, etc—influencing the way we think and behave. I think Network is going to be superior on the stage.”

Lee Hall’s adaptation of the movie, keeps Chayefsky’s script intact, while offering an exciting theatrical opportunity. The audience is cast as Howard’s viewers, excitedly tuning in to see what he’ll do next. When Howard tells his TV audience to get mad, he’s talking directly to us.

When Network debuted at the National Theatre in London in 2017, the play was a hit. The Broadway transfer was equally acclaimed, garnering rave reviews from The New York Times, which called the play “Electrifying, ”and The Guardian, which called Network “Compelling” and “A triumph.”

Both productions were a technical spectacle with actor Bryan Cranston in the lead role of Howard Beale.

“On Broadway, they basically made a movie onstage,” said Hopkins. “And while our production will utilize video and projections, it will be more of a play than a movie. It will resemble what we did with The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. When other theatres did Curious Incident…, they leaned into high tech, while we leaned into the humanity of the play, which is ultimately what is most important. We’ll do this same this season with Network.”

For Sheffield Chastain, who plays Beale in FST’s production, the humanity of this story is what excites him most.

“For anybody who has devoted their whole life to something and sacrificed other aspects of their life for something—like Howard has for his job—to have the rug pulled out from under you would, of course, leave you untethered, to say the least,” said Chastain.

Although he may feel isolated, Howard isn’t actually alone. His best friend, Max, president of the news division, bears witness to his friend’s decline and the sweeping changes for the industry to which he’s dedicated his professional career.

“‘If it bleeds, it leads,’ has become the new ethos in broadcasting,” said Rod Brogan, who plays Max in FST’s production. “Max has gone along with it because he’s a lifer, but he’s not necessarily happy about these changes. So, he’s thrilled to accommodate, and even encourage, his old buddy Howard’s lambasting of this corporate news culture.”

Hopkins and the Network cast are thrilled to be bringing this timely story to Sarasota in FST’s regional premiere production.

And for Chastain, FST’s very own Howard Beale?

“Frankly? I’m just excited I get to say the famous line: ‘I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!’”

Network played from January 25 to March 26 in FST’s Gompertz Theatre. For tickets and more information, click here.