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New Plays Matter (More Than Ever) - A Note From Richard Hopkins

September 14, 2022

New plays matter because they speak to the contemporary consciousness.

FST has been developing and producing new plays since the mid-70s when Jon Spelman founded the theatre. Our New Play Development Program was “formalized” in the mid-80s. FST has produced over 100 new plays that have gone on to productions throughout the United States.

We do it because new plays matter.

  • New plays matter because without them we would only have old plays.
  • New plays matter because they lead to diversity of thought.
  • New plays matter because they lead to refreshing new ideas.
  • New plays matter because they capture the spirit of the day.
  • New plays matter because they speak to the issues of our day.
  • New plays matter because they are NOW.

Last spring, our audience enjoyed the World Premiere of Sarah Bierstock’s Honor Killing on the Gompertz stage. And this spring, our audience will see the World Premiere of Mark St. Gemain’s Wednesday’s Child. In the Court Cabaret, now through the early June, our premiere production of The Wonder Years is playing to standing ovations nightly.

Our commitment to new plays takes many forms. We produce three new plays in the Sarasota Festival of New Plays every spring. And this year, the Festival will celebrate women playwrights with a grant from NNPN (National New Play Network).

Our Literary Department, under the guidance of Associate Artist Catherine Randazzo, produces dozens of “closed door” readings and workshop sessions throughout the year.

We also produce the Young Playwrights Festival, which encourages thousands of youth around the world to write plays. And they do! Every year we reach nearly 50,000 youngsters with the program, and they generate as many as 5,000 plays each year.

This year, FST has launched the Playwrights Collective, which includes eight of our favorite writers executing residences and commissions right here in Sarasota to develop plays that reflect the hopes and dreams of Sarasota audiences. Our goal with this program is to connect the playwrights to the theatre, and, most importantly, to connect the audience to the playwrights.

The eight playwrights in the Playwrights Collective include:

  • Mark St. Germain  Wednesday’s Child, Mainstage 2019
  • Jacqueline Goldfinger  Babel, New Play Festival 2019
  • Sarah Bierstock – Untitled Second Play, New Play Festival 2019
  • Jason Odell Williams  The Whole Shebang, still in development
  • Thomas Gibbons  Steal Her Bones, finishing development
  • Lia Romeo  The Forest, New Play Festival 2019
  • Richie McCall – his one man show, Me and Stepin
  • Larry Parr – is writing Come to the Circus for the Cabaret

These playwrights were selected because of their prior connection to FST. More than half you have been seen on the FST stages already.

In addition, many of the Playwrights Collective  will join in creating our two year initiative: The Suffragist Project. Florida Studio Theatre is going to celebrate the women who fought for the right to vote with The Suffragist Project: Celebrating 100 Years of the Woman’s Right to Vote. This project will lead to even more new plays.

Our aim at FST is to put the world on the stage. If we put all of the characters and all of the diverse views and thoughts on stage, then we believe we will see the same abundance in our audience. And so far, that thought has proven accurate. We boast one of the largest subscription audiences in the nation, over 36,000 strong with total attendance in excess of 215,000 each year.

I have been on a 25-year journey to better understand my art in context of the audience. Which plays speak to a large universal audience? And which plays speak to a limited few? Which plays speak to an elite crowd? And which speak to the many. What kind of play attracts the “uninitiated theatre goer,” and what kind of play speaks to the seasoned theatre goer? Are there plays that speak to both?

It is human nature that we attend the theatre for three fundamental reasons:

  • First, we attend the theatre to see ourselves.
  • Second, we attend the theatre to see our neighbors.
  • Finally, we attend the theatre to see the “Other.”

We believe that as the stories of “the people” are told on our stages, the people will show up in our audience. Until their story is told on our stage, they will find their story somewhere else. This is why, for nearly a quarter century, Florida Studio Theatre has been a Florida leader in developing new plays. We want to develop plays and we want to develop audiences. You can’t have one without the other.

And this is why FST’s audiences have continued to grow and deepen. FST boasts one of the most adventurous audiences in Florida. An audience willing and eager to confront the issues of our day. And to come to the theatre and attend the theatre for entertainment as well as challenge.

We have a GREAT audience. FST’s audiences are on a journey. They are on a journey with FST artists to discover all that’s new and good and true and honest in the American Theatre.

That’s why new plays matter.


Richard Hopkins

Producing Artistic Director