Florida Studio Theatre Lays Cornerstone on New Gompertz Theatre


On Monday, April 16, Florida Studio Theatre's staff and supporters gathered to unveil the cornerstone on the Hegner Theatre Wing – part of the New Gompertz Theatre capital improvement campaign that includes renovating the 6,000 sq. foot Gompertz Theatre and constructing an 18,000 sq. foot addition with two new theatre spaces.

Artistic Director Richard Hopkins, Associate Director Kate Alexander, Managing Director Rebecca Hopkins, Architects Jon Potvin and Alan Anderson, and FST Board of Trustees Chair Dennis McGillicuddy were joined by Sarasota County Commissioner Jon Thaxton, Florida State Representative Ray Pilon, and 40 donors, supporters, and staff members to celebrate the progress of the project and take private tours of the construction.

In addition to the dedicated Hegner Theatre Wing, made possible by The Hegner Family Foundation, Florida Studio Theatre unveiled new floor plans indicating parts of the theatre that will bear the names of the lead donors of the project. These include:

The Court Theatre (Georgia Court)
The Israeloff Lobby (Robert and Bonny Israeloff)
Georgia's Johns (Theatre Restrooms, Georgia Court)
Aaron Veranda (Gerri Aaron)
Eisenbarth Terrace (Max Eisenbarth)
Abromson Actor Kitchenette (Linda Abromson)
Lupoff Box Office (Barbara J. Lupoff)
Jerome and Sydney Goldstein Dressing Rooms (Gompertz Dressing Rooms, Jerome and Sydney Goldstein)
Baisley Artist Loft (Jane Baisley)
Full-Service Bar (Anonymous)
Lab Theatre Men's Dressing Room (Anonymous)

The $6.8 million dollar campaign is the largest capital program in the 38-year old theatre's history and will double the number of renovated stages on the theatre's campus located in Sarasota's historic downtown. The renovated Gompertz Theatre will have a soft opening in July 2012, and have a grand opening on November 30, 2012. The Gompertz Theatre is located at the corner of First Street and Cocoanut Avenue.

Artistic Director Richard Hopkins said, "The renovation and new theatres are turning out better than we could have imagined. Although construction has slipped about one week behind schedule, we are still hopeful that we can meet our July deadline for a soft opening of the Gompertz. Right now, the old Gompertz Theatre has been stripped to the earthen floor, with only the four walls and roof still standing. New foundations are being built to support the new floor for the stage and auditorium. Although a tad frightening, it is a very exhilarating process."

It is Florida Studio Theatre's mission to make theatre affordable and accessible to as many people as possible. With that goal in mind, FST has successfully grown its audience to one of the largest in the country, reaching more than 160,000 people each year through six major programs.

The New Gompertz Theatre project will allow FST to meet the demands of its programs and to reach even more of Sarasota's broadening audience. Those demands could take FST's audience and impact from 160,000 people to a projected 250,000 people per year. It will also allow for exciting new artistic ventures because of the expansion and addition of two new theatre spaces.

The New Gompertz Theatre is designed by Potvin Architects in collaboration with C. Alan Architect PA and NDC Construction. Schuler Shook of Chicago served as Theatre Consultants in the months leading up to construction and Siebein Associates, Inc are serving as Acoustical Consultants.

The $6.8 million construction campaign includes: $4.2 million for renovation of The New Gompertz Theatre, $1 million to pay for the property, $1 million for endowment, $633,000 for capital reserves.

FST's construction project has a planned grand opening of the new Lab theatre space by January 2015.

FST first purchased the industrial 160-seat Gompertz Theatre in 2002, and opened its doors during FST's 30th season anniversary in 2004. This purchase changed the campus of FST, turning it into the three-theatre campus it is today (with the Keating Theatre and Goldstein Cabaret). The Gompertz Theatre has allowed for growth and expansion for Florida Studio Theatre, including the creation of the Stage III program, which presented a broad palate of theatre; from provocative plays like Edward Albee's The Goat or entertaining comedies like Shear Madness. Also, by presenting the Mainstage series in both the Keating and the Gompertz, it allowed FST to reach an unprecedented 10,000 subscribers during its 2010-2011 season and 160,000 total attendees through all six of its major programs.

Known as Sarasota's Contemporary Theatre, Florida Studio Theatre was founded in 1973 by Jon Spelman. Starting out as a small touring company, FST traveled to places such as migrant camps and prisons. The company eventually settled down into a permanent home, acquiring the former Woman's Club building – now renamed the Keating Theatre. In the years that followed, Florida Studio Theatre established itself as a major force in American Theatre, presenting Contemporary Theatre in its three theatre venues: the Keating Theatre, the Goldstein Cabaret and its newest space, the Gompertz Theatre.

Even with its growth, Florida Studio Theatre remains firmly committed to making the arts accessible and affordable to a broad-based audience. Under Richard Hopkins, Artistic Director and CEO, FST develops theatre that speaks to our living, evolving, and dynamically changing world. As FST grows and expands, it continues to provide audiences with challenging, contemporary drama and innovative programs.

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