Florida Studio Theatre Hosts Next Act Gala, Nov 29

Florida Studio Theatre Hosts Next Act Gala, Nov 29

Florida Studio Theatre will celebrate the grand opening of the Gompertz Theatre on November 29, 2012 with The Next Act Gala. The theme of the event is "Reflecting on Theatre Past and Future" and will celebrate FST's 39 years of contemporary work. Carol M. Poteat-Buchanan and Patricia Courtois, two of FST's longtime supporters, will serve as the co-chairs of the event.

The event kicks off at 5:30pm with pre-show cocktails that will take place in the Israeloff Lobby of the new Hegner Theatre Wing. Attendees will have the chance to take tours of the newly renovated Gompertz Theatre and the two additional spaces: the John C. Court Cabaret and the Bowne Laboratory Theatre. Moving into the evening, the Spelman award recipient will be recognized, followed by a special one-night-only performance looking back on what has made FST so special and unique. The show will reflect past hits that have helped FST grow to what it is today. Concluding the evening will be a tented dinner catered by The Frances, the new restaurant opening under the Palm Avenue Parking Garage next year.

Richard Hopkins, Artistic Director and CEO of FST says, "This year's annual gala is special. It's special because we are turning a corner and stepping into the future. FST is celebrating the opening of three new stages which will accommodate the further development of our subscribers – one of the largest subscription audiences in America. It's special because FST produces great theatre. The public knows it; they vote with their buying power. And we are the biggest seller in the state of Florida." Tickets to the event are $250 per person and will be a great way to support FST and its programming while having a spectacular evening. Sponsorship Opportunities are currently available.

During the event, FST will present the prestigious Spelman Award. Named in honor of Florida Studio Theatre's founding Artistic Director, Jon Spelman, the Spelman Award has been presented to an individual or a corporate sponsor who has demonstrated extraordinary leadership by providing FST with spiritual, financial, and/or in-kind support. Last year FST was proud to present the Spelman Award to Ina Schnell for her dedication to the success of the Theatre in the Sarasota community. This year's award recipients are Bob and Bonny Israeloff.

Bob Israeloff met Bonny Braverman on a blind date in 1957. Upon learning that Bonny's father played the viola in the Philadelphia Orchestra, he made sure to enroll in "History of the Symphony." Thus began the cultural journey of the couple, married in 1960, that has led to the being awarded the 2013 Spelman Award. Bob, a CPA, and Bonny, a medical technologist turned housewife and mother, have been active in professional, community and artistic activities all their lives. The couple discovered Longboat Key and Sarasota in 1973. After snow-birding for many years, they became residents in 2000. Almost immediately, they became supporters of the Sarasota arts community, with participation in the Arts Council, Perlman Music Program/Suncoast, Sarasota Orchestra and especially Florida Studio Theatre. Bob and Bonny have been FST season underwriters for many years and are major supporters of FST capital campaigns. Their dedication to affordable regional theatre makes them worthy recipients of the Spelman Award.

Of the Israeloffs, Richard Hopkins says, "Since 1995, Bob and Bonny have been significant supporters of Florida Studio Theatre. They began underwriting shows in the 2005-2006 season with Brooklyn Boy – not a stretch for a couple from New York City who moved to the area and loved the arts. They have become known as FST 'lobbyists' for their support of ongoing capital projects, including the New Gompertz Theatre. For that reason we want to honor Bob and Bonny and thank them so much from the bottom of our hearts for all that they've done for FST for these many years."


The New Gompertz Theatre was 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 completed $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

The construction project includes the following in the new 24,000 sq. foot facility:
• The Israeloff Lobby – expanded interior lobby space
• Georgia's Johns – new, large restrooms
• The Green Room – a full service cafe and bar
• The Gerri Aaron Veranda featuring covered seating and street-level seating
• Fully renovated Gompertz theatre auditorium featuring an increase in seating capacity to 237, increased accessible seating for handicapped patrons, larger stage space and wing space
• The John C. Court Cabaret Theatre, seating 130 people on two levels
• The Bowne Lab Theatre, seating 100 people on two levels
• The Baisley Actors' Loft featuring new dressing rooms, restrooms, green room, and additional facilities, plus a Rooftop Garden for actors and running crews

FST's construction project had the following timeline:
• August 10, 2012: Performances began in the renovated Gompertz Theatre for Perfect Wedding, the second show of the 2012 Summer Season
• November 29, 2012: Grand opening of the New Gompertz Theatre, cafe, and lobby space
• December 7, 2012: Opening of Mainstage show The Best of Enemies in the Gompertz Theatre
• January 4, 2013: Grand opening of the John C. Court Cabaret with Urban Cowboys
• January 2014: Grand opening of the Bowne Lab Theatre [2013/2014 Season]

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 layout of FST, turning it into a three-theatre campus (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 11,000 subscribers during its 2011-2012 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 four theatre venues: the Keating Theatre, the Goldstein Cabaret, the Gompertz Theatre and the new John C. Court Cabaret.

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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