Florida Studio Theatre announces its annuAl Richard and Betty Burdick Play Reading Series, which will present three new plays by contemporary, American Playwrights. The series will take place in the Keating Theatre, on Monday, May 7 at 7:00pm, Saturday, May 12 at 2:00pm, and Monday, May 21 at 7:00pm, and is part of FST's Sarasota Festival of New Plays. Tickets for the series are 3 plays for $25, or individual play readings for $10. They may be purchased by calling the FST Box Office at (941) 366-9000 or by visiting http://www.floridastudiotheatre.org

There will be a Panel Discussion following the May 12 reading that will concern "The State of the New American Play," featuring special guests. The panel includes: Theresa Eyring, Executive Director of Theatre Communications Group; Jason Loewith, Executive Director of National New Play Network; Jack Canfora, playwright of Jericho, now playing in the Keating Theatre; and John Walch, playwright of In The Book Of, part of the Richard and Betty Burdick Play Reading Series. The panel discussion is free to the public and will take place on May 12 at 5:00PM in the Keating Theatre. 

This year's Play Reading Series features three new American Playwrights, and will take the audience on a journey throughout the United States; from a basement beauty shop in Colorado, to a small town in Mississippi, to the tallest skyscraper in New York City. 

The series begins with American Beauty Shop by Dana Lynn Formby on May 7. Sue Mason is a hard-working beauty shop owner in Colorado whose livelihood is threatened by the opening of a SuperCuts in the local Wal-Mart. As she battles to keep her business, Sue's teenage daughter, Judy, battles with her own future deciding between what she wants and what her mother wants for her. 

Formby describes herself as a "blue-collar playwright;" her father was a pipe-fitter and her mother was a hairdresser. Formby is a resident playwright at Chicago Dramatists and a founding member of Mortar Theatre Company. American Beauty Shop has been read at the Illinois Shakespeare Fest in Bloomington and at Steep Theatre in October. Dana is the 2008 recipient of the Scott McPherson Playwriting Award. 

Following American Beauty Shop will be John Walch's In the Book Of on Saturday, May 12. The play is inspired by the Biblical book of Ruth but focuses on the political and personal impacts of illegal immigration through the story of Naomi, an army veteran, and Anisah, an Afghan translator.  

Walch's plays have been produced at theatres such as The Center Theatre, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Playwrights Theatre of NJ, Kitchen Dog, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and off- Broadway at Urban Stages. John is a two time Sloan fellow (Manhattan Theatre Club, EST) as well as a Michener Fellow at UT at Austin, where he received his MFA. John served as artistic director of Austin Script Works, and has taught playwriting at UT at Austin, University of Iowa, and Bennington College, among others. John lives in Brooklyn, and is the resident playwright at Alabama Shakespeare Festival, as well as a resident playwright of New Dramatists.

The final reading will be The Tallest Building in the World by Matt Schatz on May 21. The Tallest Building in the World takes place in the 1960s and explores both the engineering and the chutzpah that fueled the construction of the World Trade Center.  

In an interview with WestOrangePatch.com, Schatz said of the play: "I tried to write an exciting, entertaining play that, while based on actual historical events, is both very theatrical and also has a lot of myself in it. Though this play is about the designing and building of the World Trade Center's Twin Towers, it's not really a 9/11 play. I was certainly influenced and affected by those events and want to honor them any way I can. But my play takes place in the 1960s and is more about relationships: relationships between the people who build tall buildings, those against tall buildings, between buildings and people, and even between the buildings themselves." Schatz is a playwright, lyricist and composer. He is a three-time recipient of an EST/Sloan Commission and a two-time Shubert Fellow. He is a member of the BMI Advanced Musical Theatre Workshop and the Dramatist Guild. Matt lives with his wife Jenna Hymes in the Sunnyside neighborhood of Queens. 

Each of these plays is in varying stage of their development, from draft to post-premiere edits, allowing the audience to participate in the further formation of these pieces. Each reading will be followed by a talkback with the playwright where audience members have the opportunity to provide feedback for the play. Plays such as Black Pearl Sings! by Frank Higgins and Laughing Matters...Too by Rebecca Hopkins went on to full productions and critical success at Florida Studio Theatre after appearing in a Richard and Betty Burdick Play Reading Series. Many have also gone on to productions in New York and other regional theatres. 

The Sarasota Festival of New Plays seeks to provide a forum for playwrights of all ages to develop plays that can be fruitfully produced. From our Young Playwrights to our emerging adult playwrights and seasoned play-writing veterans, the Sarasota Festival of New Plays seeks to broaden the breadth and depth of thought in American theatre by encouraging people of all ages and all perspectives to write plays. FST has presented the Sarasota Festival of New Plays for 20 years.

New Play Development is the lifeblood of FST. It is a year-round activity that is fully integrated with each of the theatre's other programs. FST's approach to new play development focuses on the continued life of the work.  Aside from presenting world premieres, FST frequently provides plays with their second, third or fourth productions. For example, in the 2009 Sarasota Festival of New Plays, FST provided Black Pearl Sings! with its 3rd production. Black Pearl Sings! has gone on to many productions, becoming one of the most produced plays in the country in 2010. In addition, in 2010, in partnership with the National New Play Network, FST presented the rolling world premiere of Shotgun by John Biguenet.

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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