Asolo Rep Unveils Five-Year Plan

Theater

BY PHILIP LEDERER SRQ DAILY FRIDAY WEEKEND EDITION FRIDAY OCT 27, 2017

Asolo Repertory Theatre has unveiled its plans for the future in a five-year strategic plan entitled “Staging Our Future.” With major gifts from multiple local philanthropists and community foundations, the theater looks to upgrade existing facilities and build new ones to consolidate its operations into an expanded cohesive campus, as well as spur on new play development and audience outreach. Some of the changes are already underway.

With a lead gift from Beverly Koski, Asolo Rep has already purchased properties at 7590 Commerce Court, next door to the current rehearsal and production facility on Tallevast Road, with plans to combine the two into a single state-of-the-art production center—The Robert and Beverly Koski Production Center Campus. “It’s a vision that came from Bob and Beverly Koski,” says Asolo Rep Producing Artistic Director Michael Donald Edwards. “That we have a real campus."

Together with pledged funds from the Muriel O’Neil Fund for the Performing Arts Community Foundation of Sarasota County, Asolo Rep will construct exercise and physical therapy rooms for performers, collaborative spaces for creative teams and—most importantly—two side-by-side rehearsal spaces allowing for music and staging to be prepared simultaneously. Currently, music rehearsal happens in one building and stage rehearsal in another, hampering collaboration and adding a lot of waiting to the process. “Now it can all happen at the same time,” says Edwards. “It’s a much more efficient use of everybody’s time.”

Also with funding from the Muriel O’Neil Fund, a new sound system has already been installed in the Harold and Esther Mertz Theatre, to be debuted with the season opener, Evita, on Nov. 14. For the past 12 years or so, “we’ve just done what we can,” says Edwards, resulting in a sound system built incrementally from a hodgepodge of different brands’ components—functional, but not ideal. “They’re all in the same family now,” he says, “which makes it much easier to program, and the quality of the sound is far superior.” The upgrade also gave the theater the opportunity to install its first “center cluster”—a bundle of speakers that can be lowered and raised from the ceiling.

Between the contributions to the new campus, the sound system for the Mertz and $125,000 to establish an endowment fund for the FSU/Asolo Conservatory for Actor Training Student Fellowship, the Muriel O’Neil Fund will contribute a total of $705,000 to “Staging Our Future.”

Thanks to a major gift from Herman and Sharon Frankel, Asolo Rep will also be constructing the Herman and Sharon Frankel Asolo Rep Annex to enhance operations at the theater’s home campus at FSU Center for Performing Arts. The annex will house collaborative spaces, office spaces for education and outreach, archival storage and offsite planning. And with an increase in personnel, Edwards says many will be dedicated to new play development. "We are part of the national pipeline in a way have not been able to be," he says.

Pictured: The leaders of Asolo Repertory Theatre, the Staging Our Future Capital Campaign, The Community Foundation of Sarasota County and Beverly Koski celebrate the unveiling of Staging Our Future. Photo by Cliff Roles.

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