FST Brings Back 30 Furloughed Staff Member with CARES Act

Coconut Telegraph

SRQ DAILY FRESHLY SQUEEZED CONTENT EVERY MORNING THURSDAY APR 30, 2020

Last month, Florida Studio Theatre (FST) announced that it was cancelling the remainder of its 2019-2020 Winter Season due to the COVID-19 health crisis. As a result of these cancellations, FST projects a loss of over $1 million in revenue to date this season alone. Due to these losses, FST was forced to furlough 30 employees—which accounts for 60% of its full-time staff.

With the passing of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), FST has obtained financial assistance that will help Sarasota’s Contemporary Theatre continue to operate. Through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), FST brought back 30 full-time employees for the next eight weeks. During this time, returning employees will be tackling projects spanning FST’s artistic, production, facilities, and education departments.

“FST has not hesitated to make the difficult—but necessary—choices that will insure our survival for the future,” said Rebecca Hopkins, FST’s Managing Director. “On March 16, we furloughed 30 full-time employees and laid off 90 artists and front-of-house workers. Funding from the Payroll Protection Program has allowed us to bring back these furloughed staff members and employ many out of work artists.”

Over the next eight weeks, FST’s artistic staff is focused on the lifeblood of the theatre: New Play Development. They are working with local and national playwrights, including Larry Parr (Ethel Waters: His Eye is on the Sparrow, Hi-Hat-Hattie) and Thomas Gibbons (Bee-luther-hatchee, Permanent Collection), to develop new work that complements FST’s mission to produce theatre that “challenges with as much gusto as it entertains.” The playwrights will also participate in discussions and workshops as part of FST’s online programming—more details are forthcoming.

FST’s artistic team will also use this time to create Cabarets to be programmed into future Winter Cabaret Seasons. In addition, they will continue to collaborate with Jacqueline Goldfinger, Sandy Rustin, Mark St. Germain, and Rachel Lynett—four playwrights FST commissioned to write new plays inspired by the women’s suffrage movement as part of its Suffragist Project. “We are planning for the future—a future when we can come back together,” continued Hopkins. “A future where FST returns to telling ambitious, exciting, and dynamic human stories. By taking advantage of the assistance available to us with programs like the Paycheck Protection Program, and with the strong support of our local funders and our audience, we will weather this storm.”

Starting the week of May 11, virtual classes in playwriting, sketch comedy, acting, solo performance, musical theatre, and improvisation will be available for youth, teens, and adults. Through The FST School: Online, students ages 7 and up will be able to envision and work toward their own creative goals. Classes will span four weeks and be conducted over the Zoom app. For more information or to enroll, contact Pam Smith, Education Administrator, at 941.366.1350 or psmith@floridastudiotheatre.org.

Due to COVID-19, in-person FST Improv performances have been cancelled for the foreseeable future, but FST’s improvisation program continues to reach Sarasota audiences and beyond. Last week, FST’s Director of Improv Will Luera taught a workshop to students throughout Europe as part of Impro Fest Online, the world’s first fully digital improv festival. FST Improv will also perform short-form improv games live on the group’s social media platforms on select Friday and Saturday evenings. In addition, FST is using the next eight weeks to undertake projects that aren’t possible to complete when the theatre is in “peak season”—November through March. Some of these projects include, but are not limited to, a complete renovation of the kitchen in FST’s Goldstein Cabaret, and refurbishing the theatre’s six commercial and 18 residential facilities. Meanwhile, FST’s resident designers are preparing designs for upcoming FST productions.

They are also organizing and updating the theatre’s lighting, sound, projection, and scene shop equipment. Finally, FST is using the next eight weeks to undertake projects that aren’t possible to complete when the theatre is in “peak season”—November through March. Some of these projects include, but are not limited to, a complete renovation of the kitchen in FST’s Goldstein Cabaret, organizing and updating the theatre’s lighting, sound, projection, and scene shop equipment, and refurbishing the theatre’s six commercial and 18 residential facilities. Meanwhile, FST’s resident designers continue to prepare designs for planned upcoming FST productions.

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