Carly Zien Shines in FST's Network

Arts & Culture

Pictured: Carly Zien and Rod Brogan in Network. Photo by John Jones.

Although at this point it should come as no surprise, something new and exciting is bubbling up in the Sarasota theater scene. The cultural hub for art not just on Florida’s gulf coast, but in all of the southeast, Sarasota boasts an abundance of performing arts organizations, including the Florida Studio Theatre. This past week, FST extended their run of Network, the drama adapted for the stage by Lee Hall from Paddy Chayefsky’s Academy Award-winning screenplay. The period piece, which is set in 1976, follows struggling news anchor Howard Beale, who sees his ratings skyrocket once he unravels on live television.

Amongst the cast is Carly Zien, who plays Diana Christensen, the television executive at the fictional news outlet UBS, who convinces her fellow executives to keep Howard on the air amidst his raucous outbursts. “Network is essentially about the television industry and how exploitative it can be both on tv and behind the scenes,” says Zien. “The primary storyline is about Howard Beale who basically has a nervous breakdown on live television and Diana is the programming executive and producer who encourages the company to keep Howard on the air because the ratings skyrocket when he’s threatening to kill himself on live tv and just kind of rantinghis feelings about politics and the media and all of that stuff. The more he rants the better the ratings get and Diana uses that as an opportunity to keep viewership high.”

The play also features a romantic storyline between Diana and Max Schumaker, the head of News at UBS and Howard’s best friend, who’s opposed to how the network is exploiting Howard’s breakdowns to increase ratings. Although some might see Diana as a villainous character, a climber who’ll do anything to get to the top, Zien views her character in a slightly different light. “That’s the big question about her, like, does she have a soul?” Zien says, laughing. “She’s pretty ruthless and she takes over the Howard’s show from Max, so she basically steals his job but then continues to try to sleep with him. When you play a character, however, you can’t judge them and you have to try to look for reasons behind why they do certain things. I think for Diana it's easy for audiences to see a villain because she’s responsible for Howard’s rise and eventual demise, but when working on the character you have to understand why they’re driven to do these things and I think for her it’s this deep seated need for attention and to be seen and to be valued.”

Box Office: (941) 366-9000, 1241 North Palm Avenue, Sarasota, https://www.floridastudiotheatre.org/network.

Pictured: Carly Zien and Rod Brogan in Network. Photo by John Jones.

For tickets and information click here.

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