Fans of new, cutting-edge plays will be glad to hear that Florida Studio Theatre plans a return of its intimate Stage III series starting in January 2022.
Last year’s Stage III season, like so many others, could not take place because of Covid-19. Those involved with the coming three-play season are excited for its return.
“Stage III serves more of a niche market,” says FST associate artist Jason Cannon, who will direct one of the three shows. “But the energy, the vibe, are actually closest to what FST was in the 1980s, when [producing artistic director] Richard Hopkins first appeared on the scene here. It’s edgier, challenging work.”
“New play development is the lifeblood of FST,” fellow associate artist Catherine Randazzo, another Stage III director, says. In the case of the show she helms, Jacqueline Goldfinger’s Babel, “We’ve been involved from the very beginning,” from the first draft of the play.
Babel, which takes place in a not-so-distant future where expectant parents learn within the first few weeks of pregnancy what traits their child will have—and what their place in the world will be—was actually supposed to be staged last season but had to be postponed because of the pandemic. It is a National New Play Network rolling world premiere, beginning Jan. 26 in Bowne’s Lab. Actress Rachel Moulton, who has appeared in several earlier productions for FST, will play Dani, one half of a same sex couple finding their way through the thicket of modern eugenics.
Moulton will also appear in the third offering of the Stage III season, Etan Frankel’s Paralyzed. She and actor Alexander Stuart (who appeared together in FST’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time) were set to perform in the show in 2020 before being shut down.
Paralyzed, which will be directed by Meg Gilbert, is another world premiere, which had a staged reading at FST back in 2007. The story focuses on Leigh and Lee, two strangers with little in common besides their names. The discovery of a mysterious suicide note in a hotel bathroom brings them together on an unexpected journey where nothing goes according to plan. Paralyzed begins its run April 6 in Bowne’s Lab.
The show Cannon will direct, The Last Match by Anna Ziegler, pits two pro tennis players against one another in the semifinals of the U.S. Open. An up-and-coming Russian phenomenon and an American star in the twilight of his career are the characters in this regional premiere. Daniel Petzold, who played Officer Larkin in FST’s production of American Son, plays Tim Porter, the American character. He also plays Jamie, the husband of a heterosexual couple, in Babel.
Cannon says he likes the chance for FST’s actors “to play characters across shows” this way. “Actor X can play this role in Show 1 and this one in Show 2,” he says. And The Last Match seems particularly well suited for the Bowne’s Lab experience, he adds. ”It’s so close to the audience; it feels like a gladiator pit,” he says, adding, “You won’t see any tennis balls in this production, but the soundscape will let you hear the match.” The Last Match opens March 2.
For her part, Randazzo says she’s excited that two of the three Stage III shows are by women playwrights. She says that Babel is “such a female-centric play. And it’s so personal to Jackie [the playwright] because she did deep research into it when she herself became pregnant with twins. It provides a different approach to the topic of abortion, too.”
For tickets to any or all of the Stage III shows, call FST at (941) 366-9000 or go to floridastudiotheatre.org.