jakub | February 28, 2023

AMERICAN THEATRE | Florida Studio Theatre Announces Partnership with The Haven

Participants in Florida Studio Theatre's VIP Performing Arts Program. (Photo by Florida Studio Theatre.)

SARASOTA, FLA.: Florida Studio Theatre (FST) has announced a partnership with The Haven to create a participatory theatre program for adults with disabilities. The organizations have designed an eight-month program to teach acting, movement, and how to create an original piece of theatre.

“For us, this program is personal,” said Wendy and Bob Grady, FST patrons who have a daughter with disabilities and are the founding sponsors of the program, in a statement. “We have seen how, with the right resources and support, people with all types of challenges can lead rich, fulfilling lives.”

FST has been offering theatre classes to individuals with physical, emotional, mental, and behavioral disabilities free of charge since 1992 through the VIP Performing Arts Program. For several years, however, the program has reached capacity and has not been able to admit new students. The new partnership with The Haven will allow FST to serve more students than ever before.

“With this new program, participants are not only learning the fundamentals of acting, but also how to express themselves in ways they may never have before,” Kate Alexander, FST’s associate director-at-large and founder of the FST School, said in a statement. “The theatre asks each one of us to take a lens, to look inside, and share our feelings. By doing this, we grow in empathy, compassion and in the ability to empathize with ourselves. That is what we work to share with our partners at the Haven.”

Since October 2022, FST resident teaching artists Genesis Perez-Padilla and Kate Walsh have led classes in acting, music, and movement twice a week at The Haven in preparation for the new program.

“I love being onstage,” Alfred, 64, a client at The Haven, said of his time in the FST classes. “I love being with my friends onstage. We have a lot of fun. We love it when people get up to sing with us and a lot of people come to the theatre to watch us perform.”

Members of FST’s artistic staff will collaborate with Perez-Padilla, Walsh, and Haven clients to create a wholly devised original piece of theatre. The final presentation of the work be held at FST in May.

Founded in 1954, The Haven aims to enhance the quality of life for people with disabilities by encouraging independence, championing inclusion, and advocating for individual rights. The organization has grown to serve 800 people daily.

Florida Studio Theatre, Sarasota’s contemporary theatre, has grown to a village of five theatres in the heart of the city’s downtown. FST remains committed to making the arts accessible and affordable to as many people as possible and develops theatre that speaks to our living, evolving, and dynamically changing world. As of 2021, the theatre has a budget of approximately $12.4 million.

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