Florida Studio Theatre (FST) announces its 2019 Stage III Series, dedicated to presenting edgy new plays that are challenging in both content and form. FST’s 2019 Stage III season offers one of the most varied lineups to date, with an irreverent puppet comedy, a crackling drama about hatred, and a charming exploration of the nature of celebrity.

“FST’s Stage III Series continues to bring bold, contemporary work to Sarasota,” said FST’s Producing Artistic Director Richard Hopkins. “This season addresses topics that pervade our society today — religion, hate, and celebrity — and explores them in creative, compelling ways. Gritty and raw, our Stage III Series shares captivating stories that mirror what’s happening in the modern world.”

The season opens with “Hand to God,” a dark comedy by Robert Askins, examining the startling fragile nature of faith, morality, and human connection. The play, which runs Jan. 16 – Feb. 8, centers on Jason, a shy, inquisitive teenager who finally finds an outlet for his creativity and anxiety at his church’s Christian Puppet Ministry.

Things go awry when his hand puppet, Tyrone, assumes his own heinous and dangerous personality, threatening to corrupt Jason’s relationships with everyone around him.

Next up is “Cherry Docs” by David Gow, a gripping drama examining hatred, intolerance, and the dangers of extremism.

Mike is a neo-Nazi skinhead accused of a racially motivated murder, and Danny is the Jewish lawyer from legal aid assigned to defend him. As the two work to develop a defense for Mike, the limits of Danny’s own liberalism emerge, and Mike must confront his real motivations for turning to violence.

“Cherry Docs” is an unblinking examination of hatred and the hurdles we all face in efforts to eradicate it. It plays Feb. 20 through March 15.

The series concludes on a lighter note with “Buyer & Cellar,” Jonathan Tolins’ witty one-man-show about the price of fame, the cost of things, and the oddest of jobs. Runs March 20 – April 12.

“This year for the first time, we’re introducing a comedy into the mix. It’s offbeat and eccentric, but still a comedy. So prepare yourself to NOT be shocked,” added Hopkins.

When Alex More, a struggling actor in Los Angeles loses his job at Disneyland, he is soon hired to work in the basement shopping mall of a celebrated megastar. The Lady of the House patronizes the shopping mall every so often to “buy” something or enjoy some frozen yogurt. Over time, the two begin to develop an unlikely bond. But as outside influences creep in, Alex begins to question the authenticity of their relationship, and how long it can last.

With its mission to “produce theatre that challenges with as much gusto as it entertains,” and to “make theatre accessible to the broadest possible audience,” FST offers all three challenging Stage III shows for as little as $69.

Subscriptions are now on sale through the box office at 941-366-9000 or at: ForidaStudioTheatre.org.

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