SARASOTA — Florida Studio Theatre (FST) and the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall announced that the two leading Sarasota arts organizations will partner to provide virtual theatrical offerings, entirely free of charge, to Sarasota and Manatee county schools, extending as far as Charlotte and DeSoto counties.
Typically, thousands of children travel with their classes to these arts venues every year to experience the magic of live theater. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, FST and the Van Wezel are teaming up to continue to inspire young audiences through the arts with new virtual programming.
“In a time where so much has changed for children and gathering in large groups at the theatre isn’t possible, we want to offer a little bit of normalcy to teachers and students,” said Caroline Kaiser, FST’s director of Children’s Theatre. “We hope that these virtual ‘field trips’ will give students an opportunity to see, laugh, and connect with new stories. We want to spark creativity, stir students’ imaginations, and foster more arts-integrated learning in the classroom.”
Area schools will have access to two shows from ArtsPower, a nonprofit that creates and produces theatrical performances based on beloved children’s books.
Ideal for students in Pre-K to second grade, “Chicken Dance” is a one-act musical version of Tammi Sauer’s award-winning book of the same name. Geared toward students in grades two to six, “Anne of Green Gables” is a musical adaptation of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s classic novel.
Teachers will also have access to supplementary lessons and activities that they can integrate into their curriculum.
Streaming will begin in October, and content will be available for registering teachers for the entire school year. To further enhance student engagement with the material, live talkbacks with the original cast members of “Chicken Dance” and “Anne of Green Gables” will also be available on select days, taking place over Zoom.
Founded in 1973, FST has grown to a village of five theaters located in the heart of downtown Sarasota. Each theater is small in size and large in impact, providing intimate and engaging settings for high-quality, professional performances.
Today, FST has established itself as a major force in American theater.
FST is the largest subscription theater in the state of Florida and among the largest in the country, serving more than 230,000 live attendees each year across its six core programs: Mainstage, Cabaret, Stage III, Children’s Theatre, Education and New Play Development.
Even with its growth, FST remains firmly committed to making the arts accessible and affordable to as many people as possible.
Under the leadership of Producing Artistic Director Richard Hopkins, FST develops theatre that speaks to our living, evolving and dynamically changing world.
Hip and historical, entertaining and challenging, we are the theater where the street meets the elite — where everyone is welcome to engage in the art of theater.
A true pioneer in the cultural development of Sarasota, the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall presents spectacular Broadway musicals, top national and international performers, popular comedians and a compelling mix of classical and dance productions.
Owned and operated by the city of Sarasota, the Van Wezel celebrated 50 years of live entertainment during the 2019-20 season.
Under the leadership of Executive Director Mary Bensel since 2007, the Hall has made a number of capital improvements, including the Van Wezel Sunset Terrace, all new seating for the Hall, a new sound system, the hearing loop, a new orchestra pit lift, renovated restrooms, a new orchestra shell and new carpet.
The theater’s Education and Community Engagement Department serves more than 35,000 students, teachers and family members each year, teaching them in, through and about the arts.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Van Wezel has remained connected to the community through Virtual Happy Hour Concerts, interactive digital events, streamed performances, limited-capacity, socially-distanced events, and many free, virtual arts education opportunities. To learn more, visit VanWezel.org.
For more information, contact FST’s Director of Children’s Theatre, Caroline Kaiser, or the Van Wezel’s Director of Education & Community Engagement, Kelli Maldonado.