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FST debuts Children's Theater series

With its inaugural series, Florida Studio Theatre sets the stage for family bonding.

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  • | 6:00 a.m. November 9, 2016
  • Arts + Culture
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When Caroline Kaiser first came to Florida Studio Theatre last year, she knew exactly what she hoped to accomplish.

She had just relocated to Sarasota from New York City, where she was associate artistic director at Theatreworks USA — one of the largest theaters for young and family audiences in the country.

Caroline Kaiser. Courtesy photo.
Caroline Kaiser. Courtesy photo.

Here, as the director of children’s theater, she wanted to bring her experience to the theater company.

FST is no stranger to children’s theater; its Write A Play program is in its 26th year. But Kaiser says she wanted to do more.

On Nov. 19, the theater company will present “The Velveteen Rabbit.” It’s a classic story about imagination and the power of a child’s love, and it marks the beginning of Florida Studio Theatre’s inaugural Children’s Theater series.

Amber Wiest and Vanessa Guadiana in
Amber Wiest and Vanessa Guadiana in "The Velveteen Rabbit."

“This is something I’ve wanted to do since I first started here,” says Kaiser. “This isn’t something you do to build a future audience. This is for children right now. It has value for them right now.”

The idea was to create a series of plays aimed at children as a way to introduce them to the art form at a young age and provide an affordable way to spend quality time with their families.

“They have the opportunity to experience something new together, to ask questions and learn — to spark their imagination. And it allows the parents to be part of that spark,” Kaiser says.

Vanessa Guadiana. Photo by Matthew Holler
Vanessa Guadiana. Photo by Matthew Holler

She worked with Producing Artistic Director, Richard Hopkins, to make the series a reality.

But first, they needed to make a few key decisions: What time of year would be best for the series? Where would the shows be performed? Perhaps most importantly — who would write and direct them?

The inaugural series includes four plays: “The Velveteen Rabbit,” directed by Jason Cannon; “Deck the Halls,” Kaiser and Patrick A. Jackson’s throwback tribute to holiday variety shows of yesteryear, with an emphasis on what makes Sarasota’s holiday season unique; “Alice With a Twist,” for which Kaiser will team up with Will Luera to re-imagine “Alice In Wonderland” through an improv-comedy lens; and “The Dragon Vs. The Hiccups and Other Winning Plays,” an anthology of award-winning short plays written by elementary school students.

“We’re starting off small,” Kaiser says. “The most important thing for me was accessibility. A season subscription costs less than going to the movies. I hope people will take a few hours to celebrate being together as a family and experience something new.”


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