Golden Apple Dinner Theater of Sarasota city, which was forced to close a sister theater in Venice, south county, last year, will have a new one in 2005 to the north in Bradenton. Robert Ennis Turoff, owner of Coastal Productions, will also manage the indoor, cabaret-like theater in the Town Center of Lakewood Ranch, a mega-development. Along with an outdoor amphitheater, the Golden Apple will be at the center of an arts center styled after St. Mark's Square in Venice, Italy. The new Apple will be smaller and do more intimate shows than Sarasota's, which bills itself as "Broadway on the Suncoast" and mainly features musicals.

Florida Studio Theater has acquired the former Theater Works at 1247 First Street in downtown Sarasota. Renamed the Gompertz Theater, it honors Leila Gompertz whose million-dollar gift allowed the building's acquisition. This largest donation in FST history will allow an expansion in FST's educational programs. A survey is also being given to current Keating Mainstage audiences to determine "alternate space" plays they might like to see in the Gompertz. Meanwhile, the theater is presenting a revival of Sophie Tucker: Last of the Red Hot Mamas, which debuted in 2000 in the Cabaret Club and has become the most popular of shows premiered at FST and booked country-wide.

Westcoast Black Theater, now an official group of players with a season agenda, is headed by Nate Jacobs. Showcasing area African-American talents, the troupe has grown from presenting occasional shows, highlighting the work of black playwrights and musicians, in various local venues to having a subscription season with definite dates to fulfill at FST's Gompertz Theater. It also made guest appearances at the Riverfront Theater in Bradenton for the new year.

Actors Tessie Hogan and V Craig Heidenreich, who resigned amid controversy from the Asolo Theater Company two seasons ago, have launched Infinite Space, a new company. Their first venture was with the Banyan Theater Company, begun as a summer venture in 2002. Although they directed and starred in two plays at Theater Works under the Banyan banner in the winter of 2003, they broke with the company after last summer's season. Hogan and Heidenreich join an already established non-profit, mostly visual arts and music group. Infinite Space will highlight multi-media projects.
Hogan and Heidenreich's most recent Sarasota appearance was for a poetry reading at a Valentine's music performance.

Banyan Theater Company, meanwhile, has established itself as a permanent not-for-profit Sarasota company. Jerry Finn, founder and director, announces that he has booked a summer 2004 season of three plays into the Cook Theater, Florida State University Center for the Performing Arts. Banyan specializes in plays of literary merit.

Key Subjects: 
Dinner Theater, Theater Works, Westcoast Black Theater, Florida, Golden Apple, Sarasota
Marie J. Kilker
Writer Bio: 
Marie J. Kilker, Ph.D. (Interdisciplinary: Speech-Theater, English; Areas of Concentration: Dramatic Literature, Theatre History in the Western World) is a staff member with 50 years of teaching and professional writing experience.
There have been no project reports regarding a supposed new home for Theater Works east of downtown Sarasota. (Refer to TotalTheater's Periodica article, "Theater Works No Longer Working.")
February 2004