Renovated Gompertz Theatre hosts FST’s third show of season
Although the official grand opening is slated for Nov. 30, the renovated Gompertz Theatre greeted the public Friday, Aug. 10 to the third show of the summer season for Florida Studio Theatre.
Longboat Key News was invited Tuesday, Aug. 3 to a sneak peek of the Gompertz. Our tour guide for the event was General Manager James Lemons. Excitement, joy, stress, blood, sweat and tears were evident on Lemon’s face as we entered the ‘old new’ Gompertz. Lemons has for the past six months overseen every aspect of the Gompertz renovation along with the construction of two additional theaters and a restaurant.
Now in its 38th year this renovation and construction project is the largest expansion to date for the non-profit, Sarasota-based theatre company.
The historic structure on the corner of First Street and Cocoanut Avenue formerly known as The Park-Seventh Theatre was built in 1925 and operated by the Levinson family. In 1934, the E.J. Sparks circuit assumed ownership and changed the name to the Garden Theatre. By 1941, the theater changed names yet again and became the Art Theatre.
By the early 1950s, the theater stopped showing movies and became the Palm Tree Playhouse, a live performance hall. The theater received its fifth name, the Gompertz Theatre, when it became affiliated with the Florida Studio Theatre. According to Lemon, every theater company now operating in Sarasota has used the old Gompertz space at one time or another.
The ground breaking for the renovation was held Jan. 4, 2012. The original 6,000-square-foot structure has been renovated and an 18,000-square-foot addition has been constructed with two new theatre spaces and a lobby restaurant.
FST funded the project with a campaign to allow the expansion and construction with no debt through donations. Lemons said that FST reaches one of the largest audiences in the country for the size of its theater. And through the generosity of its supporters the $6 million renovation budget is reachable.
Audience members will find the new facility state of the art with the ambience of the old world. The fully renovated Gompertz theatre auditorium has increased seating capacity to 230, increased accessible seating for handicapped patrons, a larger stage space and wing space, a large inviting interior lobby space, new restroom facilities, a café and bar, covered veranda seating and street level seating, a new Cabaret Theatre, a new Lab Theatre and a brand new actors loft with new dressing rooms.
The two new theaters are slated to open in 2014 and 2015 respectively.
What is next?
• December 2012: Grand opening of the New Gompertz Theatre, café and lobby space during the 2012-2013 Winter Mainstage season
• January 2014: Grand opening of the new Cabaret Theatre during the 2013-2014 season
• January 2015: Grand opening of the new Lab Theatre during the 2014-2015 season