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  • Interview with Paul Helm – Murder for Two

    7-23-18 Interview

    7/23/18 Pianist, singer, director, actor, musical director Paul Helm was lucky. From the elderly babysitter who convinced his parents to give four year old Paul piano lessons, to the choir teacher who “saw something in him,” to the agent who having seen Paul on stage, pursued him until Paul agreed to leave his beloved Wisconsin and make the leap to New York City, Paul has been led to the career which he “loves” and which although often difficult, he “wouldn’t have it any other way.” Listen to this enthusiastic young man talk about his work and don’t miss his delightful performance in the wacky and wonderful musical “Murder for Two” at Florida Studio Theater.

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  • Interview with Harpsichordist Mark Kroll

    7-16-18 Interview

    When he was five years old and had never taken a piano lesson Mark Kroll could play by ear the pieces his eight year old brother was studying. His brother was so embarrassed by his baby brother’s ability that he gave up the piano, but Mark never did. Dreaming of being a concert pianist Mark filled his life with music, studying, practicing and listening to his favorite works, by his favorite pianists and composers. At seventeen he fell in love with “early music,” but thought it didn’t sound quite right played on the piano. Then he heard Harpsichordist Ralph Kirkpatrick play and his fate was sealed. Listen to Mark tell the story of his parents moving his bed out of the bedroom to make room for his harpsichord. And get a taste of Mark playing.

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  • Interview with Violinist Carol Lieberman

    7-9-18 Interview

    7/9/18 When Carol Lieberman was three years old her grandfather gave her older brother a violin and Carol fell in love. She was unable to begin lessons until she was six and her parents could afford to buy the ½ violin she needed. At seven she was accepted into the Manhattan School of Music. As a freshman at the High School of Music and Art she began playing with the senior orchestra where she became assistant concert master in her second semester and first violinist of the string quartet. Although she majored in History at City College, she was at the Music department so often that believed she was a music major. She went on to get her Masters in Music at the Yale School of Music, play with the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra and return to Yale to receive a Doctorate in Music Arts. Listen to this gentle, self-deprecating woman describe a life dedicated to the instrument that won her heart at three years old, and hear a little to the glories music she creates.

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  • Interview with Musical Director Justin Cowan

    7-2-18 Interview

    7/2/18 Justin Cowan is the Musical Director for Always Patsy Cline which is currently playing to several times extended audiences at Florida Studio Theater. Although he never planned to be a musical director people continually urged him to join the choir, audition for a Community Theater production and finally made it possible for him to get the education he wanted, but could not afford. Whether chance, fate or coincidence someone was always there pointing him in the direction he is delighted to have gone. Listen to this gregarious, charming man talk about how he was “led” to where he was meant to go, how that experience informs his commitment to teaching, and made him the perfect person to bring out the Patsy in Meredith. Also listen to one of the songs for the show

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  • Interview with Beverly and Bob Bartner

    1-8-18 Interview

    6/25/18 Beverly and Bob Bartner had long and successful careers. They were interested in all kinds of performances, but it wasn’t until they were captivated by a production of Wit at the Long Wharf Theater in Connecticut that they decided to actively participate in producing for the theater. Since then they have produced countless productions, and their commitment to producing “good theater,” has remained constant. Bob says “we don’t want to lose money, but when we believe in a play – even if we think that it will probably lose money, we will support it.” This passion for supporting good theater has also resulted in the producing of many big hits. And now Bob and Beverly bring their talent, knowledge and passion to the Asolo Theater in Sarasota.

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  • Interview with Actor Trudie Kessler

    6-18-18 Interview

    12 year old Trudie Kessler was recruited to help her 18 year old brother learn his lines for a high school play. Watching him on stage and mouthing all his lines, Trudie knew that she wanted to do that too. She waited, not to patiently, for freshman year to arrive when she was finally able to audition. Terrified, but determined, she auditioned for, was cast in the first freshman play and she was “home.” Like many others who fall in love with an art, Trudie was determined to have a steady paycheck and so although she majored in Theater she always knew she would teach. Adding directing and voice to her skill set Trudie taught theater first at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City and then at the Goodman School of Drama, which was adopted by DePaul University, where she taught voice, acting and directing for 33 years. Retirement has given her an opportunity to get back on stage herself. Listen to this lovely woman talk about a life dedicated to experiencing and passing on the joys of theater. And come see her demonstrate that joy as she plays Hannah the “shotgun” – matchmaker, in the Players Theater production of Crossing Delancey.

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  • Interview with Musician Frank Ascone

    8-2-16 Interview

    When Alto Sax player Frank Ascone was four years old he saw the Louis Prima band and fell in love. Unable to play an instrument at that time little Frank taught himself to tap dance. Seeing that he was captured by Jimmy Dorsey’s clarinet, his parents bought Frank a $200.00 clarinet for his 11th birthday and his fate was sealed. He loved the instrument, learned quickly and on his 13th birthday his parents bought him a saxophone. Although music was and would always be his “life” Frank wanted to have a steady paycheck – something a career in music was not guaranteed to provide – so Frank went to art school and for many years balanced his full time job and his love of playing music. When gigs for Sax became less plentiful Frank taught himself to play the drums and piano, now retirement has given him an opportunity to indulge his lifelong passion for music. Listen to this delightful, self-deprecating man, who can’t “pass a piano without sitting down to play,” describe a life in which music is his constant companion.

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  • Interview with Actor Brendan Ragan

    6-4-18 Interview

    6/4/18 Actor, theater maker Brendan Ragan loves being on stage. He always knew he was a natural; but he “never wanted to settle for pretty good,” and the need to hone his “artistry,” to be pushed, to be torn down and rebuilt if that was what it took for him to reach his personal best, drives him. It drove him to risk to joining 11 other graduates to create Single Carrot, a theater company in Baltimore on what was – although they didn’t know it – the most dangerous street in town; it drove him to leave there, although people thought he was crazy to leave that wonderful set up, and apply to graduate school; and its driven him to join Summer Wallace and Harry Lipstein in creating the Urbanite theater in Sarasota. Listen to this passionate, articulate man talk about his obsession to create the very best theater experience he can for himself and his audience, come see him demonstrate his “artistry” in the Urbanite’s current production of “Incognito”

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  • Interview with Musician Jerry Bilik

    1-15-18 Interview

    5-28-18 Jerry Billik is a composer, arranger, songwriter, conductor, and director of stage productions. Although he downplays his skill and accomplishments Jerry’s career is extraordinary. A musical virtuoso by the age of 13, he has composed more than 50 pieces of music, from popular ballads to marches to his ‘Symphony for Band’. His concert march “Block M” composed for the University of Michigan Marching Band when he was a senior there has been voted by band composers as one of the top 100 marches of all time. He wrote the “M Fanfare” which is still played by the University of Michigan marching band prior to their playing the famous fight song. He has worked with many popular artists, including Danny Kaye, Dick Van Dyke, Leonard Bernstein, Barbra Streisand, and Neil Diamond. He has arranged music for several television series and serves as Vice President of creative development for Disney on Ice, having arranged all the music for the Disney on Ice shows, which he also writes and directs. Listen to this self-deprecatory charming man tell delightful stories of a life spent with music and theater like the ironic reason he taught himself to play piano.

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  • Interview with actor, singer, dancer Jared Joseph

    5-21-18 Interview

    5-21-18 Actor, Singer, Dancer Jared Joseph never actually decided to be a musical theater performer. His first love was art, he drew and painted and won awards while still in elementary school. But his mother encouraged him to join the choir and a teacher invited him to a poetry class – which seemed to lead to a drama club. And then they needed boys to sing… So somehow he wound up at the New York University Musical Theater Program, and the rest as they say – is history. It was a fortunate choice as anyone who has seen his portrayal of Coalhouse Walker Jr. in the Asolo production of Ragtime will attest. The production is so popular that an additional performance has been scheduled – this is no small part due to Jared’s powerful performance. Listen to this charming, spontaneous man talk about his ironic way to the musical theater stage.

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  • Interview with Director Chuck Smith – Having Our Say

    4-30-18 Interview

    5-7-18 As a boy Chuck Smith felt his family’s distress when his uncle, a Merchant Marine, was lost at sea. Chuck decided that he wanted to matter as much as his beloved uncle and, as soon as possible, enlisted in the Marines, believing that he would spend his life in the service. After two tours Chuck decided to check out civilian life but he found it boring and was just about to re-up when friends asked him to stand in for an actor who had dropped out of a play which was just about to. Chuck had no experience of, or even any interest in the theater – in fact he was insulted to be to be asked – after all he was “a military man!” But he agreed to help out his friends. The reaction he got from the audience when he came out for his bow changed his life. Today Chuck, is a resident director at Chicago’s prestigious Goodman Theater where he is currently directing Having Our Say and a freelance director anywhere that African American theater is growing. Listen to this extraordinary man tell his unusual story.

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  • Interview with Actor, Dancer, Singer, Writer, Educator Marie Thomas-Foster

    5-14-18 Interview
    5-14-18 Marie Thomas-Foster knew by the time she was twelve years old that she didn’t want to follow in her families tradition – and become a teacher – she wanted to perform. She began taking dance lessons as soon as she could and convinced her friends to create “shows” in which they sang and danced. She misled her mother into thinking she was majoring in Education when she was actually studying Theater. And her determination paid off as her career has taken her to roles on Stage and Screen (big and little). But apparently the power of her early training never quite left her as she also taught theater at the City College of New York and created Theater Workshop where she gave hundreds of youngsters and opportunity to learn to sing and dance and act. Today she is staring in Having Her Say at the Goodman Theater in Chicago directed by Chuck Smith.

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  • Interview with Bill Selby Shakespeare’s Greatest Hits

    4-30-18 Interview

    4-30-18 Bill Selby was 11 years old when his mother asked him to accompany her to an audition. Bill had no idea that he would be auditioning. Listen to Bill describe how his “competitiveness” asserted itself the moment he understood that he was auditioning for the role of young Patrick in a production of Auntie Mame, He decided he would win the role, he did and the course of his life was set. Come see Bill demonstrate what that long ago director must have seen when he steps on the stage at Florida Studio Theater in the cabaret production of Shakespeare’s Greatest Hits,

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  • Interview with Leon Pitts of West Coast Black Theater Troupe

    4-30-18 Interview

    4-23-18 Leon Pitts was nine years old when he met his mentor, his “rabbi,” Nate Jacobs. Nate was a teacher at Leon’s school and although, neither knew it at the time, one day Nate would be the founder of The West Coast Black Theater Troupe and Leon would be one of its founding members. Today, decades later, Leon is a seasoned performer, he has sung, danced and acted in dozens of productions; recently getting his actors equity card. Listen to Leon describe the magical way he was convinced to turn his back on the career everyone thought he should pursue and follow Nate into the “fire’ where he discovered his passion, his commitment and the life he was meant to live. And come see the result of that courageous leap as Leon becomes one of the “Soul Men” in the current production at the West coast Black Theater Troupe.

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  • Interview with Shakespearean scholar, actor and teacher Johnny Epstein

    4-16-18 Interview

    4-16-18 Shakespearean scholar Johnny Epstein has had a long career as an actor beginning when at seven years old he spontaneously adlibbed to cover a fellow student missed cue. Currently a professor at the FSU/Asolo Conservatory for Actor Training, where he teaches a 3 hour a day course in Shakespeare. Listen to this knowledgeable, articulate man describe the upcoming production of Much Ado About Nothing, which will open on April 18th and the Selby Gardens and be performed by his class of 2nd year graduate students.

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  • Interview with Actor, singer, dance, screenwriter Kathryn Parks

    4-9-18 Interview

    Actor, singer, dancer, and now film maker Kathryn Parks says that she always wanted to star in a film, and one day realized that she could create that opportunity for herself. This is a fascinating story of the evolution of an idea into its existence. Listen to the courageous, talented young woman describe the journey that took her from a wish to a success, and all of the unexpected benefits and bonuses she gained along the way. And come to see the final product – her film “50 Words” – appearing at the Sarasota Film Festival on April 13th at 3:00 and April 21st at 11:00. Learn more at,

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  • Interview with Actor Joe Casey

    4-2-18 Interview

    4-2-18 Actor, singer, dancer, musician Joe Casey brings his talents once again to Florida Studio theater’s cabaret, this time in Blue Suede Shoes where he gets a chance to play guitars and sing Elvis’s songs. In this interview Joe tells us that he was interested in everything; he wanted to be a scientist and a detective, he picked up the piano and the guitar, he painted in oils, and wrote music. Finally unable to choose amongst his interests Joe decided that as an actor to he could be all of these things. Listen to this charming, clever man tell the story of his path and come see him do justice to Elvis and all the other early Rock and Roller’s, in FST’s Blue Suede Shoes.

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  • Interview with Drummer Bob Fuhlrodt

    3-26-18 Interview
    3-26-18 Bob Fuhlrode got a drum when he was five years old and immediately he began, not only to play it, but to keep good time. He commandeered a pot to act as a sock cymbal and began to jam with his grandfather’s friends. He “picked-up” the piano and created an ”act” in which he moved from boogie woogie on the piano to drum solos, and with this “act” he won the Horace Heidt completion 4 times winding up playing at the Hollywood Bowl when he was just 11. Listen to how he accompanied 14 year old Johnny Mathis on piano when he was just 12 and all the other interesting stories of a life lived in love with music. Then hear how he discovered another passion. And come hear him play with the Don Stuart Band at the Phillipe Creek Gazebo on 3/29 at 12:00 admission is free but bring a chair or blanket.

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  • Interview with Actor Matt DeCaro

    3-19-18 Interview

    3-19-18 Actor Matt DeCaro “always knew what he wanted to do.” When he was four years old his cousin took him to see the movie “Snow White.” It made such an impression on him that he can still see it in his mind’s eye today. His mother loved movies and encouraged Matt to watch with her. As he watched the actors on the screen, and the live actors in the few plays he saw, he wondered when he was going to be able to do that. Two teachers in his high school recognized his talent and arranged scholarships at two universities with theater degrees. Unfortunately Matt’s father refused to allow him to attend. Although he majored in education and spent many years teaching – some of it acting – he never stopped performing. Listen to this gregarious, candid man talk about the way he kept his dream of being an actor alive through all the obstacles life put in his path, and come see how right he was to keep that dream alive as he plays Gene in the Asolo Repertory Theater’s current production of Rhinoceros, directed by Frank Gallati.

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  • Interview with Jason Cannon – director of Constellations

    3-12-18 Interview

    A self-described “multi-hyphenate” Jason Cannon is the quintessential theater professional. A union actor, union director, published playwright, stage manager, set designer, and educator, Jason’s title as Associate Artist at Florida Studio Theater, does not begin to describe his duties. In addition to all the jobs I mentioned he is also responsible for new play development, mentoring the acting apprentices, and teaching classes in everything from Playwriting to Shakespeare. Listen to Jason describe the ironic way he discovered the path that was definitely meant for him, and describe “Constellations,” the unusual and compelling play he recently directed for Florida Studio Theater

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