Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Playwright Feels the 'Heat' with 'Butler'

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Playwright Feels the 'Heat' with 'Butler'

Article excerpt

BEHIND THE SCENES

Richard Strand has written dozens of short and full-length plays during his career. Some, like "Bug," have brought him quite a bit of attention, but he's feeling a different kind of "heat" with his latest play, "Butler," now running at Florida Studio Theatre.

"Bug" did "very well for me. It had international success and has been done in France, Spain, Italy, Greece, Germany, and every once in a while, everyone does the play again. But it never felt like I had the kind of heat that this one seems like it's going to generate. My sense is that this is going to be my most successful play to date," he said during a recent chat about his work.

Audiences have been responding well at Florida Studio Theatre, and in the few weeks since it opened, I've had heard more comments or questions about it than any show aside from Asolo Rep's "West Side Story."

FST is presenting the fourth production of "Butler" since it had its world premiere last year at New Jersey Repertory Company, and Strand said each one has been different. The FST production, staged by Jason Cannon, is probably getting more laughs than past versions.

"I'm thrilled by the laughter; it's not like I thought, 'Oh my God, they're laughing.' I knew I had some funny lines, but they're apparently funnier than I thought," he said.

But then Strand said he's often surprised by audience reactions because he never knows what to expect.

"When I first saw it in New Jersey, the audience was so vocal and it actually snuck up on me," he said. "The humor seems inherent to the subject matter, not that it conflicts with the subject matter. It's men arguing a premise that is inherently absurd, and as they pick it apart, they can only say sillier and sillier things. In many ways, the humor seemed inescapable to me."

But maybe not to audiences who may read only a brief description of the plot before attending a performance. …

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