FSU Foundation

Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation Gift Sets the Stage for FSU/Asolo Conservatory’s ROMEO AND JULIET and Future Shakespeare Productions

Image of actors on a stage performing Romeo and Juliet

Sarasota, FL – The FSU/Asolo Conservatory for Actor Training in Sarasota is pleased to announce a transformative contribution from the Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation. With their generous support, the Conservatory is set to unveil an immersive Elizabethan-style set for its production of Romeo and Juliet, closing its milestone 50th Anniversary Season.

For over a decade, the FSU/Asolo Conservatory has been Sarasota’s leading presenter of annual Shakespearean productions, enriching both graduate students and audiences alike. The Barancik Foundation's $50,000 gift has played a crucial role in the construction of a sustainable Elizabethan-style set at the Cook Theatre, nestled within the FSU Center for the Performing Arts. This stage has been transformed into a thrust stage reminiscent of the historic Globe Theatre, serves as a vital educational tool for graduate students and promises audiences an authentic Shakespearean experience.

Andrei Malaev-Babel, Director and Head of Acting at FSU/Asolo Conservatory for Actor Training, expressed his gratitude, saying,

“Since 2016, the Barancik Foundation has been supporting our Shakespearean programming, both indoors, in the Cook Theatre, and outdoors, on the Selby Gardens and the Ringling Museum grounds. Over the years, the Barancik Foundation has demonstrated a keen understanding of our artistic needs and unwavering support of our mission to bring classical training and theatre to Sarasota.

The sustainable Elizabethan Playhouse, about to be installed onto the Cook stage for Romeo and Juliet, will be transporting our graduate actors and spectators into the original Shakespearean universe for years to come. We are deeply grateful to the Barancik Foundation for that invaluable opportunity!”

Renowned Shakespearean expert, Romeo and Juliet Director Jonathan Epstein, played a pivotal role in this venture. Leveraging the Conservatory’s 50-year affiliation with Asolo Rep, Epstein collaborated with resident designer Christopher McVicker to harness the Asolo Rep’s scenic shop, recognized for constructing Broadway-scale sets. Together, they envisioned an original, sustainable Elizabethan set that perfectly captures Shakespeare’s aesthetics.

McVicker emphasized the sustainability of the design, stating, "There is a great deal of waste in theatre production. This innovative design will allow the Conservatory to de-install and store the pieces so that they can be used again for future Shakespeare productions—a sustainable solution to stagecraft."

The FSU/Asolo Conservatory for Actor Training presents a season of four productions, serving as hands-on training for its second-year students pursuing their MFA Acting degree. Ending the season with a Shakespearean play has become a tradition cherished by both actors and Sarasota audiences.

The Conservatory’s Shakespearean productions are not just performances but transformative experiences. By immersing students in the very theatrical environment for which Shakespeare wrote, the Conservatory cultivates techniques that expand their skill sets and mastery of classical repertoire.

Moreover, the Conservatory has a long history of enriching the arts in Sarasota, fostering partnerships with esteemed organizations like Selby Gardens and the Ringling Museum. Together, they have presented Shakespeare in outdoor settings, contributing significantly to the Culture Coast.

As the Conservatory prepares to unveil its transformative Elizabethan set, it invites the community to embark on a theatrical journey unlike any other. Romeo and Juliet will grace the Cook Theatre at the FSU Center for the Performing Arts from April 2 to April 28, 2024. For more information about the Conservatory, please visit asolorep.org/conservatory.




The FSU/Asolo Conservatory for Actor Training is a celebrated three-year graduate program in the FSU School of Theatre, culminating in a Master of Fine Arts degree. For 50 years, tens of thousands of actors from across the continent have auditioned for admission. A maximum of 12 students are admitted each year. In their second year, the students perform in the Cook Theatre, a 161-seat space designed to create an intimate experience for the audience and actors. Third-year students are seen on the Mertz Stage in the FSU Center for the Performing Arts, working with the Asolo Repertory Theatre’s professional actors in exciting and significant roles.



The Charles & Margery Barancik family has long believed in the power of philanthropy to shape our world and enrich the lives of all people.  It was the expression of this belief that led them in 2014 to establish Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation—a private, family foundation located in Sarasota, Florida. Barancik Foundation creates initiatives and awards grants in Sarasota and beyond in the areas of education, humanitarian causes, arts and culture, the environment, and medical research.  For more information, visit www.barancikfoundation.org.