For its upcoming fifth Shakespeare festival, the Thomases plan to tackle Hamlet and The Tempest. "We get an audience that never went before because they never understood it [Shakespeare]," says Angela. "We bring Shakespeare to such a human level." The FPT stage will be crammed to capacity during The Tempest's final scene, which brings together a host of characters.
FPT's smallness is echoed by the almost identical Hollywood Boulevard Theatre (HBT) next door. "We have a nice working relationship," notes Jerry Waxman, who serves as producing director at Hollywood Boulevard Theatre. "We're both similar theaters doing individual type of work. We get audiences that are similar and yet different in their scope." Both houses have employed the services of director James Alexander Bond. After recently staging the U.S. premiere of I Remember You -- a romantic comedy by Canadian writer Bernard Slade -- at HBT, Bond has moved over to FPT to direct Howe's The Art of Dining.
FPT and HBT share something else. The women's bathroom situated backstage at Florida Playwrights' also serves Hollywood Boulevard Theatre's women patrons. HBT women theatergoers get there by going through a door that connects the two theaters. It's an arrangement that has led to some embarrassing moments. A dramatic pause in either theater is often shattered by the door banging shut. But worse things can happen.
"People walk in from the theater next door and right into the middle of a play," sighs Paul Thomas. "A man trying to leave the Hollywood Boulevard Theatre came through the door and found himself on our stage. He didn't know where he was or how he'd got here. He looked around and said, 'I just want to get out!'"
That's the type of moment that could happen only in the makeshift world of a pocket playhouse. "We've never made money out of it, and we knew that we wouldn't," Angela admits. "But we've made it to five years. It's become such a huge part of our lives that we couldn't imagine life without it.