The History of American Stage


1977 – American Stage is founded as The Palisades Theatre of Florida, taking residence in Florida Presbyterian College (now Eckerd College) in St. Petersburg, FL. Its programming consists of theatre for students and educators, including an annual School Tour.

1979 – The Junior League of St. Petersburg provides The Palisades funds to convert an old cinema house in downtown St. Petersburg into a 179-seat performance space. The Palisades launches its five-play Mainstage subscription series with a non-union acting company in residence. John Berglund and Victoria Holloway take over leadership of the theater following the departure of the founding directors.

1984 – The Palisades Theatre of Florida officially changes its name to American Stage Theatre Company. The City of St. Petersburg condemns the American Stage facility. The local power company offers an alternative site which provides over 10,000 square feet for an intimate 130-seat performance space with a lobby, costume shop, rehearsal hall, and office spaces.

1985 – American Stage becomes the first non-profit theatre company in the Tampa Bay region to operate under a full contract with Actors’ Equity Association. The company is one of five original theatres in the country pioneering the Small Professional Theatre contract.

1986 – American Stage in the Park, also known as Shakespeare in the Park, is launched in the Spring, offering ten free outdoor performances of THE TAMING OF THE SHREW. More than 8,000 people attend, and a community tradition is born.

1987 – The St. Petersburg City Council designates American Stage as St. Petersburg’s Resident Professional Theatre Ensemble.

1989 – Awarded Best Theatre Company by Tampa Bay Magazine.


1991 – The Florida State Legislature designates American Stage as a Vital Local Cultural Organization due to the theatre’s outreach efforts, community support, and artistic excellence.

1992 – American Stage is one of 13 professional arts organizations nationwide to participate in the National Endowment for the Arts’ Advancement Program.

1993 – It is announced that the American Stage building begins a thorough renovation and remodel.

1996 – Renovation of the new facility is completed, and includes the redesigned 148-seat space, a new sound system, new light board and dimmers; remodeling of the costume shop, rehearsal space, and courtyard; inclusion of a visual arts gallery; and an expansion of the lobby space.

1998 – Shakespeare in the Park adds an additional eight performances in Tampa at Curtis Hixon Park, following the regular run in St. Petersburg.

Awarded Best Theatre Company by the annual survey of the Best of the Bay by The Weekly Planet. American Stage will be awarded this title for the next fifteen consecutive years, during which The Weekly Planet is renamed to Creative Loafing Tampa.


2002 – Shakespeare in the Park presents its first adaption, based on THE COMEDY OF ERRORS, the Regional Premiere of THE BOMB-ITTY OF ERRORS (Allen-Dutton, Catalano, et al.). Presents the World Premiere: I LEFT MY HEART: A SALUTE TO THE MUSIC OF TONY BENNETT (D. Grapes/T. Olson).

Awarded Best Theatre Company by Tampa Bay Magazine, an award American Stage will receive for the next twelve consecutive years. American Stage changes a twenty-year tradition of presenting Shakespeare in the Park with a musical, the Regional Premiere of CROWNS (R. Taylor).

American Stage produces August Wilson’s GEM OF THE OCEAN, embarking on an ambitious endeavor to complete Wilson’s Century Cycle within the following ten seasons. Awarded the Neighborhood Builder Award by the Bank of America Neighborhood Excellence Initiative.

2007 – American Stage enters into a partnership with St. Petersburg College to build a brand new state of the art building in the heart of downtown St. Petersburg. This is the first time in Pinellas County history that a brand new building is constructed for a professional theatre. Raymond James Financial acquires naming rights to the new theatre space.

2008 – American Stage Theatre Company celebrates its 30th Anniversary Season. Administration offices are moved into the new building. Presents the Florida Premiere: BY THE WATER OF BABYLON (R. Schenkkan).

2009 – American Stage completes its first full season in the Raymond James Theatre. Presents the Regional Premiere: KING HEDLEY II (A. Wilson).


2010 – American Stage in the Park celebrates its 25th anniversary with a production of HAIR, enjoyed by over 15,000 Tampa Bay residents. It is the highest-attended Park production in nearly two decades.

The St. Petersburg Times chooses the opening of American Stage’s new home in the Raymond James Theatre as the Tampa Bay art scene’s most important event of the decade.

Named Non-Profit of the Year by the Tampa Bay Business Journal.

Presents the Regional Premiere: AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY (T. Letts). Todd Olson celebrates his 10th year as Artistic Director at American Stage.

2013 – Todd Olson celebrates his 11th and final year as Artistic Director at American Stage, before departing to assume the duties of Executive Director at the Columbia Festival of the Arts in Maryland.

Presents the World Premiere: THE AMISH PROJECT (J. Dickey). American Stage Director of Education, Meg Heimstead is named Interim Artistic Director while Board of Trustees embarks on a nationwide search for the company’s next leader.

2014 – Presents the Florida Premiere: NUREYEV’S EYES (D. Rush).

2015 – Awarded the MUSE Performing Arts Award by the St. Petersburg Arts Alliance. Stephanie Gularte is a named the new Producing Artistic Director of American Stage.