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In a Sarasota performance of 'Network,' a TV anchorman's live meltdown fuels ratings and profit

Two men and one woman subdue man in a suit and wearing glasses on a TV news set.
Florida Studio Theatre
Network follows the downward spiral of Howard Beale, a longtime TV news anchor who is being let go due to poor ratings.

The 1976 satirical critique of TV news had a lot to say about corporate greed and weaponizing the media. Its themes are as relevant as ever in a new stage adaptation at Florida Studio Theatre in Sarasota.

When TV news anchor Howard Beale learns he is being fired for low ratings he loses it on air and delivers one of the most well-known monologues in film history.

"I want you to get up right now and go to the window. Open it and stick your head out and yell, I'm as mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore," urged the character played in the movie version by Peter Finch.

Beale’s populist anger resonated with his viewers in the film and actor Sheffield Chastain, who portrays Beale in the local production of Network, said the play mirrors our current media landscape.

"We live in these news bubbles and we adhere to demagogues and we think we can know everything absolutely and that's the danger," he said.

Man in beige raincoat shakes fists with TV monitors in background.
Florida Studio Theatre
In his final broadcast, Howard Beale unravels live on air-which makes his show's ratings skyrocket.

"Network" the movie won four Academy Awards, including best screenplay. The story was adapted for the stage and arrived on Broadway in 2018. Chastain says he hopes Florida Studio Theatre's regional premiere makes people think, but says it's also a satire meant to entertain.

"What I've said seems dark. But listen, this play has a lot of laughs," he said. "The technical aspect of what we're doing with 40 TV monitors and watching a live news broadcast is super fun. It's a really exciting play."

Richard Hopkins, the production's director, says Network "explores how the media, whether online, print, or on television, shapes how we think and speaks to how we consume the news."

Networkat Florida Studio Theatre in Sarasota runs through March 26th.

As a reporter, my goal is to tell a story that moves you in some way. To me, the best way to do that begins with listening. Talking to people about their lives and the issues they care about is my favorite part of the job.