Fête of the Arts

By staff December 1, 2002

Sarasota's cultural cup overflows. The city is known for its long-established artistic tradition and as the home of some of the best cultural organizations in the state. That means something inspiring, entertaining or both is happening just about every night of the year, at a variety of venues and price points as well.

To accommodate Sarasota's increasingly divergent tastes, the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall hosts such luminaries as Itzhak Perlman, Harry Belafonte and André Watts alongside funky jazz newcomers and country music icons like Willie Nelson and Jo Dee Messina.

Award-winning professional and community theaters perform repertoires packed with drama, musical and comedy selections. The Golden Apple even provides dinner with its shows. Many of our favorite local actors have shared the New York stage; others started here and went on to national acclaim.

We're home to a world-class symphony, opera and ballet, international chamber music, concert bands and a jazz festival. In addition to cineplexes galore, we have an art house cinema (a rarity in cities twice the size of Sarasota). Every year, Burns Court's Cine-World Festival screens independent and foreign films; and the Sarasota Film Festival brings Hollywood glitz and glamour to downtown.

The city is also home to two prominent educational institutions: New College, a leading liberal arts university; and Ringling School of Art and Design, a four-year arts institution.


FSU/Asolo Center for the Performing Arts, 5555 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. 351-8000 or 351-9010. Home to professional Asolo Theatre Company, FSU/Asolo Conservatory of Professional Actor Training and Sarasota Ballet of Florida. Mainstage schedule of plays runs from November to June.

Florida Studio Theatre, 1241 N. Palm Ave., Sarasota. 366-9000. Professional contemporary theater presents four mainstage plays each winter season plus cabaret season next door; staged readings of new plays and special season each summer.

Golden Apple Dinner Theatre, 25 N. Pineapple Ave., Sarasota. 366-5454. Cocktails, buffet dining and a professional Broadway show, usually a musical. Schedule runs year-round. Venice Golden Apple also presents dinner and a show; Venice location, 484-7711.

Manatee Players, 102 Old Main St., Bradenton. 748-5875. Community theater presents six plays per season, October-May.

The Players of Sarasota, 838 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. 365-2494. Area's oldest community theater offers eight musicals per season, September-April along with special events and summer offerings.

Theatre Works, 1247 First St., Sarasota. 952-9170. Professional theater presents four plays per season, November-May.

Venice Little Theatre, 140 W. Tampa Ave., Venice. 488-1115. Community theater presents six mainstage plays per season, October-May; also some Stage II and Theatre for Young People productions.


Florida West Coast Music Inc., 709 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. 953-4252. Under this umbrella heading are the bi-county Florida West Coast Symphony; chamber groups Florida String Quartet, New Artists Piano Quartet, Florida Wind Quintet and Florida Brass Quintet; several Youth Orchestras; and annual Sarasota Music Festival in June.

Gloria Musicae, 954-4223. Professional chamber chorus presents several concerts per season.

The Jazz Club of Sarasota, 330 S. Pineapple Ave. Sarasota. 366-1552. Club promotes and perpetuates jazz year-round with jams, members' concerts and educational programs; annual Jazz Festival at Van Wezel each spring.

Key Chorale. 921-4845. Ensemble performs great choral masterworks.

La Musica International Chamber Music Festival, 364-8802. International chamber music festival takes place for two weekends in April, with concerts at the Sarasota Opera House.

Sarasota Ballet of Florida, 351-8000; 359-0099. Company performs a mostly classical repertoire, September through April, at Asolo/FSU Center and Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall.

Sarasota Concert Band, 1345 Main St., Sarasota. 364-2263. Band performs monthly concerts of show tunes, marches, free summer concerts in area parks.

Sarasota Opera Association Inc., 61 N. Pineapple Ave., Sarasota. 366-8450. Four professional productions of operas offered in February and March of each year at the Sarasota Opera House.

Sarasota Poetry Theatre/SoulSpeak, 535 Columbia Court, Sarasota. 366-6468. Live poetry performances.

Sarasota Pops, 795-7677. Four pops concerts are presented each year.

Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, 777 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. 953-3368. City-owned performing arts hall presents a full season of music, dance, theater, children's programs and more; primary season is October-May.

Venice Symphony, 488-1010. Classical and pops concerts presented in Venice.


Sarasota Film Festival, 508 Central Ave., Sarasota. 364-9514. Annual film festival offers several days of new movie screenings downtown each January, some premieres.

Sarasota Film Society/Burns Court Cinema, 955-FILM or 364-8662. SFS presents international films in its Burns Court location in downtown Sarasota. Also sponsors November Cine-World Festival.


New College of Florida, 5700 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. 359-4700. An innovative four-year liberal arts school on the Sarasota campus of the University of South Florida.

Ringling School of Art and Design, 2700 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. 351-5100. Four-year professional art and design school, offering graphic and interior design, computer studies, fine arts, illustration and photography.

University of South Florida at Sarasota (USF), 5700 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. 359-4200. More than 20 full-degree programs, including arts and sciences. 

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