Arts Capital - April 2011

By Charlie Huisking April 1, 2011

Day and Night Music The La Musica Festival will open on April 4 with the same program that kicked off the first festival 25 years ago: Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, Schubert’s Trout Quintet and Beethoven’s String Quartet in F Minor.

Even more notable, several musicians who performed  in the inaugural concert—violist Bruno Giuranna, pianist Derek Han and bass player Franco Petracchi—will be performing again on opening night. And other musicians from the 1986 event will be playing later during the festival.

That so many artists return year after year speaks to the intense loyalty that these internationally renowned chamber performers feel for the festival. They like its unpretentious atmosphere and appreciate the passionate audiences and open rehearsals that are a festival hallmark.

“These great musicians never turn us down if they can possibly fit us in their schedules,” says executive director Sally Faron. “But we’re also keeping fresh by welcoming new players” (such as German violinist Anne Schoenholtz, who performs opening night).

One of this year’s highlights promises to be 2+3=25, a world premiere by Sarasota resident and renowned jazz pianist Dick Hyman. The title refers to the 25th anniversary, and to the two pianists (Hyman and Han) and three string players who will play it.

For only the second time in its history, the festival will have a matinee performance, as well as four evening concerts. That’s a grudging concession on the part of Faron, who has run the festival with efficiency and brio for 22 years.

“I just don’t like matinees; I think evening concerts are more festive,” she says. “But I know some people don’t like to drive at night.” Laughing, Faron adds that, “We’re all a lot older than we were 25 years ago.”


Oscar-worthy? Don’t be surprised if one of the features at this year’s Sarasota Film Festival (April 7-17) ends up at the Oscars.

The Messenger, which opened the 2009 festival, earned 2010 Oscar nominations for the screenwriters and for star Woody Harrelson. The documentary Gasland, which won a special jury prize at the 2010 festival, earned an Oscar nomination for Best Documentary this year.

The 2011 festival’s honored guest, veteran screen and stage actor Christopher Plummer (see "Lifetime Achiever"), already has many fans in Sarasota. An Asolo Rep Adventures tour to the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Canada a couple of years ago included a reception with Plummer after his performance in The Tempest. I’m told the brilliance of his acting was exceeded only by his charm

as he socialized afterward.

Rumor has it Have you heard there’s a drive to resurrect the Sarasota Reading Festival? It’s true. Jim Shirley, executive director of the Arts and Cultural Alliance of Sarasota County, is spearheading the effort. He’s formed a committee that includes representatives of the Sarasota County Library system, the Literacy Council and other reading-oriented groups.

“It wouldn’t be exactly like the previous festival, but hopefully it would feature nationally known authors as well as local writers,” Shirley says. “We’re envisioning a three-or-four-day event that would involve the school system and include a wide range of programs and activities.”

Even though planning is in the earliest stage and no major sponsors have yet been recruited, Shirley is optimistic that a festival could happen as early as 2012.


Rave Review The Asolo Rep got the kind of national publicity regional theaters can only dream of earlier this year, when The Wall Street Journal’s drama critic, Terry Teachout, wrote a glowing review of Twelve Angry Men.

Teachout called the production “exceptional” and “inspiring,” and said it was even better than a New York production he saw a few years ago. He said he wished he had 12 paragraphs in which he could “separately sing the praises of each member” of the cast.

Teachout, a respected critic and the author of the recent biography Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong, has relatives in Florida, and likes to check out the work of regional theaters. Last year, he wrote a rave review of the Asolo’s production of The Life of Galileo.

His praise, and that of local critics, helped make Twelve Angry Men a virtual sellout during its three-month run, which ended March 26. But sadly, attendance wasn’t as great for La Bête, the comedy about the tension between high art and popular entertainment. Some performances had half-full houses, and one matinee was cancelled because of low advance sales.

I loved the show so much I saw it twice. Watching the amazing Danny Scheie deliver a breathtaking and hilarious 25-minute monologue in rhymed couplets during Act I was alone worth the price of admission. But maybe that notion of rhyming verse intimidated people. If so, that’s a shame, because while undeniably requiring you to pay attention, the show was easy to follow, thought-provoking and delightfully entertaining.


A Slice of Art “How does this picture make you feel?” Fayeanne Hayes asked a group of Fruitville Elementary students at Art Center Sarasota recently. A dozen hands shot up, and the students eagerly dissected a landscape that featured a banyan tree with gnarled roots that almost jumped out of the frame.

“The roots make me think that we’re all connected to one another,” one girl said. “I love the mix of winter colors and summer colors in the painting,” another said. After touring the galleries and learning about the artists’ techniques, the students sat at large tables and began creating art themselves.

Nearly 900 students will take part in this Art Center program, A Slice of Art, this year.

“We want to engage them in a conversation about art instead of just talking at them,” Hayes says. She’s a passionate booster of the program, which is supported by private donors and relieves the schools involved of any costs, including transportation costs.

The students and their teachers are thrilled, too. “These kids are at risk of dropping out,” wrote Lori Edwards, a teacher at Phoenix Academy, after a recent visit. “Yet they could express themselves at such a high level of thinking that I can only advocate how important art is in education.”


For up-to-the-minute arts news, make sure to read Charlie Huisking's Arts & Travel blog.

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