Elizabeth Doud is in her fourth year as the Currie-Kohlmann curator of performance programs at the Historic Asolo Theatre at The Ringling Museum. Doud is enthusiastic and passionate about cultivating the fall and spring performance series, providing the local arts scene with timely, boundary-pushing works, mostly from the international community.
Doud, who is multilingual and steeped in Latin American, Caribbean, and Hispanic art forms, spent 25 years in Miami. There, she’s known as a performance artist who often focuses on climate change.
“It was hard to leave Miami, as a home base and artist community,” she says. And yet, “Sarasota is unique in that it has a tremendous amount of support for the arts.”
With a Ph.D. in performing arts from the Federal University of Bahia, Brazil, Doud intended to teach when she came across the performance curator position at The Ringling. “I thought, ‘This is interesting,’ and threw my name into the hat," she says. She stepped into the role in February of 2019.
The performance series, which is affiliated with Florida State University, exists due to the efforts of curators Dwight Currie and Michael Kohlmann, who were instrumental in its formation, along with shepherding the restoration of the Historic Asolo Theater. The program also offers works-in-progress presentations, master classes and artist-in-residence opportunities.
“We're able to support three artists a year, with a modest stipend and a space for emerging artists," Doud says.
The fall season’s productions include An Untitled Love by Kyle Abraham with A.I.M.; Lupita’s Revenge, a puppet play with a live band playing a soundtrack of Latin American classics; and the upcoming Campanhia de Danca Urbana, a leading Brazilian urban dance group. Each season, Doud brings in artists who represent the BIPOC and LGBTQ+ communities. She's tasked with outreach to non-cisgender, non-white patrons, while also reaching beyond historically white audiences with “non-traditional” programming.
It doesn’t always work, Doud says. But, she adds, the programming does connect with Spanish-speaking people, and she’s excited to keep pushing.
“It's about excellence. People can like or dislike a performance, but these [artists] are the top practitioners of today," she says. "They're setting the standard in the performance field. It’s important to uphold the needs of the community that include a Spanish speaking audience that wants and needs to be seen.”
What makes part of the work so gratifying for Doud is bringing in “the best of the best,” with whom she’s cultivated a rapport over decades living in various communities—like she did with this fall's finale presentation by the Brazilian Companhia Urbana de Danca.
“These are artists that I've known for about 10 years, and we've presented them in Miami,” she says. “They had their visas in hand when Covid hit."
Bringing them back to Florida is “a really nice way to round out the year. All of the dancers come from periphery communities of Rio De Janeiro—there is no formal dance or conservatory training," she says. "The energy, the path, the narratives are important stories because of the significance of Brazil. It's an important mirror for us. It's the jewel or crown of the season.”
This fall season’s finale performers, Companhia Urbana de Danca, will play three performances, Dec. 1-3, at the Historic Asolo Theater. ringling.org