Roaring back after seasons impacted or halted due to Covid-19, the 2022 arts year gave us much to appreciate. Here’s a subjective list of some of the best cultural events we shared, in no particular order.
The long-delayed world premiere of the musical Knoxville at Asolo Rep in April, with a book by Frank Galati (based on James Agee’s autobiographical A Death in the Family) and songs by Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens, was worth the wait, casting a sort of magic spell with its intimate, touching story of the loss of a father.
Another Asolo Rep production, the 2022-23 season opener, Cabaret, was also something of an eye opener, thanks to the direction of Josh Rhodes, which found news ways to draw us into the world of Weimar Germany and the Kit Kat Klub. Special kudos to Lincoln Clauss as the strangely seductive Emcee, Kelly Lester as Fraulein Schneider, and all the dancers; but there’s not a weak link or moment in the show. Cabaret is playing through the end of December.
For fans of Patti Smith, her appearance in February at Selby Gardens, in conjunction with the exhibit Robert Mapplethorpe and Patti Smith: Flowers, Poetry, and Light, was a real treat. Smith reminisced about her early years with Mapplethorpe in New York City, read from her 2010 memoir about their relationship, Just Kids, and sang a few songs, including “Because the Night” and Stevie Wonder’s “Blame It on the Sun.” Good news: She’ll be back in 2023 and again in 2024 as Selby’s first-ever artist-in-residence.
Michael R. Jackson
Another welcome visitor to town was Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright and composer Michael R. Jackson, a Hermitage Fellow who previewed his newest work, White Girl in Danger, in a Hermitage [email protected] Gardens offering in January. Jackson, whose A Strange Loop ends its Broadway run in January 2023, was energetic, entertaining and sometimes personal in his delivery of some of his music from White Girl, which will debut in New York next year; we can’t wait to see it.
Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience
This traveling exhibit welcomed both longtime and new art lovers to the “Starry Night Pavilion” near University Town Center starting in March (and was extended more than once to accommodate visitors). Immersive it truly was, with an approach to viewing approximately 300 of the artist’s works on a large scale, accompanied by music, movement and technology. One of those “big bang” moments.
Gods & Lovers: Paintings and Sculpture from India
On a smaller, much more intimate scale, The Ringling’s recently opened Gods & Lovers: Paintings and Sculpture from India in the Center for Asian Art’s Pavilion Gallery provided a rare opportunity to get up close to works from the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries from a variety of cultures in India (along with a few much older pieces from John Ringling’s original collection). You do want to get close, to study the details of these “miniatures,” many originally intended for elite patrons to browse in privacy and designed as book leaves and such. Unless you’re already a scholar, this show may prompt a deeper dive into Hindu scripture and literature. On view through May 2023.
The Ringling's Art of Performance Series
A shoutout also to The Ringling’s Art of Performance Series, which opened its “Dance Card” events in the HAT (Historic Asolo Theater) with An Untitled Love by A.I.M. by Kyle Abraham (drawing from the music of R&B master D’Angelo) and continued with the mix of hip-hop and Brazilian contemporary dance forms of Brazil’s Companhia Urbana de Danca. You’d probably never get the chance to see this sort of recent international dance work elsewhere in town.
Journeys to Places Known and Unknown: Moving Images by Janet Biggs and peter campus
The Sarasota Art Museum offered its first-ever exhibition devoted to video and digital media with Journeys to Places Known and Unknown: Moving Images by Janet Biggs and peter campus. Between the two artists, visitors are taken to remote spots of the world like the Arctic, the Antarctic and Ethiopia’s Afar Triangle—places deeply impacted by climate change—and some much closer to home, as with campus’ views of Montauk Beach and Shinnecock Bay. Alternately sweeping and intimate, the videos on display are worth spending some extensive time in the galleries. The show is on through Jan. 15, 2023.
Venice Theatre's Return with A Christmas Carol
It's something of a miracle that Venice Theatre is back on its feet after its MainStage Jervey Theatre was severely damaged by hurricane Ian. That space remains closed until at least late 2023 for repairs, but VT wasted no time in adapting its Raymond Center, directly behind the mainstage building, so that it could provide audiences its annual tradition of A Christmas Carol. It’s the kind of “show-must-go-on” attitude that has typified local arts organizations so much in the past couple of years. By the way, the smaller Pinkerton Theatre is set to reopen in January.
Hurricane Ian Benefit Concert
Congrats for resourcefulness also go to Van Wezel Hall exec director Mary Bensel, Sarasota Orchestra CEO Joe McKenna and conductor Christopher Confessore for a quickly put-together a concert that benefited the Community Foundation of Sarasota County’s Disaster Recovery fund—barely one week after Hurricane Ian struck. Audiences cheered to John Williams’ Summon the Heroes and Arron Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man, among other pieces, while at the same time raising more than $56,000 for recovery. Matched by the Patterson Foundation, that amount was doubled to more than $112,000.
Check out our list of the best plays, shows and exhibitions happening in Sarasota through the 2023 season.