The Vacation Guide: Arts and Entertainment

The vacation guide: Sarasota arts and entertainment.

By taylorm December 5, 2013


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The talented Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe may sometimes sing the blues onstage, but when the stage lights extinguish, there’s much to celebrate. The only professional black theater company on Florida’s west coast, and one of just two in the state, WBTT is playing to standing-room-only crowds and earning stellar reviews for its high-energy plays and musical revues, which this season include Purlie, Harry and Lena (that’s Belafonte and Horne, if you hadn’t guessed) and Bubbling Brown Sugar.

Cast members performed to great acclaim last summer at the National Black Theater Festival in North Carolina. Original cast member Teresa Stanley is now on Broadway at the Helen Hayes Theater in Rock of Ages. And to ensure their longevity, the troupe recently purchased the theater on Tenth Way that they’ve been renting for years. Now that’s something to sing about.


Asolo Repertory Theatre, (941) 351-8000. For more than 50 years, the Asolo Rep has been presenting professional, Equity theater productions, with a rotating repertory cast and format almost unique in North America. The season, usually offering eight or nine plays, begins in November and continues into June.

Banyan Theater Company, (941) 358-5330. The Banyan offers theater-hungry audiences the opportunity to view professional-quality productions in the traditionally slower summer months, and they run the gamut from comedy to drama.

FSU Center for the Performing Arts, 5555 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. (941) 351-8000. Home to the professional Asolo Rep, the FSU/Asolo Conservatory of Professional Actor Training (which presents its own four-play season in the smaller Cook Theatre here), Sarasota Ballet of Florida and, in the summer, the Banyan Theater Company. Performances on two stages year-round.

Florida Studio Theatre, 1241 N. Palm Ave., Sarasota. (941) 366-9000. FST’s diverse offerings run virtually year-round on five stages in downtown Sarasota. The mainstage season at the Keating Theatre and the newly expanded Gompertz Theatre mixes drama, musical comedies and new work; two smaller, intimate cabaret stages are perfect for musical revues and improv comedy shows.

Manatee Players, 502 Third Ave. W., Bradenton. (941) 748-5875. This venerable community theater presents a full season of plays (mostly musicals of late) at its big, brand-new Manatee Performing Arts Center in downtown Bradenton. The quality often rises well above the usual concept of community theater.

The Players Theatre, 838 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. (941) 365-2494. The great-granddaddy of local community theaters, with a stage that has been graced by Montgomery Clift and Charlton Heston. It offers mostly Broadway musical favorites September through April, plus a summer play fest and occasional edgier work. Its performing arts school helps students of all ages hone the talents that may launch them onto mainstage.

Venice Theatre, 140 W. Tampa Ave., Venice. (941) 488-1115. This award-winning community theater presents musical favorites, the occasional drama and a comedy or two on its mainstage. Its smaller, black-box Pinkerton Theater plays host to more contemporary Stage II offerings and cabaret shows. As a testament to its success, Venice Theatre hosted the 2010 International Amateur Theatre Festival and will host again in 2014.

Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe, (941) 366-1505. This professional African-American theater company presents hit musicals and the occasional drama, drawn from either African-American playwrights or relating to the African-American experience.


Artist Series Concerts of Sarasota. (941) 306-1200. The Artist Series continues to captivate audiences with world-class classical music as well as concerts featuring pop and Broadway sounds. Most concerts take place at the intimate Historic Asolo Theater, October through June.

Fuzion Dance Artists, (941) 345-5755. Fuzion presents a range of dance genres, often in collaboration with other arts groups, at venues throughout the area. The company and its choreographers also work with students of all ages.

Gloria Musicae, (941) 387-6046. This longtime professional chamber chorus presents several concerts a year at various venues, including a December holiday event, a Fourth of July celebration and a large-scale piece.

The Hermitage Artist Retreat. (941) 475-2098. Restored hundred-year-old cottages comprise this artist retreat on Manasota Key, where composers, authors, choreographers and visual artists from around the world are invited for six-week residencies. The Hermitage holds open studio tours and beach readings on its campus, and Artist of our Time lecture/demonstrations at the Ringling’s Historic Asolo Theater.

The Jazz Club of Sarasota, 330 S. Pineapple Ave., Suite 111, Sarasota. (941) 366-1552. Celebrating three-plus decades of promoting, performing and preserving jazz, the Jazz Club organizes performances year-round, including jams, members’ concerts, educational programs and the big Sarasota Jazz Festival in the spring.

Key Chorale, (941) 921-4845. “On the Edge of Tomorrow” is the intriguing theme of this esteemed choral ensemble’s 2013-2014 season. Cirque des Voix Noel, its collaboration with Circus Sarasota and the Cirque Orchestra, comes to the Sailor Circus arena in December.

La Musica International Chamber Music Festival, (941) 366-8450, ext. 3. Each April, La Musica brings musicians from Europe and the Americas to perform chamber works under the artistic direction of Bruno Giuranna and Derek Han. Public rehearsals take place at New College’s Sainer Pavilion and concerts take place at the Sarasota Opera House. This year features a world premiere by composer and jazz pianist Vijay Iyer, winner of the Hermitage Artist Retreat Greenfield Prize.

New Music New College, (941) 487-4888. This innovative concert series brings nationally and internationally renowned contemporary musicians to the New College campus to perform, discuss and enlighten.

Perlman Music Program Suncoast, (941) 955-4942. A professional development program for gifted young musicians founded by the famed Itzhak and Toby Perlman, with free public recitals offered during the two-week winter program. It culminates with a Celebration Concert at the Sarasota Opera House led by Itzhak Perlman himself.

Sarasota Ballet, (941) 359-0099. Under the artistic direction of Iain Webb, this international professional company has garnered much acclaim for staging new or rarely seen dances by choreographers ranging from legends like Sir Frederick Ashton to contemporary masters such as Matthew Bourne.

Sarasota Choral Society, (941) 343-9894. A community chorus numbering up to 300 strong that has performed the Christmas portion of Handel’s Messiah (accompanied by a full orchestra, organist and soloists) every December for 69 years.

Sarasota Concert Association, (941) 955-0040. Presents a popular five-concert series at the Van Wezel featuring internationally renowned symphony and chamber orchestras, ensembles and soloists. Among them this season are the Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio and the St. Petersburg Philharmonic.

Sarasota Concert Band, (941) 364-2263. Performs at various area venues, focusing on concert band music, often with a patriotic theme.

Sarasota Opera, 61 N. Pineapple Ave., Sarasota. (941) 328-1300. This internationally acclaimed professional company, led by Maestro Victor DeRenzi, performs in the stunningly restored Sarasota Opera House. Fall and winter seasons generally present four operas from Mozart to Puccini to the opera’s widely praised Verdi cycle, plus 20th- century masterpieces by American composers. The company also maintains a unique Sarasota Youth Opera program.

Sarasota Orchestra, 709 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. (941) 953-4252. Excitement is mounting as Music Director Anu Tali joins this 80-member professional orchestra, which presents a traditional Masterworks series, plus Chamber Soirees and a pops series. The orchestra is also justly proud of its Youth Orchestra programs, which involve more than 200 young musicians.

Sarasota Pops, (941) 926-POPS. The community orchestra performs five concerts at Riverview High School and Bradenton’s Neel Auditorium from November to April, with material varying from Bach to Christmas tunes to jazz.

Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, 777 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. (941) 953-3368. This distinctive purple seashell-shaped hall on Sarasota’s bayfront boasts a wide-ranging season of Broadway touring theater, international dance companies both classical and modern, acclaimed world orchestras, comedians, pop and country music stars and more, mostly October through May.

Venice Symphony, (941) 488-1010. Presenting seven sets of concerts from November through April, from classical to pops, as well as a summer music camp. Performances are held at Venice’s Church of the Nazarene.


Circus Sarasota, (941) 355-9335. Co-founders of this top-quality, one-ring circus, Pedro Reis and Dolly Jacobs (daughter of legendary clown Lou Jacobs) produce winter performances under the Big Top that feature international stars in the fields of high-wire, aerial, juggling, equestrian acts and more.


McCurdy’s Comedy Theatre, 3333 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. (941) 925-FUNY. Nationally known stand-up comics make regular stops at this popular club in north Sarasota (think Darrell Hammond, Jeff Dunham and Last Comic Standing alums).


Sarasota Film Festival, (941) 366-6200. Each spring, Sarasota welcomes actors, filmmakers and film lovers to a 10-day celebration of the art of film, with screenings of brand-new movies at downtown’s Hollywood 20, plus parties, talks with the artists and more. This year’s fest is set for April 4-13. Past attendees include Charlize Theron, Kevin Kline and Werner Herzog.

Sarasota Film Society/Burns Court Cinema, (941) 955-FILM or (941) 364-8662. SFS presents independent and international films at the intimate Burns Court Cinema in downtown Sarasota and at its Lakewood Ranch Cinema. The weeklong Cine-World Festival in November is hugely popular.

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