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Sarasota Culture

Live Theater

Sarasota's theater community is well known for its talent and history. The theater community is strongly supported by Sarasota residents and our large visiting community who look forward to entertaining themselves at our local theaters while staying in the Sarasota area. Relaxing with an early dinner and play after a day on Siesta Key Beach makes a perfect vacation experience. In addition to the theaters listed below Powel Crowley Museum, Van Wezel performance hall also have live theater performances during the year.

Asolo Theater from the origins of its name to the stages on which they performed, the "Asolo" story is rich in history both in our community and abroad. For those who have played a part in the story, it is familiar. For others, it is newly discovered. But for all of us, it is a treasure. The word Asolo originated in Asolo, Italy with a lovely 18th century theatre acquired by the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art for its collection more than 50 years ago. In this little jewel of a theatre, a fledgling acting company founded by faculty of Florida State University (FSU) began performing a summer series of plays under the name of the Asolo Theatre Festival and later as the Asolo Theatre Company. Later it grew to become the respected first State Theatre of Florida and evolved into a year round professional theatre, a member of the prestigious League of Resident Theatres (LORT), and partnered with the FSU School of Theatre to mentor its MFA in Acting program - the highly acclaimed FSU/Asolo Conservatory for Actor Training. The current schedule gives you the scope and depth of this theaters plays.

The acting company and its audiences eventually outgrew the Ringling's Historic Asolo Theater and the company moved into its current home within the FSU Center for the Performing Arts where it has enjoyed notable success. The three theaters are;

  • MERTZ THEATRE An elegant 500-seat facility originally built in 1903 as an opera house in Dunfermline, Scotland. This grand space is the primary theatre for the professional Asolo Rep acting company.
  • COOK THEATRE A contemporary 161-seat venue designed to create an intimate relationship between the audience and actors. The Cook Theatre is the primary performance space for the FSU/Asolo Conservatory and small cast Asolo Rep shows.
  • HISTORIC ASOLO THEATER America's only 18th century European theatre is open once again in the Ringling Museum Visitors Pavilion. This beautiful Italian jewel-box theater will host one Asolo Rep and one Conservatory production this season.

Today known as Asolo Repertory Theatre, a name that boldly states who they are and what they do - a world-renowned acting company known for producing the highest quality professional theatre in true rotating repertory. Once a shared dream of many regional theatres, rotating repertory is a now rare method of performance that challenges everyone involved, especially the artists. This season, as they have throughout the years, Asolo Rep will perform in rotation with a different show nearly every night of the week. A total of nearly 40 actors will each take on multiple roles in nine plays through the season. Not many companies can accomplish this. But Asolo Rep has perfected the art and Florida's cultural persona is all the richer for it.

Banyan Theater Company a summer theater located on Florida's cultural coast, remains true to its mission to produce professional theater in the summer. The Banyan's venue is the Cook Theater at US41 and University, they just completed their seventh season, and each year they showcase outstanding actors performing in internationally celebrated plays. Works by playwrights such as George Bernard Shaw, Chekhov, Ibsen, Pinter and Stoppard are featured to provide the community with a unique theater experience.

Florida Studio Theater (FST) has been in operation in Sarasota since 1973. During its history, FST has grown into a theatre with a budget of over $4 million and 20,000 subscribers a year, more than any theatre its size in the country. FST operates three theatres: the 173-seat Keating Mainstage Theatre, the 160-seat Gompertz Theatre and the 109-seat Goldstein Cabaret Theatre.

FST produces world premieres and contemporary works which have been produced on or off-Broadway within the last five years.

By focusing on the works of contemporary writers, FST has beenable to offer plays to its audiences that are not normally produced by other area theatres. FST is comprised of six main programs: Mainstage, Cabaret, the Gompertz Theatre, Education, Touring and New Play Development.

FST has an extensive Education wing which offers over 20 classes weekly, and FST's touring company reaches over 60,000 students annually in the Southeastern United States and beyond. Through these programs, we inspire children to write plays for FST's annual Young Playwrights Festival.

The New Play Development Program is an integral part of Florida Studio Theatre and its mission. FST receives 8,000 new plays a year from established, emerging, and young writers. Many new scripts developed through this program reach the Mainstage and Cabaret Theatre stages.

Golden Apple Dinner Theater The Golden Apple Dinner Theatre is 3/4 thrust, 281 seat, horseshoe- shaped theatre with a main floor and two additional tiers. They are affiliated with Actor's Equity Association. Dinner buffet style on the main floor and a dinner dinner the buffet is cleared and the same space is by our 704 square foot "Magic Carpet" stage which is floated forward on a cushion of air. In 2008 the Golden Apple opened a second venue at Lakewood Ranch on in Bradenton. The schedule of plays at the Golden Apple for the coming season shapes up to be another popular season for the Golden Apple.

Players of Sarasota is Sarasota's first and oldest performing arts organization - second oldest in the State of Florida & began with a season of one-act plays in the midst of the Great Depression, 1930. Two hundred and eighty-one Member/Patrons each paid a $2 subscription fee for the series. The Players first permanent home was built of native pecky cypress in 1936. The theatre seated 246 and cost just over $9,000.The current theatre on North Tamiami Trail opened in January 1974 with a production of Kismet.

The Players Theatre has achieved a reputation for quality production, and for creating programming that entertains, educates and enlightens. We strive to serve a total and diversified Sarasota community with memorable and meaningful performing arts events. The Broadway Musical Theatre Series is a cornerstone of The Players' cultural activities. It is collaborative and creative, always with high production values. Over 750 volunteers work 50,000-plus hours each year on theatrical productions and special events. The Special Events Series, first introduced in 1994, provides a forum reflecting a diversity of cultural arts entertainment. Recent programming has encompassed a variety of events ranging from Big Band Festivals, to Opera, Festival Latino, Chinese Film and Music Festivals, and Black History Month performances.
The Concert Series brings internationally know favorites such as The Four Freshmen, Roger McGuinn, Taj Mahal, Tom Rush, Dan Hicks, and Willie & Lobo to The Players stage. The Players Performing Arts Studio continues its steady growth and offers classes to children, teens and adults. The subjects taught include courses in acting, singing and dance. At the advanced level, crossover skills are emphasized. There are 40+ classes per week plus specialty workshops and an eight-week intensive summer camp for children aged 7-17. The school currently has over 600 students attending each year. The Players Children's Theatre: "Reflections of Diversity" program offers various forms of Theatre Arts to schoolchildren in the Sarasota, Bradenton and Venice areas. The productions focus on issues that exhibit courage, compassion, and integrity. The goal is to teach an appreciation of the arts beyond the classroom. In keeping with The Players mission of inclusiveness, ticket prices are kept affordable, allowing tourists, families, students, or seniors to attend live musical theatre for not more than the cost of a movie, and as in previous years, fee tickets will be made available to underprivileged and disadvantaged children and special needs.

Venice Theater is one of the largest and most active community theatres in the United States. Located in Venice, Florida, Venice theater has been providing entertainment, education and outreach to our community since 1950. There's always something on stage at Venice Theatre. The season features cabarets, full-scale musicals, comedies, dramas and cutting-edge contemporary productions. Review the current season presentation for this lovely Venice, Florida Theater.

Sarasota Ballet boasts a repertoire that includes the great classics, works of internationally recognized contemporary choreographers such as Alvin Ailey and Ben Stevenson, as well as works from Florida artists Todd Allen, Demetrius Klein, Jimmy Gamonet de los Heros, and James Buckley. Its repertoire also includes such beloved classics as Swan Lake and Giselle, and original works as Madame Butterfly, Echo & Narcissus and Zal & Rudabeh - ballets that have received outstanding critical acclaim. The Ballet's outreach programs reach deeply into the community and have a profound effect upon the lives of its children and their families. The Sarasota Ballet Academy and Dance - The Next Generation Programs reach more than 5,000 children annually and introduce them to dance and familiarize them with career opportunities within the arts. Each year the Company, Academy students and Dance - The Next Generation students share the art of ballet in the community by performing in local events such as the Sarasota Reading Festival, Manatee Festival of the Arts, and Sarasota Arts Day. This year promises to be an exciting one and we invite you to join us as we celebrate the art of ballet!

Sarasota Opera is a professional opera company in Sarasota, Florida, USA, which owns and performs in the now-renovated 1,200-seat Sarasota Opera House. The company was founded as the Asolo Opera Guild which presented the Turnau Opera of Woodstock, New York in chamber-sized opera at the historic Asolo Theater on the grounds of the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art. In 1974 the guild began mounting its own productions at the Asolo. After acquiring the Edwards Theatre in 1979, the company set about a rehabilitation of the old movie theatre and opened as the Sarasota Opera in 1984.

Under the artistic direction of Victor DeRenzi since 1982 and executive director Susan T. Danis since 1999, the company typically presents a Fall concert and outreach season in November, which includes concerts with soloists and orchestra, and free concerts held in the Sarasota Opera House Courtyard. Traditionally in February and March the company presents its Winter Opera Festival, usually four fully-staged operas with the Sarasota Opera Orchestra. The repertoire includes standard works as well as lesser known operas.

Sarasota Symphony It all began in the fall of 1948 when Ruth Cotton Butler, a Sarasota music teacher, imagined how satisfying it would be to have an orchestra in her own community.She enlisted the support of businessmen Dr. W.D. Sugg and J. Lorton Francis of Bradenton; and George Gibbs, an amateur musician from Venice. Their combined tenacity produced the debut concert of the Florida West Coast Symphony on March 12, 1949. Under the direction of its first conductor, Alexander Bloch, the Orchestra grew at an astonishing rate and demonstrated its commitment to community service by quickly establishing a youth scholarship fund in 1951 and initiating public school Children's Concerts in 1953. Even more remarkably, by 1955 the-then Florida West Coast Symphony could claim to be the first community orchestra in the country to own a building. In 1961, Paul Wolfe began what was to be a successful 35-year tenure as artistic director and conductor.Wolfe's vision was the guiding force in shaping the current commitment to quality symphonic and chamber music, youth education and community service. His leadership allowed the Orchestrato establish a core chamber and four resident chamber ensembles, expand the Youth Orchestra Program and consolidate the-then Florida West Coast Symphony and the Music Festival of Florida, to create the Sarasota Music Festival. Upon Wolfe's retirement in 1996, a national search process resulted in the appointment of Leif Bjaland as the fourth artistic director and conductor in the Orchestra's history. Now, 60 years in the making, the Sarasota Orchestra is the new Florida West Coast Symphony. With new series and new concerts, the Orchestra offers a whole new way to experience classical music.

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