Curtains Up!

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It’s not called the Cultural Coast for nothing. Sarasotans earn their reputation for excellent performing arts by collectively treading the boards, tickling the ivories and rolling the cameras nearly every day of the year. And there’s no shortage of eager audiences clamoring for the shows. Professional ballet, theater and opera companies-as well as award-winning community […]


It’s not called the Cultural Coast for nothing. Sarasotans earn their reputation for excellent performing arts by collectively treading the boards, tickling the ivories and rolling the cameras nearly every day of the year. And there’s no shortage of eager audiences clamoring for the shows.

Professional ballet, theater and opera companies-as well as award-winning community theaters-showcase an impressive pool of resident talent and international performers, while each season the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall hosts close to 100 musical, dance and variety acts from around the globe. Not to be outdone, the local symphony, jazz club, bands and chorale groups cover a spectrum of musical genres in regular concerts and music festivals.

Celebrations of film also take the spotlight, as the Sarasota Film Festival and Cine-World Film Festival pack downtown with stars of the silver screen partying alongside fans, film buffs and up-and-coming Coppolas.

And the creative community builds on itself. In addition to various arts courses at the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee and New College of Florida-to say nothing of the Ringling School of Art and Design-many of the area’s performing arts organizations offer outreach and educational programs encouraging young and old, talented and aspiring, to get into the act. Audience participation is de rigueur.

THEATER

The Backlot, 2211 Fruitville Road, Sarasota. 400-8401. Cooperative arts and education facility including a new professional theater.

Banyan Theater Company, 358-5330. Professional company offering three productions in June through August.

The FSU Center for the Performing Arts, 5555 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. 351-8000. Home to professional Asolo Theatre Company, FSU/Asolo Conservatory of Professional Actor Training and Sarasota Ballet of Florida. Mainstage schedule of plays runs from November to June.

Florida Studio Theatre, 1241 N. Palm Ave., Sarasota. 366-9000. Professional theater presenting mainstage winter season, plus a cabaret season next door and a three-play season at Stage III in the Gompertz Theatre. Also offers staged readings of new plays and special season each summer.

Golden Apple Dinner Theatre, 25 N. Pineapple Ave., Sarasota. 366-5454. Year-round season of professional Broadway musicals accompanied by cocktails and buffet dining.

Manatee Players, 102 Old Main St., Bradenton. 748-5875. Community theater presenting a nine-play season beginning in September, as well as a new play festival in the summer.

The Players of Sarasota, 838 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. 365-2494. The area’s oldest community theater offers six productions per season, September through April, along with special events, education and summer programs.

Venice Little Theatre, 140 W. Tampa Ave., Venice. 488-1115. Community theater presenting six mainstage plays per season, October through May; also offers Stage II and Theatre for Young People productions.

Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe, 954-4651. Professional African-American company presenting its third four-play season.

MUSIC, DANCE & POETRY

Florida West Coast Music Inc., 709 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. 953-4252. Under this umbrella heading are the bi-county Florida West Coast Symphony; chamber groups Florida String Quartet, New Artists Piano Quartet, Florida Wind Quintet and Florida Brass Quintet; several Youth Orchestras; and the annual Sarasota Music Festival in June.

Gloria Musicae, 954-4223. Professional chamber chorus presents several concerts per season.

The Jazz Club of Sarasota, 330 S. Pineapple Ave., Suite 111, Sarasota. 366-1552. Promotes and perpetuates jazz year-round with jams, members’ concerts and educational programs; presents the annual Sarasota Jazz Festival at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall each spring.

Key Chorale, 921-4845. Ensemble performing choral masterworks.

La Musica International Chamber Music Festival, 366-8450 ext. 3. Festival takes place in April, with rehearsals on the New College campus open to the public and concerts at the Sarasota Opera House.

Sarasota Ballet of Florida, 552-1032. International professional company performing classical and contemporary repertoire, September through April, at the FSU Center and Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall.

Sarasota Concert Band, 1345 Main St., Sarasota. 364-2263. Professional musicians perform monthly concerts and summer performances in area parks.

Sarasota Opera, 61 N. Pineapple Ave., Sarasota. 366-8450. Presenting a winter season of four professional opera productions, as well as concerts and special events, at the Sarasota Opera House.

SoulSpeak/Sarasota Poetry Theatre, 535 Columbia Court, Sarasota. 366-6468. Live poetry performances and educational workshops.

Sarasota Pops, 756-7603. Presenting a four-concert pops season in addition to on-site community outreach performances.

Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, 777 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. 953-3368. City-owned performing arts hall presents a full season of music, dance, theater, children’s programs and more; primary season is October to May. Student and teacher discounts available for classical concerts.

Venice Symphony, 488-1010. Classical and pops concerts presented in Venice.

CIRCUS

Circus Sarasota, 3333 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. 355-9335. One-ring circus presents spring performances under the Big Top at the Sarasota County Fairgrounds. Also offers numerous educational and outreach programs.

COMEDY

McCurdy’s Comedy Theatre, 925-FUNY. Featuring national stand-up comedians, open-mic nights and training and special programs through the Humor Institute.

FILM

Sarasota Film Festival, 635 S. Orange Ave., Sarasota. 364-9514. Annual film festival offers a week of new movie screenings and related events each spring.

Sarasota Film Society/Burns Court Cinema, 955-FILM or 364-8662. SFS presents international films in its Burns Court location in downtown Sarasota and sponsors education programs and the Cine-World Festival in November.

MAGIC

Houdini’s Showplace, Classic Car Museum, 5500 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. 351-1250. Now in its second year performing a regular schedule of professional magic shows, in addition to accommodating special groups, on-site fund raisers and field trips.

ARTS EDUCATION

Manatee Community College, 5840 26th St. W., Bradenton. 752-5000. The Fine and Performing Arts department at MCC includes instruction on art, photography, film, music and theater. Many local students begin their artistic education here, then proceed to four-year institutions like New College and Ringling School of Art and Design.

New College of Florida, 5700 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. 359-4700. An innovative, award-winning, four-year liberal arts school known as the honors college of the state university system.

Ringling School of Art and Design, 2700 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. 351-5100. Four-year professional art and design school, offering programs in graphic and interior design, computer studies, fine arts, illustration and photography.

Sarasota County Arts Council, 1226 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. 365-5118. Promotes, develops and coordinates the arts and related programs in Sarasota County.

University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee, 5700 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. 359-4200. More than 20 full-degree programs, including arts and sciences.

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