For Robert Mansell, the world premiere of his musical Willm S at the Players of Sarasota in September is the fulfillment of nine years of research-but not necessarily the result of any lifelong fascination with the Bard of Avon. Mansell, a London native and a familiar face on local stages the past few years (Pickering in the Players' My Fair Lady, Sir Joseph Porter in their HMS Pinafore), has never acted in a Shakespeare play, and says his knowledge of the Shakespeare canon was superficial before he was drawn into the mystery of the man himself.
"Virtually nothing is known about him with absolute certainty," says Mansell, a marketing exec turned real estate developer for whom an acting sideline is a happy fluke. "And most of those few facts that are known are very confusing. So I had to construct a plot myself"-one he admits may be provocative to some, as it involves a sexual scandal that Mansell hastens to add "does not take away from Shakespeare's greatness."
Mansell says he's been writing music since he was very young, including church and choral works and an as yet-unproduced musical on Marlene Dietrich. He describes his Willm S score as "heroic," and says the show itself is a spectacular, replete with lavish settings (Westminster Abbey, the royal court) and costumes (as for a scene involving the coronation of King James I). Without giving too much away, he adds that the play's theater set burns to the ground in the middle of Act 2, which climaxes with a scene welcoming nearly all of Shakespeare's most famous characters to the stage.
Willm S previews Sept. 5 and 6 at the Players, with a gala opening night Sept. 7 and performances through Sept. 11. (Call 484-8228 for tickets.) As to its future after that, Mansell is mum as to details but hopeful of seeing his play go on to Broadway and London's West End.
Tampa Museum of Art. Continuing through July 3 is an exhibition of Latin-American photography; through July 10, Bud Lee: Picture Maker (also a photography exhibit) and Why Was This Made?: Understanding Form & Function. Information: (813) 274-8130.
Art Center Sarasota. Continuing through July 23 is a Members Juried Exhibition, followed by Student Interpretations of Exhibition Selections, running Aug. 2-13 (reception at 5 p.m. Aug. 4). Coming up Sept. 13¬ through Oct. 15: the Fall Members Show (reception Sept. 15). Information: 365-2032.
Museum of Fine Arts. On view at this St. Petersburg museum: Wedgwood Pottery: From Ancient Greece to Fairyland, through Nov. 6. Also: Connoisseurs of Clay: Collecting Contemporary Ceramics; Untangling Intaglios and Other Print Processes Made Plain; and Jacob Lawrence: Toussaint L'Ouverture, all through July 24, as well as A is for Ambrotype, through Sept. 11; Spotlight on the Collection: A Selection of Post-1950 Art and John Scott: I Remember Birmingham, both Aug. 6-23; and The Nude in Photography, Sept. 17 to Dec. 11. Information: (727) 896-2667.
Ringling Museum of Art. Life-sized sculptures with Midwestern roots by Duane Hanson continue on view through July 31 in the West Galleries. Opening Aug. 20 to run through Oct. 30: Dutch Painting: Time and Transformation in 17th-Century Art, comprised of 80 works focused on the portrayal of ruins and regional landscapes. Information: 359-5700.
Longboat Key Center for the Arts. On view throughout the summer are a Spring Fling exhibition (through Sept. 25) and a Volunteer Exhibition (through Oct. 30). Information: 383-2345.
Salvador Dali Museum. Dali Revealed: Land, Myth, Perception and God continues through October. Information: (727) 823-3767.
Apple & Carpenter Galleries. On view July 1 through Aug. 31, a summer exhibition of American and European painting from 1850 to 1950. A changing fall exhibition takes over Sept. 1 to Oct. 31. Information: 951-2314.
Palm Avenue Gallery. A Summer Showcase offers glass by Rich Fizer, painted tiles by Bill Hanlin, raku pots by Don Michael Williams, acrylic paintings by Leleia DeMello and Venetian masks by Sergio Boldrin, among other works. Information: 953-5757.
Galleria Silecchia. A Summer Showcase exhibition features works by gallery artists Glenna Goodacre, Yuri Gorbachev, William Morris, Ulla Darni, William Berra and Gary David Hoffmann, July through September. Information: 365-7414.
Selby Gallery. Sarasota Series features works by current Ringling School faculty, July 8 to Aug. 5. Coming up Aug. 12 through Sept. 17: Marshall Arisman: An Illustrated History, featuring work by fine arts illustrator Arisman, whose political drawings have appeared in The New York Times and Rolling Stone. The 2005-06 season kicks off with the first part of the annual faculty exhibition, Sept. 23 to Oct. 8. Information: 359-7563.
McCurdy's Comedy Theatre. Comic Dave Mordal appears onstage Aug. 18-21. Information: 925-3869.
St. Armands Boat Show. Browse the boats from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. July 2 and 3 on St. Armands Circle. Sponsored by Marine Max. Information: 388-1554.
Fourth of July Fireworks. You can catch them starting at 9 p.m. at Siesta Beach (where VIP tickets and a pre-fireworks dinner are also available; call the Siesta Chamber at 349-3800); or downtown along the bayfront just off Island Park, starting at 9:30 p.m. (presented by ABC7 and the City of Sarasota).
Cocktails at the Cà d'Zan. Live entertainment by Shaman, along with cash bar and food vendors, 6 to 9 p.m. July 21. Information: 359-5700.
Friday Fest on the Bay. Performance dates for these free outdoor concerts on the Van Wezel bayfront are July 8, July 29, Aug. 19 and Sept. 16; for more info call 953-3368.
Florida West Coast Symphony Salon Afternoon. All four FWCS chamber ensembles perform at Fall Fest, 4 p.m. Sept. 25 at Holley Hall. On the program: works by Mendelssohn, Jan Bach, and Dohnanyi. Information: 953-3434.
Oldies Concert. Featuring Mark Lindsay (remember Paul Revere and the Raiders?) and local band Bandana at 4 and 8 p.m. Aug. 13 on the Venice Little Theatre stage. Information: 488-1115.
Sarasota Reds. Minor league ball continues at Ed Smith Stadium all summer long, with the Reds facing the Fort Myers Miracle, Vero Beach Dodgers, Daytona Cubs, Lakeland Tigers and Tampa Yankees, among other teams, through Sept. 4. Information: 365-4460.
Suncoast Offshore Grand Prix. The 21st annual event, combining a festival parade of boats and a block party along Main Street July 1, a motorcycle poker run at Robarts Arena July 2, and the "Indy 500" of boat racing on July 3 in the Gulf of Mexico, continues, benefiting the Florida Center for Child and Family Development. For complete details call 371-8820, or go to www.suncoastoffshore.org.
The Play's the Thing. The Players of Sarasota presentation of new play readings continues through July 2. Information: 365-2494.
The Glass Menagerie. Tennessee Williams' very personal play about the Wingfield family still resonates, 60 years after its premiere. It continues through July 17 in a Banyan Theater Company production at the Glenridge Performing Arts Center. Information: 358-5330.
Breakin' Legs. Tom Dulack's Mob comedy ends its run at the Lemon Bay Playhouse July 17. Information: 475-6756.
Footloose. The musical about a town transformed through the magic of dance continues through July 24 at the Golden Apple Dinner Theatre. Information: 366-5454.
Good Evening. Recapture the veddy British humor of the late Dudley Moore and Peter Cook in this comedy created 30-odd (very odd) years ago, onstage at Florida Studio Theatre July 5-24. Information: 366-9000.
Getting It Right. The winner of last year's Players play reading series, by Bernard Sabath, is performed at 8 p.m. July 8 and 9 and at 2 p.m. July 10. It involves the always timely issue of who has the right to decide their time on earth is over. Information: 365-2494.
Much Ado About Nothing. Contentious lovers Beatrice and Benedick spar once more in this Shakespearean romp, onstage July 13-17 in an Island Shakespeare Festival production at the Island Players on Anna Maria. Information: 778-5755.
Godspell Junior. Stephen Schwartz's musical message about peace, love and tolerance, onstage at 7 p.m. July 15 and 16 and 2 p.m. July 17 at the Players of Sarasota. Information: 365-2494.
Funky Planet. A musical featuring bell bottoms, platform shoes and Martians, onstage at 8 p.m. July 21-23 and 29-30, 2 p.m. July 31 at the Players. Information: 365-2494.
Two Rooms. Playwright Lee Blessing's examination of a terrorist hostage situation that leaves the wife of the victim torn and traumatized. Onstage July 21 to Aug. 7 in a Banyan Theater Company show at Glenridge. Information: 358-5330.
Always.Patsy Cline. Kyle Ennis Turoff and Roberta McDonald reprise their roles as the legendary country singer and her most devoted fan, July 26 through Sept. 4 at the Golden Apple. Information: 366-5454.
Song and Dance Extravaganza. An entertainment revue at the Island Players, with performances July 28, 29 and 30. Information: 778-5755.
Sundew. Local playwright Larry Parr's latest offering, about a woman who believes her rural property is Eden and the daughter who can't wait to sell it, takes to the FST stage, Aug. 2-21. Information: 366-9000.
Vaudeville Follies. A musical revue onstage at the Manatee Players Aug. 4-14. Information: 748-5875.
Sight Unseen. An Obie winner about a painter who achieves wild popularity after decades of neglect and the effect it has on him, his former lover and her husband. Onstage Aug. 11-28 in a Banyan Theater offering at the Glenridge. Information: 358-5330.
I Never Saw Another Butterfly. A production based on poems written by children in a German concentration camp, running at 8 p.m. Aug. 18-20 and 25-27 at the Players, 2 p.m. Aug. 21 and 28. Information: 365-2494.
Pippin. The Manatee Players have Magic to Do in this Stephen Schwartz musical about the son of Charlemagne's quest to find his true calling, onstage Sept. 1-18 at the Riverfront Theatre. Information: 748-5875.
Willm S. A musical world premiere by local Robert Mansell, about the late great Shakespeare and his turbulent times. Onstage at the Players of Sarasota Sept. 5-11. Information: 365-2494 or 484-8228.
Grease. The Players of Sarasota kick off their 76th season with this perennial hit about those carefree '50s, Sept.