Asolo Repertory Theatre announces its 50th anniversary season.
By Kay Kipling
There are still several shows left in the Asolo Rep’s current season, but it’s time to plan ahead for an expanded season for next year in several venues at the Asolo/Ringling complex.
Producing artistic director Michael Donald Edwards announced the 2008-09 season this week on the mainstage of the Asolo, and it’s a mix of classic and contemporary, with a world premiere and a circus musical thrown into the bargain.
Starting off the season Nov. 15, to run through Dec. 20, will be Barnum, the musical about the life of P.T. Barnum—a natural enough selection for a circus town like Sarasota. In fact, Circus Sarasota executive director Pedro Reis will serve as a consultant to the show, which will also be presented by the Asolo on the east coast of Florida after its run here.
Continuing with its presentation of plays at the Historic Asolo Theater, the Asolo offers a one-man stage adaptation of the beloved holiday film, It’s a Wonderful Life called This Wonderful Life, which will have one actor bringing to life 31 characters in the second-chance tale of George Bailey. That show runs Dec. 5-28.
Next up, and the first show in the Asolo’s rotating rep (which begins later this year than in seasons past) is Moliere’s The Imaginary Invalid, in an adaptation by Constance Congdon, running Jan. 2 through March 1. The second play in the rep was to have been the recent New York hit Frost/Nixon, but rights were pulled after a national tour of the show was decided upon, so Edwards will announce what work will fill the Jan. 9 through April 16 slot a little later.
Edwards himself will direct the next play, Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale, speaking of it as a play about someone who “screws up really badly and gets a second chance”—making a reference in passing to our nation’s current state and the upcoming presidential elections. The Winter’s Tale runs Jan. 23 through May 16.
Another play on the Historic Asolo Theater stage brings back two Howards: former artistic director Howard Millman and longtime actor David S. Howard, who will reprise his performance from 10 years ago in the two-person play Visiting Mr. Green. Millman will direct the piece, which runs Jan. 30 through Feb. 21.
That’s followed by a comedy by Jeffrey Hatcher that’s set in a luxury retirement community (hmmm…sound familiar?) and promises murderous twists and turns involving greed, revenge and electric golf carts. It is in fact titled Murderers, and runs March 13 through May 23.
Big news for the season’s next play: Broadway legend Tony Walton, who designed the sets for last year’s A Tale of Two Cities, returns to Sarasota to both design and direct Shaw’s The Devil’s Disciple, a play set during the American Revolution. It runs March 20 through May 24 and should take good advantage of the Asolo’s ensemble casts, including third-year FSU/Asolo conservatory students.
Edwards directs again with the world premiere of Perfect Mendacity by Jason Wells, whose Men of Tortuga was a hit last season on the Asolo stage. A new thriller set in the world of secrets, Perfect Mendacity runs in the Cook Theatre May 15 through June 14.
The final play of the mainstage Asolo season is the recent Broadway hit Souvenir: A Fantasia on the Life of Florence Foster Jenkins. Written by Stephen Temperley (who played Darwin in the Asolo’s recent production of Darwin in Malibu), Souvenir stars Judy Kaye, who played the lead role in New York, and is directed by Vivian Matalon, who also directed it there. Souvenir runs June 5-28.
In addition, the Asolo is adding a new component to its outreach and education programs with a presentation of the play The Giver, based on Lois Lowry’s book of the same name. Upper-elementary and middle-school children will be the target audiences of the play, running Oct. 21 through Nov. 8 in the Historic Asolo, but there will be showings for the general public as well.
At the season announcement, FSU/Asolo Conservatory director Greg Leaming also presented the conservatory’s upcoming season, which includes Wilder! Wilder! Wilder!, five one-act plays by Thornton Wilder running Nov. 4-23; Blur, by Melanie Marnich, about a young girl who discovers she has a degenerative eye condition, onstage at the Cook Jan. 6-25; Strindberg’s drama Miss Julie, March 3-22: and the Craig Lucas-Craig Carnelia musical play Three Postcards, which takes to the Historic Asolo stage April 14 through May 3.
For information on buying season or individual tickets, call 351-8000 or go online at asolo.org.