At press time, nearly 80 percent of Ringling International Arts Festival tickets had already been sold. If most people were like me, they had a hard time figuring out what to order, as everything in the brochure sounded enticing. My selections include Opera Baroque, a Czech farce that features marionettes and live actors, as well as The Boys, a play based on The Brothers Karamazov, performed in Russian with English subtitles.
I didn’t order tickets to Montreal’s Rubberbandance Group but now I intend to, after reading a rave review of the troupe’s standout appearance at the American Dance Festival in Durham, N.C., this summer. The group “combines the energy of hip-hop, street dancing and martial arts with the grace of ballet and the irreverence of modern dance. You have not lived until you’ve seen this powerful combination in action…,” wrote a local reviewer.
This year, the performers include Mikhail Baryshnikov himself, who will dance a program of solo pieces. Don’t expect him to do a lot of schmoozing at festival parties, however. He doesn’t want the festival to be about him, and he was a low-key presence last year. I hear that when he’s performing, he’s entirely focused and even less likely to socialize.
Dwight Currie, the Ringling’s deputy director, has taken on the extra duties of festival director with aplomb and good humor. But if he seems a bit distracted this year, it’s because he, like me, is a devoted fan of the Tampa Bay Rays. They could be in the middle of the playoffs during the festival. Currie says he’s thinking about setting up big-screen TVs somewhere on the Ringling campus. But what if Baryshnikov is a Yankees fan?
Virginia Toulmin and Terry Porter probably never met, but they both helped make the Sarasota arts community, and the community at large, vibrant and interesting.
The 84-year-old Toulmin, who died June 12, gave millions to the Sarasota Orchestra, the Sarasota Opera and the Asolo Rep, among many other organizations. She was the picture of elegance and class as she moved through a lobby. But she was also a sharp businesswoman, as she showed during her recent term as symphony chairman. How poignant, and fitting, that she died hours after a concert involving symphony musicians at the opera house.
Porter, who died suddenly at 53 on June 1, used his position as manager of Video Renaissance on Bee Ridge Road to delight, educate and provoke everyone who came into the store. More than 250 attended his memorial service, a testament to the love and admiration he engendered. Porter’s enthusiasm for all film, from art-house masterpieces to cult classics, was contagious. Often I’d visit the store not to rent a movie, but to listen to him talk about film. “Terry was one of the real rewards of living in Sarasota,” says the Asolo’s Michael Edwards, a frequent customer.
Comings and Goings
Asking people for money is an art in itself, and two of the best area development directors left this summer. The Ringling Museum’s Suellen Field retired after 13 years with the museum, while Debbie Trimble resigned from the Asolo Rep to take a similar position with the prestigious La Jolla Playhouse in California.
During Field’s tenure, the museum’s endowment increased from less than $2 million to more than $25 million. She says she’s most proud that the museum is on such a better financial footing now, and she credits its affiliation with FSU. Trimble leaves in the middle of a major Asolo capital campaign she expertly crafted, and says the decision to go was the hardest of her life.
The Alabama-born Field was Southern charm personified, while the gregarious Trimble had a laugh that echoed through the Asolo lobby. But it wasn’t just their warm personalities that made them a success. They both made sure to serve their donors’ interests, not just the interests of the institutions that employed them. n
Jennifer Bors, a 2010 graduate of the Ringling College of Art and Design, won a Gold Student Academy Award this summer from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for her senior thesis animation project, Departure of Love.
To whomever came up with the name sARTee’ for the local arts celebration that’s tied to the Ringling Festival. It’s supposed to be a play on the words Sarasota and Manatee, but it sounds precious and pretentious, especially with that silly accent mark at the end. A snarky friend calls it “Sortie”—the French word for exit.