Marie J. Kilker, Ph.D……ADVOCATING FOR THE ARTS…..Spring 2017
April is a musical month, with Sarasota Opera winding up its main season and La Musica winding up into its. I have to thank Jerry Nordquist, my former neighbor, for getting me to the Opera for THE DIALOGUE OF THE CARMELITES. It was everything I’d hoped it would be. It is great to see a dramatic work that features so many women. I am glad to see more of them on the regular stage as well, especially in the work of contemporary women playwrights. I even applaud Frank Galati for choosing to direct Lillian Hellman’s best play at Asolo Rep. And Urbanite has found a number of women authors’ plays as well. BO-NITA is one, a monologue ending the theater’s current season, performed and directed by…two women!
Speaking of La Musica, how about the art work Kay Curtis keeps doing to bring La Musica to our attention? This marks her seventh year at it. This year La Musica is doing a special collaboration with Guitar Sarasota. Open rehearsals of it and the rest of the major program may be seen and heard at Sainer Pavillion of New College. See LaMusica’s web site for details.
Speaking of Lillian Hellman, did you see Jenny Aldridge’s one-woman depiction of her at Selby Library recently? Jenny’s been developing the show, now subtitled “Memories and Moments”, since I first saw it at SaraSolo Festival ’17. It keeps getting better. So watch for news of the next time Jenny does her show locally. She’s just good to watch and listen to.
Congratulations to Bill Oser, critic for Talking Broadway, who’s engaged to be married. This summer’s honeymoon trip promises to be spectacular—attending operas at some of the greatest houses in Europe. Betcha the Arena of Verona will be a favorite!
FSU/Asolo Conservatory doing MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM at Selby Gardens in April reminds me that the Gardens first hosted a Shakespeare performance about two decades ago there. It was presented by the now defunct Theatre Works and was quite successful. As I remember, Jeffrey Kin, now a community theater leader, made his local debut in that production. I guess some people would now call this an Environmental Production.
The truly Environmental Production locally is being hosted by Asolo Rep at the Cook Theatre in the FSU Center for the Performing Arts. It’s THE ELABORATE ENTRANCE OF CHAD DEITY, which turns the Cook into a place for the wrestler of the title. This reminded me of a play designed for Broadway by Moredecai (Max) Gorelik, my mentor on The Scenic Imagination who brought me to Sarasota. The scenic metaphor Max decided on for Clifford Odets’ GOLDEN BOY, about a boxer torn between fighting (for money) and professionally playing the violin (as a major talent, the fulfillment of his father’s dream for him), was a prize-fighting ring. The backdrop and curtains around it were velvety to suggest a smoke-filled room, and the shape of all of the stage action was the ring itself. Max, the first and greatest designer for the famous Group Theatre, died here in Sarasota. My husband scattered his ashes into the Gulf for his widow in a rented boat, for a “funeral” attended also by a close friendly couple.
Jonathan Epstein, who is directing MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM, not only teaches Shakespeare to the Conservatory students of acting but also performs summers with Shakespeare and Company. He won an acting award as a lead last year—not an unusual event for this master Shakespearian actor.
The Improv Shakespeare Company of Chicago made a big hit at FST’s Improv Festival a few years ago and followed up months later wowing audiences in Tampa at Straz Center. They refresh themselves by working with consulting professors of English and theater at Loyola University, Chicago. Anyone here who’ll be in Chicago on April 11 may want to attend—free–an event called “This ‘Borrow’d Likeness’: Race, Gender, Ethnicity and Representation in Casting Shakespeare.” Guest lecturer and dramaturg, Dr. Janna Segal from the U. of Louisville, will concentrate on ROMEO AND JULIET. There will be scenes from the play directed by Prof. Ann Shanahan of Loyola’s Theatre Department. A discussion and refreshments will follow. All free, I repeat. The event takes place in the Newhouse Family Theatre in Mundelein Center on Loyola’s Lake Shore campus and begins at 7:30 p.m. Very accessible by “L” if you’re not in a car driving up Sheridan Road.
Here’s another freebie worth mentioning: a multi-media presentation by Phyllis Lowitt on Tchaikovsky’s EUGENE ONEGIN. It takes place April 19 at 10:30 a.m. at Selby Public Library’s Geldbart Auditorium. The timely corollary is a Metropolitan Opera HD performance the following Saturday afternoon of the Tchaikovsky work.
The crowd in the Mertz Theatre of the FSU Center for the Performing Arts for the announcement of Asolo Rep and FSU/Asolo Conservatory’s next season had to be the biggest ever. No empty seats! The season is called “Staging Our World” though the exploration of the American Character is supposed to be paramount and some stories are alto be shared “through a global lens.” I think it’s rather interesting that the musical RAGTIME will be given in “a re-imagined version” because the original version got Frank Galati a Tony award when it debuted on Broadway. Frank will not be re-directing the re-imagined version here at Asolo next year. As for the Conservatory, I believe it has its best season of plays opening with OEDIPUS, the ur-tragedy of Western Civilization. The new drama in the line-up is THE MOTHERF***ER WITH THE HAT, with its daring title; THE REHEARSAL by the wonderful Jean Anouih, a favorite of mine; and finally MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING, to be given at Selby Gardens. This line-up really gives students a great education. Maybe us too?
The BOYNTON BEACH CLUB at Manatee Players didn’t make a hit as a musical but it certainly made its mark as an attempt at doing something new and different. Manatee Players keeps stretching! I’m glad they have Brian Craft to help market them, as he is so helpful to the press.
Manatee Players has already agreed to stage a play next season by Jack Gilhooley in its Kiwanis theater. Manatee has to be lauded for betting on a local playwright, though of course Jack is nationally known. The James Joyce Society of Sarasota is presenting a rehearsed reading of a new play, KENNEDY’S ACOLYTES, by Jack Gilhooley on Monday, April 17, at 7:30 p.m. In the New College Music Room. (It and parking are at the end of the main road into NC.) The play takes place in western Ireland just as three girls hear of the death of U. S. President John F. Kennedy and then goes into their community fifty years later. The cast of the reading includes Jenny Aldrich, Nicole Cunningham, Johana Davila, Lynne Doyle, Sally Fint, and Donna Gerdes. Those actresses alone should be a draw. The reading imposes no cost to attend but donations will be gratefully accepted.
David Breitbarth, the sole remaining Asolo Repertory associate artist/actor on staff, will continue next season. In summer he is now also on the regular acting staff of Florida Repertory Theatre in Ft. Meyers. So you can see him there when Asolo Rep takes a summer vacation. David enjoyed having wife Kate Hampton “home” with him this winter when she left New York to appear in two plays at Florida Studio Theatre. (The last time she acted in the area, she appeared with him at the Ft. Meyers Rep.) Kate told me that when she auditioned for the FST roles, it was not known by the auditioners that if given the role she would be staying here with her husband. It was good to see them so happy together in Sarasota, as they are when they regularly hook up at her family home in New York.
With all the fuss over the new BEAUTY AND THE BEAST film, people still find the original Disney animated film unbeatable. Did you know that Aaron Blaise, who created the original Beast, is a graduate of Ringling College? I remember that at one fund-raiser, he drew instant portraits of attendees to add to the funds. He especially loved to draw animals, though! Aaron was a classmate at Ringling of my daughter Ondine, as was her close friend Terry Porter. The award in honor of the great film buff, Terry, was just given at the Sarasota Film Festival.
End of the month brings end of the season, a great one, for Sarasota Ballet. I am anxious to see FANCY FREE, which was one of three ballets I saw in Chicago at my very first viewing of a professional ballet back in the ’50s. It was done by Ballet Theater (now American Ballet Theatre). The dancers were Eric Bruhn, Eric Brahn, and John Kriza—all sailors on a leave. Kriza was always a favorite of mine. (I was told he died by suicide off Longboat Key.) This ballet inspired the musical ON THE TOWN. If you like dancing but aren’t sure about the ballet type, see FANCY FREE. It should change you forever. It certainly affected me.