Marie Kilker Backstage Bytes & Bows, January 2014
Marie Kilker Backstage Bytes & Bows, January 2014
Happy New Year! And it will be all the happier if you can get to the Tenth Anniversary Celebration of the Perlman Music Program at Sarasota Opera House, Jan. 4 at 5 pm. If you don’t want to take a chance on getting a ticket at the box office, especially last minute, you can reserve immediately at 941-366-8450, ext. 1 or online at PRMPSuncoast.org. In promoting The Perlman Music Program, Elizabeth Power arranged a number of appearances by Toby Perlman, whom perhaps you have heard. The program was her idea! I admired much her early promotions of it and she hans’t let down a bit. I remember that at a critics’ meeting at Sardis’ in NYC back then, I was seated at table with John Rubenstein. That actor-son of the great musician Arthur Rubenstein reacted happily when I told him of Mrs. Perlman spearheading the program here in Sarasota. John’s family was close to the Perlmans, and he spoke of how he has admired her and her verve since childhood and thought of her as a relative. He wasn’t surprised at her starting The Perlman Music Program because of her marked regard for young people in the arts, which he had experienced.
Speaking of promoters of musical events, Sandy Cowling is a new acquaintance who is newly “into” Sarasota Opera and the Orchestra. She also loved her first acquaintance with The Banyan Theater Company last summer. Because she was leaving for summer elsewhere, she saw only Banyan’s first production but she may try to get to a second in 2014 before going off. And you know I encouraged her to stay! Banyan plans a Season of Diversity with its plays of literary quality, mostly modern. I can’t explain why a local critic did not perceptively read Banyan’s mission statement when she reviewed HEROES. She seemed to think that because Banyan cites having done fine literary dramas like those of Ibsen and Shaw that the Company is confined to older classics. Not so! HEROES has an excellent script and wonderful roles for three men who are delightfully different WWII French war veterans and friends in a retirement home. Certainly meaningful in this area and especially as we celebrate a Legacy of Valor! Looking over a list of new members of the Sarasota Orchestra Association, I find my friends Christine Schlapfer and Meredith Nierenberg. How about those enthusiastic welcomes for the orchestra’s new Maestro? Or should I say Maestra? (Christine, who’s worked in an art villa in Italy, should be able to tell the correct gender ending.)
Frank Galati and Peter Amster are back in town to rehearse productions for Asolo Rep. The play Frank is directing–PHILADELPHIA, HERE I COME–is one of the first I saw in Sarasota after moving here. I have a feeling this production will be even better. Another early experience of mine to be repeated is LOOT at the FSU/Asolo Conservatory for Actor Training, and once again by graduate student actors, starting Jan. 2 at the Cook but preceded by a “Pay What You Can” preview performance. It’s being directed by Jonathan Epstein, who usually concentrates on Shakespearian productions. BTW, I understand some people in the community have accepted Prof. Epstein’s invitation to visit his classes in acting and even participate in them. If you like Shakespeare, you have another semester to do so!
Can Artist Series keep up its SRO audiences? Hope so! I loved AMAHL’s single performance before Christmas and THE MOST WONDERFUL TIME OF THE YEAR starring Andrea McCardle. She’s been here before but at the Van Wezel, so this was her first visit to the Historic Asolo. Was she ever bowled over! Too many of us forget what a treasure we have in one of the only 18th century European court theaters still in existence and good shape. In Sweden, where I’ve been in the other one, the place, less elaborate but acoustically great, is revered. There’s an adjoining theater museum.
Have you noticed how many plays and musicals are advertised with their dates but not times of performance? You have to check twice to be sure you’re on time for either of Florida Studio Theatre’s cabarets! Matinees seems to be uniformly at 2 pm, though. That brings to mind the extensions of THE WHIPPING MAN at Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe to include Saturday matinees on Jan. 25 and Feb. 1, as well as the usual Sunday performances in the play’s Jan. 3 to Feb. 2 run. Not only does this show bring back Howard Millman to direct, as he previously did at Asolo Rep, but also Drew Foster. He’s a Booker VPA program grad locally, Juilliard grad nationally, who started acting at Asolo Rep as a youngster. THE WHIPPING MAN has been one of the most produced plays in America over the last year or so. I saw it an Indiana Rep in ’13 on a stage about four times as large as WBTT’s, so the latter’s going to be a somewhat new experience for me.
We hear of so many special play readings that we may forget about groups who do same regularly. Asolo Theatre Guild Playreaders, for instance. In December they presented somethings different–a program of short plays and scenes.
Among local authors of them were Verna Safran, Larry Parr, and Bernard Yanelli. The two men are better known for their plays being shown, respectively, by Florida Studio Theatre and The Players. Verna, a retired teacher, often directs readings.
The Improvised Shakespeare Company will be featured in Florida Studio Theatre’s fundraising THE PLAY’S THE THING: A CELEBRATION OF FST’S 40th SEASON. On Jan. 27, a @200 ticket will get you a dinner, music during celebratory proceedings, and a reserved place to watch the improvisation group. Improvised Shakespeare offers a special, completely original, one-time only performance of a real play concocted of Shakespearian elements and based on audience suggestion. The group climaxed last summer’s FST Improv Festival and later played at Starz Center in Tampa, always to glowing reviews by audiences and media. I met the group’s founder, who has a Ph.D. In philosophy from Loyola University of Chicago, where I received my M.A. In English. Profs from the English department regularly advise the group, and it certainly seems to pay off!
I also felt a connection to The Players’ recent presentation of JUKEBOX MEMORIES by BLEND, an A cappella Doo Wop group that started in Illinois, specifically at John A. Logan College. That’s in Carterville, right next to Carbondale, where I was an Administrative/Professional at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. John A. Logan is a community college much of whose curriculum replaced SIU’s former Technical Institute in Carterville, a program of one to three years ending in certificates or associate degrees. Logan College faculty came from SIU’s Institute or transferred to positions in the University as staff or teachers in the newly formed School of Technical Careers, leading to a four-year degree. I did a stint reviewing for STC’s Journal of Technical Careers and enjoyed plays occasionally put on at Logan. Its president, Nathan Ivey, was the father of Judith Ivey, who’s become a star on Broadway and in TV and films. She spent one summer at SIUC in the musicals put on jointly by the Music School and the Theater Department. BLEND specializes in music from the ‘50s and ‘60s.
Danae DeShazer was in the HAIRSPRAY audience at Venice Theatre cheering friends with whom she’s performed on area stages. Now she’s busy publicizing the Sarasota Keys, a piano project that will bring pianos to public sidewalks downtown. They’ll be painted by a number of artists but played by anyone who wants to do so. Maybe you?
A whole new leadership team has formed to attract more young singers to Sarasota’s Chorus of the Keys. Byron Poore, Duane Fenn, and Patrick Killbane are working together to make sure that the Chorus’ Feb. 22 shows will sell out. The name is SHAKE, RATTLE, AND ROLL…a long way from the group’s origins as Barbershop Harmony Society. But that doesn’t mean shaking away tradition completely. Visit ChorusoftheKeys.org to find out more about the group and upcoming shows.
Paula Atwell has left her post as theater critic for Pelican Press (which extended to The Observer papers). Paula still teaches and writes. I caught up with Paula, as well as dance diva Elizabeth Bergman, at the annual picnic of our Indian Beach Sapphire Shores Neighborhood Association. Its newsletter recently featured the number of artists and writers who live in the area. I imagine some will have their wares on display at the IBSSA Yard Sale on Jan.25 and 26 from 9 to 3 each day at homes throughout the neighborhood. Since Goodwill’s big store is also in the area and a new Flea Market is to be installed at the North Trail Plaza, you might want to stop by to find a treasure or pleasure or two.
The Jazz Club has so many things going on or starting a series of goings-on in January that I couldn’t possibly cover even half of them here. The JAZZ AT TWO will start on the 3rd with the Dick Reynolds Quartet at Unitarian Universalist Church, 3975 Fruitville Rd. Call 941-366-1552 for info on this and continuing concerts. I remember Reynolds on piano at Mr. Kelley’s in Chicago in the “old days” playing for the likes of Sarah Vaughn and Mel Torme. I think that was where Barbara Streisand first appeared in Chicago as well. The International Jazz Trio will be at Beatrice Friedman Symphony Center on the 18th at 7:30 pm. Cynthia Sayer Jazz Trio plays the Glenridge on Jan. 18 at 8 pm and the 19th at 2 pm. But if you want to learn more about the musical art form, you have to quickly sign up for a course at the Longboat Key Education Center; call 941-383-8811. Or try Pierian Spring Academy, Argosy U., 5250 17th St., Sarasota, 941-716-2471; class starts Jan. 15. If you are a jazz musician, though, you may want to advertise your gig or class down south. Send details to: [email protected].
After the death of Peter O’Toole, I told friends about how he surprised me and they suggested I tell you too. So here goes. It was summer of 1960 and in between classes in Ireland and Scotland, I spent a week or so in England. In London I first saw on stage Alec Guinness. He was playing the lead in Terence Rattigan’s play ROSS, a story of T. E. Lawrence after he left Arabia. I went on to Stratford-upon-Avon, where I had spent the whole summer the year before at The Shakespeare Institute. In 1960, I was able to attend a few early classes and tried to see plays at The Royal Shakespeare the two evenings before I left. My former “landlady”–with whom I stayed again–arranged for me at last to get a premium ticket to see THE MERCHANT OF VENICE, the summer’s hit with the summer’s hit actor. Peter O’Toole. He played Shylock in a powerful, sympathetic way that marked my memory indelibly. Coming out of the theater, I met up with an usher with whom I’d made friends the previous year. He invited me to see the “grand young actor” who always had the staff and such in for drinks after his performances. I certainly would take advantage of the offer to come along. Of course, even backstage wasn’t open long in theaters at that time, and Peter O’Toole was still in his dark makeup and shaggy brown wig after just a drink or two before everyone left. A bit over a year later I heard that a movie of LAWRENCE OF ARABIA with Peter O’Toole and Alec Guinness was coming out. I was very anxious to attend. Of course, I believed I would be seeing Alec Guinness as T. E. Lawrence, as I had seen him onstage. What a shock when Lawrence turned out to be the former Shylock–and blonde! I should have taken more note in Stratford of those blue eyes. Or perhaps O’Toole had used dark lenses there. I still wonder about that.