APRIL HOLIDAYS HAVE BEEN HOLY DAYS THIS YEAR and that means a lot of theater devoted to pious purposes. My favorite each year is the Passion Play put on by St. Jude Catholic Church parishoners. The Sarasota group puts on a fully dramatic show of Stations of the Cross with full costumes and props on the grounds in back of the church. Behind the fenced in area are free seats and space for those who bring their own. A narrator on a high platform gives a running verbal account of the proceedings, making them bilingual (Spanish and English) for audiences. I’ve been impressed by the quality of the supporting players and particularly the actor who portrays Jesus. They are all uncredited but deserve highest credit for their work. Try them next year on Good Friday. Both the Start of Passover and Easter Vigil and Sunday ceremonies brought glorious music to attendees at the ceremonies that I know about. I hope more, including humanitarian and non-secular rites of the season are publicized next year for those of us who appreciate all. Have you seen and heard the Passover video made in NYC that’s on You Tube? Excellent.
HAPPY NEWS FROM AREA PLAYWRIGHTS: Jack Gilhooley reports that after a successful staged reading of his new play as part of Jan McArt’s Series of same in Boca Raton, he was able to tailor his play for audiences in Manatee where he lives. The Long Reunion will be on stage at the Manatee Performing Arts Center, Bradenton, from May 25 to May 27. Because the play’s about three old high school friends celebrating five class reunions in the same waterside restaurant, Jack’s put mentions of Manatee High School students of those times ranging from jocks through faculty to prom king and queen into the play. Alumnus Mark Woodland, who’s directing, knew of and found out from friends about the local names. Will you be mentioned? In any case, most locals will appreciate references to Manatee landmarks and celebrities. Another local playwright being produced, this time Stephen Cooper of Longboat Key, tells that one of his plays won a contest presentation in Carbondale, Illinois. Having lived, studied, and worked there for many years, I can assure you that drama prizes there are not easily won. Of course Stephen is used to winning space on our local stages. His short plays were much appreciated at the now defunct Starlite Players and still get produced by Odyssey each year. I doubt this summer will be an exception.
LA MUSICA IS IN THE AIR! The LaMusica International Chamber Music Festival, that is. Note the Free sample at Mildred Sainer Pavillion of New College at 4:35 p.m. on April 10. Musicians for the Festival will discuss their careers, which are most impressive. Then they will impress you in concerts April 9, 12, 15, and 18 at 8 p.m. each at the Sarasota Opera House. You can also attend rehearsals at the Sainer Pavillion from April 7 to 14 and at the Opera House Feld Hall April 16 and 17 with a subscription for all rehearsals or a single ticket buy on-line. LaMusica may be the only group in town other than Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe that sells out fund-raising dinners way ahead of time.
THE OHRENSTEIN FAMILY is in the latest news for their work in film and theater. Kathryn Ohrenstein Parks has her movie, 50 Words, as an official entree in the Sarasota Film Festival. It plays in a short film program on April15 and 26. Mom Sharon Ohrenstein, often known professionally as Sharon Lesley, is a singer (usually accompanied by hubby David) and playwright who’s now adding brief theater reviews to Lynne Bernfield’s podcast interviews, “The Lynne Show.”
ONETIME-SARASOTANS INCLUDE THREE REGULAR NATIONAL STARS OF STAGE AND SCREENS. Dallas Roberts, 1988 grad of Sarasota High School, who attended then-Manatee-Community College and later Juilliard, is prominent in the cast of My Friend Dahmer, filmed story of the murderer Jeff. Dallas has been in plays importantly Off-Broadway, regularly on major TV, and in widely distributed movies. Sarasota’s Booker High School for the Performing Arts grad Charlie Barnett currently stars as Ian Peters in Valor after playing a lead in ABC’s Secrets and Lies. He is still well remembered for integrating the TV cast of Chicago Fire. Kate Comer, born and raised in Sarasota, is playing Deborah Fields in Marvel’s New Warriors. She once took courses at Florida Studio Theatre. She’s now in film, TV, Videos, and New York City theaters.
SOME SARASOTA ACTORS get on local commercials. Have you caught Brendon Ragan the latest? Possibly more rewarding than Urbanite. You can’t hardly find that tiny theater in what is becoming a canyon of downtown condos and upscale apartments.
A FOND FAREWELL to Nicole Clayton who has left as marketing associate for p.r. at Florida Studio Theatre. Look for her work and that of Steve Turesi, also late of FST, if you’re in Rochester, NY, where I hope some theater or arts organization will be putting her to good use. Nicole nicely prepared her successor at FST, the lovely Lydia Baxter. She came to the theater as a literary intern and, believe me, she really knows a lot about plays and musicals and who creates them. Welcome, Lydia!
SPEAKING OF PEOPLE WHO CREATE PRESS RELEASES, I’ve never come across a better one at it than Christopher Kehoe, newly with the Florida State University/Asolo Conservatory. It’s a challenge to me to do as well in my reviews of the productions and plays he has “previewed” in his press releases.
ON A SAD NOTE, I remember Jessie Dorman, an FSU/Asolo Conservatory graduate. That he was a great student was evident not only in his first year of Conservatory productions but in a summer at The Banyan. He was reputed to be well thought of in Chicago, where he contributed his talents to plays on a number of stages. I’m sorry to learn that he, as so many theater people seem to be saying these days, transitioned.
IF YOU ARE IN CHICAGO this July, please consider seeing the tryouts of a musical about Cher. My nephew Stephen Bargonetti will be playing guitar in the show, and I’ll be glad to hear what you think of it. I hope to catch a performance myself on the way to or from the annual conference of the American Theatre Critics Association. It will be held in Spring Hill, Wisconsin. I hope to be a few days in Chicago before or after the meeting to see Stephen and to visit with him and my niece Di Bargonetti. Since it’s my home town, I pray I’ll be able to see friends I’ve had nearly all of my life as well as to visit husband Jim’s grave and that of my parents in a suburban family plot. I’ll be back with my don411.com column for summer, but I’ll be going back to my original column name, BACKSTAGE BYTES, because most advocating for the arts is already being done plenty in print and on line, whereas I hope to keep writing, especially unpublished news, of the persons who make or have made the arts.