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WHAT EVENTS by FATHOM coming up are of particular interest to me? Since I was not able to locate any tributes on PBS locally for the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, I am happy to note that Sarasota’s Regal Hollywood 20 will be playing THE SHAKESPEARE SHOW, a film of an anniversary celebration, on Wednesday, May 23. I believe there will be a host of British stars of stage and screen paying homage to the Bard, and they certainly know how to do it! I’ll be checking out my favorites on stage paying tribute to my favorite writer.

ROMEO AND JULIET by Shakespeare, staged by Kenneth Branaugh in London, will be presented at the Regal Hollywood 20 on July 7. Having seen Branaugh’s versions of A WINTER’S TALE and THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST via Fathom Productions, I believe Shakespeare’s star crossed lovers wil be a real treat. Back when I was teaching a course in Shakespeare, I would save ROMEO AND JULIET to study in early spring, a great time to think about young love. (The Histories came in the Fall; the Tragedies in Winter ending with ROMEO AND JULIET; the Comedies and Romances in Spring and early Summer.) This worked very well. Once, though, I had to do a course studying all in a summer of Saturdays. After a tough start, all went nicely. Weather can make a difference in what to read when.

SWEETER THAN JUSTICE, a play with musical embellishment by local writer Robert Lipkin, will have its regional premiere by Page to Stage Productions at the Cook Theatre in FSU’s Center for the Performing Arts from May 12 to 22nd. Mr. Lipkin is a retired lawyer. Carole Kleinberg, artistic director for the production, has been helping with development of the script, which bodes well for what we’ll see. Joe Micato is supplying the score. Local favorites Don Walker, Rafael Petlock, Dan Higgs, and Brianna Larson are in the cast. The story, based on a real incident, concerns a young woman law student who’s assaulted by a mob boss’ son. Since at that time a murder took place for which the son’s been arrested, the women can tell about the crime’s time or silently get revenge. What will happen? Advanced tickets are available for $25 per at the Sarasota Ballet office in the Center or by calling 941-359-0099. Thursday and Sunday tickets are available to students at the special price of $15 each.

TWO LOCAL GALS are championing local performers and writers and doing a great job of it. Linda M. Bento-Rei, a flutist, chamber musician, and orchestral recording artist has been well known in Northeastern musical circles. Moving to Osprey, she found that other local musicians enthusiastic about performing chamber music in particular, were not being (so to speak) honored in their own “country.” So Linda has formed a chamber music group looking to develop and perform here. Meanwhile, she’s been appointed principal flutist with the Venice Symphony Orchestra. She continues her work also on “The Jongen Project” featuring the music of Belgian composer, organist, and educator Jospeh Jongen. Linda M. Bento-Rei’s group will be distinguished from LaMusica, that’s just finished a great season of chamber music here, by being a local favorite but not having musicians from the Sarasota area. The other local lady who’s making local playwrights, performers, and directors famous from Tampa Bay down to Naples is Jo Morello. Her Starlite Players draws capacity crowds one long weekend per month (except holidays) to an evening of comedy—usually in three or four single acts. I’ve come to anticipate direction of these plays by Mark Woodland, Jamie Butrim, and Don Walker especially. Their work is a constant, whereas there are so many playwrights that all or none stand out on any given program.

STARLITE PLAYERS are easier than ever to find now, with a new sign outside their home at Starlite Room and Bar, 1001 Cocoanut Avenue. You may remember that the sign had to re-fashioned from the old one belonging to the former Broadway Bar. It had eight letters embedded, so Starlight became Starlite to replace Broadway’s 8. Those having a meal at Starlite before or after the show get a 15% discount on food. That also holds true for people showing tickets or stubs from Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe or any performance by The Jazz Club. Out of towners attending shows at the nearby Van Wezel also frequently give good reviews on the web for Starlite’s food and drinks. I personally have not had better fish and chips anywhere, but friends tell me their favorite is Starlite’s omelet at brunch on Sundays of Starlite Players performances.

IF YOU’VE COMPLAINED THAT THERE’S NO PLACE but Whole Foods to have a coffee and a pastry or snack before an Urbanite performance, check out the new coffee shop at its front. It’s also a good place—in or outside– for lunch before or after a Sunday matinee. Get your wine before or at intermission at the Urbanite theater itself and please leave a 5er or better as a donation. Urbanite needs all the funds it can get. And it deserves them. Don’t forget to donate your unused Passover nonalcoholic wine too; not everyone who’s thirsty can take the stronger stuff.

AMERICAN THEATRE MAGAZINE has honored both of Sarasota’s major Equity theaters recently. with featured articles. In March there was an article on Florida Studio Theatre’s BUTLER production, set in the early days of the Civil War, and FST’s use of the play to involve the community in considerations of racism. Now in April comes an interview with Deborah Cox, star of JOSEPHINE, the musical about Josephine Baker having its world premiere at Asolo Rep on May 6 in the Mertz Theatre of FSU’s Center. It’s a fulsome report of how thrilled she is to create the lead. (Asolo Publicist Sasha Fields was equally thrilled at helping get that interview into the magazine.) At a press conference at Crosley Mansion (built in a period when Josephine Baker was making show biz history in France), Deborah and the Ensemble each treated us to a song from the musical’s score. Impressive. Talking with some of the creative staff, I found I was the only one who’d actually seen and heard Josephine Baker perform in Paris and knew her also from a subsequent show in Chicago. She was unique, but I think Ms. Cox is too in her own way.

SHAUN PATRICK TUBBS has just been named to a Directing Fellowship in The Drama League (of New York) 2016 Fellows of the Director Project. Shaun has been working with Asolo Rep all during its current season, starting with ALL THE WAY and also on DISGRACED. The new fellowship is a major stage in Shaun’s career development. We hope he’ll be back in the future in a leading directorial role.

SEAN COLSON is handling the sale of the home in which parents Frank and Diane raised him…and in which all created art of one type or another. It’s down the street from Morton’s (a central, busy area) and has a rambling main house that says “artist” along with outbuildings that Frank used for a studio and a sizeable school and lecture room. Frank worked in all kinds of media but is probably best known for his sculpture, an area in which Sean excels. Diane is mainly a music composer and writer (lyrics, a novel, journalism), who also teaches. Their home had room for all their work as well as easy living and evidence of their extensive travels.

CONGRATULATIONS to Lynn Bernfield. Her one-woman musical UNDER THE RADAR has been accepted by the United Solo Festival in New York City. Lynn will perform on Monday, Oct. 17, at 7:30 p.m. It’s an autobiographical piece, done by a talented lady who’s used to airing other show biz people’s biographies on her series of podcasts. United Solo Festival is a prestigious venue for solo performers, among whom locally has been Ann Morrison. My publisher also appeared in the festival last year and has just repeated his show during a stint on a regular stage in NYC.

STEVEN BARGONETTI, my nephew, is sharing rave reviews in Los Angeles won by writer Suzanne Lori-Parks for her triology FATHER COMES HOME FROM THE WARS. She’s doing a searing multi-play history of African American life in America. Steve is music director and also appears on stage singing and playing his guitar. (He left as a guitarist for DISGRACED, the Broadway musical, to resume working with Lori-Parks in between engagements in New York and L.A.) The trilogy is due in London this summer at The Royal Court and then perhaps Sweden and other countries.

THE AMERICAN THEATRE CRITICS ASSOCIATION annual conference, this year in Philadelphia, has kept me busy writing reviews since I returned. It’s been hard to finish them all because I was immediately plunged into similar tasks at home, along with all the work of getting house and home in order—or, in my case, workable disorder. A nice surprise was seeing the seldom done HE WHO GETS SLAPPED by the Philadelphia Artists Collective in cooperation with the Circus Arts Conservatory. The surprise was not that it was an excellent play-plus-production but that it was directed by Damon Bonetti. I remembered writing about him when he was a student at FSU/Asolo Conservatory. He was primarily an actor, then. He is a co-founder of the highly esteemed Collective (PAC), which produces plays that are seldom seen, though worthwhile and even classic. I’d say HE WHO GETS SLAPPED very much falls into that category.

AS A LONG-TIME, ACTIVE MEMBER OF ATCA’S INTERNATIONAL COMMITTEE, I am being sent to the International Theatre Critics Association Meeting in Belgrade, Serbia, next fall. I’ll be the woman with male committee head and last Executive liason as a U.S. Delegate. If anyone has or knows of any obtainable Serbian plays translated into English or French, please let me know. I keep finding things from the days when Serbia was part of the USSR and they or their authors were considered Russian. But from Serbia—no luck so far.
I will be sharing my experiences with you when I return in October. I am hoping to go to Novi Sad as its famous festival may be going on at the time of the conference or afterward. I also hope to visit Slovenia when I’m so near, particularly the capital.

LOUIS RUBINO is a photographer I bumped into while buying fruit and veggies at Detwiller’s. He loves classic French films, as do I, and so we had an interesting chat. He then recommended I see some of his work on You Tube. I found it to be beautiful and the portraits especially distinctive. Try these: OLD FRIENDS and CHILDREN’S CORNER. If you like the Rolling Stones, Louis has shots of them (with music, of course) in the video TUMBLING DICE. He does portraits and will take other commissions for photos and videos. He can be reached at [email protected]. As you might guess, he’s a vegan, but he does eat honey.

SUMMERS ARE USUALLY TRAVEL TIME FOR WESTCOAST BLACK THEATRE TROUPE members, but they are making sure locals and tourists get a hot show at home too. This year it’s one about Mahalia Jackson. Love gospel? You’ll love Mahalia singing it at WBTT. But the troupe’s last regular season show isn’t over in May. “MISS DAISY” (Carolyn Michel) will be driven out of state for a few weeks.

CONDOLENCES to Terri Finn on the death of husband Jerry. Although he had recently had an operation and just come home from rehab, he passed away in the night after returning.
His death was the end of The Banyan, the wonderful theater troupe that made summers in Sarasota worth braving the heat. I worked behind the scenes with Jerry for two seasons on grant proposals and both they and the experiences were winning. He and his wife led the way to increased summer theater in the Sarasota-Manatee area, but none was better than The Banyan. Don featured it on his site (this site) and was a season media sponsor.

RIP also to Martin Ring. He was one of the stalwart ushers, with wife Miriam, for The Banyan, of which she was the organizer. The couple was always efficient and pleasant, and I hope to see Miriam continuing this tradition for other theaters that had their combined help.

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