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Comedy clubs and hilarious stage plays

by Roger Pettingell

Laughter, good medicine at any time

The best locations to find comedy performances in Sarasota

Florida Studio Theatre
Improv comedy - The Florida Studio Theatre improv troupe performs Friday and Saturday nights.

“Laughter is good medicine,” are upcoming seminars at Sarasota Memorial Hospital in April. And indeed, humor can turn a stressful day into a day that has a feel-good ending. How about any day of the week? There are a few places in Sarasota to get a regular fill of laughter and chase those blues away. Some of these venues you may be quite familiar with and others only passively recognized for its comedy.

The first venue that comes to mind is McCurdy’s Comedy Theatre, which last year celebrated its 30 year anniversary in Sarasota. Pam and Les McCurdy have been operating the theatre since 1988 from local venues in Bradenton and Sarasota. After 2014 the club moved from a small strip mall in the Trail Plaza, across from the Walmart Marketplace on North Tamiami Trail.

Today it continues as one of the most prestigious comedy clubs on the Gulf coast at their current location, 1923 Ringling Blvd in downtown Sarasota. There you can find well known comedians nightly such as Pauly Shore, Jamie Kennedy who has appeared in over 40 films, Josh Blue and his comedic look at his cerebral palsy that has been highlighted on network TV, late night talk-show guest Chris Cope, Helen Keaney with numerous TV credits, or Al Romas who has appeared on MTV and Comedy Central. Dale Jones, with several comedy shows on his resume, is up next from Wednesday to Sunday.

As their tagline also indicates it is a Humor Institute, a boot camp to build confidence on stage for those willing to share their jokes or humorous anecdotes. Les and Ken Sons guide the tutelage for structuring an on-stage performance. Sounds serious, but laughter is soon to break out in these sessions. These eight-day classes result in a 95% success claim, they say the other 5% just don’t listen. The next on-stage performance from the Humor Institute is on May 1. Visit the Green Room before and after where everyone is a comedian.

Alumni and other self-proclaimed comedians compete on stage in Open Mic Nights on Wednesdays starting April 24 and on some Tuesdays starting May 7. The competition concludes in an Open Mic session on June 18 with the winner receiving five minutes on the main stage and a cash prize. The annual World Series of Comedy, July 17-20, will present 40 North American comedians who travel the United States to compete in cities as the best comedian in the country. You can register as a comedian on TheWorldSeriesofComedy.com website.

Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall
Big and Purple - Yes, there are comedy acts at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall in Sarasota

Mostly known for attracting high-profile concerts, musicals and stage performances, the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall brings in some of the most highly visible comedians such as Jerry Seinfeld and Jay Leno to its stage. Next Tuesday The Second City troupe is in the city with their show, “It’s Not you, It’s Me” which brings laughter to the study of human relationships. The hilarious musical, “Menopause” follows on Wednesday. Multiple award-winning actress Whoopi Goldberg performs stand-up on April 27. And if you haven’t seen, “The Book of Mormon” get your tickets now as they go quickly for the four shows January 7-10, 2020.

The Florida Studio Theatre has its improv team perform every Saturday at 8:30 PM. The current run is “Comedy Freestyle” where all the rules of improv are removed. Just about anything Sarasota, “Life’s a Beach” is an improv performance each Friday at 7:30 PM. The “Tournament of Fools” this Saturday lets the audience decide who goes on to be the “Champion of the Fools”. For longer running plays, “Buyer and Cellar,” takes a comedic route in the play about a struggling actor who finds out life in the big city when he moves to Los Angeles. The show is currently running through Sunday in the FST Bowne’s Lab Theatre at 1241 North Palm Avenue.

“In a Word” at the Urbanite Theatre is extended to April 21 and combines grief with comedy for a look back at one fateful night. The theater on Second Avenue presents many dramatic plays but slips in a good hilarious performance such as the satirical “The Thanksgiving Play” with a long run starting November 8.

Now back to Sarasota Memorial Hospital where lectures on Parkinson’s support, baby health and trauma treatments are scheduled daily, they include a lesson improving your health through laughter at HealthConnection on the first floor of the hospital this Friday and again on April 26. Improv actors from FST will lead the hour-long training of laughter exercises.

References to other entertainment venues in Sarasota

Keep up the laughter for a healthy lifestyle, these venues and more have their performances listed on our upcoming events page. Get your Vitamin D in Sarasota with outside activities while visiting. And when you are ready to commit permanently or during the winter months check out my new listing last week in the Beaches community at 775 Longboat Club Rd, #706. This beautifully updated seventh-floor 2BR/2BA residence has direct Gulf of Mexico views on the beach of Longboat Key. Please contact me at (941) 387-1840 for an exclusive showing or if you have a property to sell or buy.

Address List Price Media Slideshow
775 Longboat Club Rd, #706 $795,000 Video Photo Slideshow

 

Call us at (941) 387-1840 for an exclusive showing

 

Theaters in the arts cultural city, Sarasota

by Roger Pettingell

Variety in Sarasota's performing arts

Most venues within walking distance downtown

Entrance to the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall
Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall - Top celebrities perform here in over 100 events each year.

The opportunities for attending a play, musical or concert downtown is pleasantly astonishing. That is one reason why voters of American Style Magazine ranked Sarasota as the top arts destinations in the nation for populations of 100,000 or less. The histories of the venues are as intriguing as the performances themselves, starting with one of the most notable in the area, the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall.

Performances at the Van Wezel are scheduled year round and are mostly one-day shows from well-known stars that are on a route that includes The Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater. With over 100 performances scheduled this year, more than half are of cultural significance with ballet, Sarasota orchestra and town hall lectures. More than 25,000 students in the neighboring four counties are introduced to the arts each year here.

Attending a show at the Van Wezel is an experience in itself. Arrive early to stroll the banks of Sarasota Bay or socialize with others with fine dining at Mattison's Bayside. Even the color of hall is a sample of royalty, a purple and violet combination suggested by Olgivanna Lloyd Wright, the widow of famed architect, Frank Lloyd Wright. Although there are 1,736 seats in the hall, the more popular artists do sell out their shows. The future of the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall is in question as community leaders discuss the acres of property on the bayfront, either to replace the building constructed in 1969 or to design a downtown community that includes this historic structure.

Long tradition of opera at the Sarasota Opera House

Sarasota Opera House
The Sarasota Opera House, open since 1926.

You can walk among the theaters in downtown Sarasota, some that are close to the Van Wezel. The Sarasota Opera House is host to operas, a venue for the annual Sarasota Film Venue each April or the upcoming Sarasota Music Festival, June 8-24. Opened originally in 1926, the building that seats 1,119 patrons was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984. Currently the opera house is owned by the Sarasota Opera Association, it was once used as a performance hall that included stars such as Will Rogers and Elvis Presley. The Greatest Show on Earth movie had its world premiere at the opera house in 1952 with its stars Charlton Heston and Dorothy Lamour in attendance. The summer HD at the Opera House series begins its run May 21 with high definition operas, ballets and plays including The Marriage of Figaro, Tristan and Isolde, Madama Butterfly, Faust, Swan Lake and Macbeth.

The Players Centre for the Performing Arts seeks a new beginning

Across Tamiami Trail near the Van Wezel is the Players Centre for the Performing Arts with more than 86 years of performances in downtown Sarasota. Actors bring some of the best Broadway plays of the day to the stage with daily performances. Their Summer Sizzler Series begins June 14 and includes such plays as Beau Jest, The Marvelous Wonderettes and Arsenic and Old Lace. The series concludes with the premiere of the New Play Festival winner, Mammoth Bones, August 22-27. The organization may lose its downtown location, having put the building up for sale this month. Its plans are for a three-theatre complex in Lakewood Ranch to be built within three years.

Social gatherings for the arts with the Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe

REALTALK interview with Nate Jacobs of the Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe
Interview with Nate Jacobs of the Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe in REALTALK™ #101.

Nearby is the Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe on 10th Way downtown, entertaining audiences with plays and musical performances by talented local actors. It was founded in 1999 by its current artistic director, Nate Jacobs. The WBTT is expanding also with its current Heart & Soul Campaign that is raising funds for a new performance hall that will accommodate more guests and continue to sell out their shows. A popular show each December is the Black Nativity which has become a tradition of the troupe. Nate Jacobs adapted this show from the poetry of Langston Hughes. Currently running is the play, Dearly Departed, a comedy about a funeral for the family’s departed father. I proudly sit on the board of directors for the WBTT.

A village of theaters within a city at Florida Studio Theatre

A number of theaters in one block comprise the Florida Studio Theatre complex of Keating, Gompertz, Goldstein and John C. Court Cabarets, and Bowne's Lab Theatre. Since 1973 the theaters provide the heart for a series of mainstage productions, cabarets, education and new play development in contemporary settings. Every Saturday the FST Improv Troupe delight audiences with their improvisational comedy shows. Now in its ninth year, FST invites improv troupes from around the globe to the Sarasota Improv Festival for three days. This year, July 13-15, there are 22 troupes competing in the festival.

Historic Asolo, Cook and Mertz at the FSU Center for the Performing Arts

On the grounds of the Ringling Museum is the home of the FSU Center for the Performing Arts, a series of three theaters. Originally constructed in 1798 in the Italian town that bears its name, for 132 years the Historic Asolo Theater was the home of famed Italian actors and actresses when it was dismantled in 1930 and placed in storage. Following World War II the Ringling purchased the theater and its four tiers of seats to be placed on the grounds of the museum. There it remained in a gallery until the late 50s when it was reconstructed as a home for modern theatre. It was moved once again to its current location on Bay Shore Road on the museum grounds and renamed the Historic Asolo Theater. The building will be closed to tours and performances through June 1, as the new Kotler-Coville Glass Pavilion is in construction next to it. The first performance is scheduled June 13 through July 29 with Bello Nock, a comedic acrobat in IncrediBello!

Asolo Repertory Theatre
The world premiere of Beatsville is the current repertory production in the Mertz Theatre.

Across the street are the Mertz and Cook theatres, home of the Asolo Repertory Theatre and the FSU/Asolo Conservatory for Actor Training. The Mertz Theatre has a similar history as the Historic Asolo Theater, first constructed as an opera house in Dunfermline, Scotland where it stood for 86 years before it was purchased for the Ringling and moved here in 1903. The 500-seat theatre is in use primarily for plays by the Asolo Repertory company, a group of professional actors. The smaller 161-seat Cook Theatre in the same building is used as a theater for small-cast repertory shows and for the Florida State University MFA Acting program. No more than 12 students are admitted to this storied College of Fine Arts program that has been training actors for 40 years. The Theatre is named after Jane Bancroft Cook, a philanthropist and heir to the family owned Dow Jones & Company, where she served on its board for 36 years before her death in 2002.

There are other theaters and cinemas in the area and many more from Bradenton to Venice, the heritage this city has for arts and entertainment date back to John Ringling and his circus. It is one of the many reasons that many people take up residence here in this part of sunny Florida. Please contact me at (941) 387-1840 if you have a property to sell or buy.

References to other entertainment venues in Sarasota

Highlight of fall 2016 events

by Roger Pettingell

An increased activity of arts and festivals

Local venues ramp up as snowbirds are welcomed back

Aerial view of the Van Wezel Performing Arts Center
Aerial view of the Van Wezel Performing Arts Center

This is the final week of summer, hope you had an enjoyable season. Now we head into fall and the festival and arts seasons are warming up. Soon the snowbirds will have returned and the schedule of events increase. Dormant venues come alive with a full slate of arts. The Van Wezel Performing Arts Center has a new show practically every night with high quality performances from the touring stars. The local theatres have presented their line-up of plays and the annual festivals have announced their themes for the 2016-2017 season.

In just a few short weeks The Ringling International Arts Festival kicks off a four-day event schedule with its opening ceremony, a celebration of Brazilian culture in the museum courtyard. Performances also start on that opening day, October 13 with acts from around the world. Doug Elkins performs a choreographed show in the Asolo Repertory Theatre while the Eighth Blackbird can be seen in the Historic Asolo Theatre. These two shows start on opening day and continue for three days. Gravity & Other Myths will be performed all four days of the festival in its appropriate venue, the Ringling Circus Museum. In total there are 11 different performances of one-day, two-day and other three-day lectures, concerts and live shows to experience.

An annual celebration of Midcentury Modern Architecture, Sarasota MOD, attracts worldwide renown architects to the area in order to further their profession. The 2016 event presented by the Sarasota Architectural Foundation showcases one the leaders of the Sarasota School of Architecture, Victor Lundy. The three-day event begins Friday, November 11.

An opening reception for Old Florida, a 21st Century Interpretation will be held October 7 in the Longboat Key Center for the Arts. The art exhibition runs through November 11 with paintings by Joseph Arnegger, Tim Jaeger and Tom Stephens. As part of the Ringling College of Art and Design, the Center for the Arts presents a curriculum for artists that want to continue their education or for those adults who wish to learn a new hobby for their retirement years.

Fright Night international guests
These international guests get into the spirit for Fright Night on Halloween in St. Armands Circle.

In October St. Armands Circle starts its fall series of car, boat and art shows. The Wilde on the Water Jaguar Festival and Concours for one day is hosted by The Sun Coast Jaguar Club on October 1. The following Saturday is the seventh annual Taste of St. Armands with 19 restaurants around the circle competing for top recognition. The St. Armands Boat Show is a weekend show in the circle October 22-23. One of the most well-attended events on the circle is the annual Fright Night on St. Armands, a spectacular of sights and sounds in celebration of Halloween on October 31. Be certain to stick around for the local high school zombie dance performance to the song Thriller by Michael Jackson.

Cars return to the circle November 5. The Ferrari Owners Club of the Florida region will display 75 cars competing for Best in Show in Ferrari's on the Circle. The last car show of the 2016 fall season is the Porsches in the Park event on December 10, now in its 12th year. Veterans are honored Friday, November 11, with special discounts. For the next two days that weekend the circle will come alive with the combined St. Armands Circle Annual Fall Sidewalk Sale and the 28th Annual St. Armands Art Festival, just in time for holiday shopping. And if that doesn’t get you into the holiday spirit, the 38th Annual Holiday Night of Lights on St. Armands, December 2 is filled with events such as the annual lighting of the Christmas tree. Of course Santa will be there for the kids.

Theatre comes alive during this time too. The Wiz, a loose Wizard of Oz interpretation, will start October 12 at the Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe and run for over a month through November 19. Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves has a long run at Florida Studio Theatre in Sarasota from October 5 through January 29. The Players Centre for the Performing Arts will run the play Gypsy from September 28 through October 16. Young Frankenstein follows November 2-20. The Sunshine Boys will run at the Venice Theatre, September 27 through October 16. Venice Theatre will also be home to the play Toxic Avenger September 30 through October 23. Billy Elliot, a musical, will start November 8 at Venice Theatre and run through December 4. Get Out of Dodge runs at the Venice Theatre, November 3-20.

The Van Wezel Performing Arts Center has a variety of concerts, comedians and performances. Celtic Thunder, Doo Wop Spectacular, Mary Chapin Carpenter and ZZ Top are performances in October. Political satirists Capitol Steps, start a November series of acts. The holidays begin with themed concerts by Mannheim Steamroller, Decades Rewind, Dave Koz, Melissa Etheridge and Jim Brickman.

Ski-A-Rees water ski acrobats
Ski-A-Rees - Water ski acrobatics are performed every Sunday in their Ken Thompson Park stadium.

Since 1957 the Ski-A-Rees have thrilled crowds with their acrobatic water skiing. The first show of the season was earlier this month, held for free in Ski-A-Rees Stadium at their Ken Thompson Park location on City Island. The show starts at 2 p.m. each Sunday with this season running through November 13. You may never know what to expect from these acrobats, performers start at a very young age and continue well into their adulthood. You may even see a senior citizen or two, skiing next to a young adult. The Ski-A-Rees were honored this summer by hosting the Southern Regionals Tournament in June. This non-profit has performed all these years with generous donations at events and efforts such as the 24-hour online Giving Challenge that starts noon tomorrow, September 20.

Some of the non-profits in the area are supported through charity events such as the Giving Challenge tomorrow that I mentioned above. Last year $7 million was raised in one day to benefit 449 non-profits. This year over 550 organizations are represented in four surrounding counties. Coldwell Banker will host comedian John “Hippieman” Novosad, a CARES benefit at McCurdy’s Comedy Theatre on Thursday. Last year the Coldwell Banker CARES program raised $65,000 for local non-profits. The Superheroes on Parade benefit for the Southeastern Guide Dogs organization is coming to a close. Over 50 larger-than-life dog sculptures were sponsored by local businesses. My sponsored dog, Buyer, will be part of a parade of these sculptures created by local artist Scott Joseph Moore, on Palm Avenue, October 8-9.

As the saying goes, “So much to do, and so little time to do it.” There are many events for all ages, check out our events page with 300 activities listed. And when you find the time, please contact me at (941) 387-1840 if you have a property to sell or buy.

Theater Performances in Sarasota

by Roger Pettingell

Rich in History, 'On With the Shows'

These Sarasota Locations Offer Top Quality Entertainment

Asolo Repertory Theatre, Cook Theatre and Mertz Theatre
Asolo Repertory Theater - Home to the Historic Asolo Theatre, Cook Theatre, and Mertz Theatre.

Last week I wrote about opera, orchestras and the Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe. Sarasota has plenty of live theater, from amateur to professional. The smaller theaters in the area are as small as the 260-seat Glenridge Performing Arts Center on Palmer Ranch to The Players Theatre downtown with seats for 402.

The Players has an interesting history of 84 years. Montgomery Clift and Jayne Meadows performed there before their stardom. Polly Holliday, Flo on the television show Alice, also started her career at The Players Theatre. I have been told that Polly stayed at a Coldwell Banker home now for sale while she spent 10 years in Sarasota learning her craft. The amazing “Villa Cirque” home on Delmar Avenue was owned by Asolo creator Everett "Chick" Austin. House guests included Bette Davis, Prince Rainier, Gypsy Rose Lee and Dame Edith Sitwell.

The Asolo Repertory Theatre on the Ringling Museum grounds is one of the most interesting structures for arts in the area. Two of the theaters were built for audiences in other countries, before shipping to its home at the Ringling Museum. Originally built in 1798 in Italy, the Historic Asolo Theatre was dismantled and stored. The state purchased the theater and moved it to Florida at the Ringling Museum in 1949. It was on display at the museum until later when it was reassembled and modernized for its first performance in 1958 at its current location. There are three tiers arranged close to the stage, with every seat that has a great view of the show. This theater for professional actors is the largest in Florida for the professional actors guild, Actors' Equity Association (AEA), and is the largest repertory theater in the southeastern United States.

This building is home to the Historic Asolo Theatre, Cook Theatre and another reassembled foreign venue, Mertz Theatre. Also assembled with three tiers, the Mertz Theatre has orchestra, mezzanine and balcony levels. With 500 seats, the architecture is grand and the acoustics are ideal for musical arrangements. Originally built in 1903 in Scotland as an opera house, Mertz Theatre was moved to the Ringling Museum in 1977, reconstruction was completed in 1989.

Florida State University, the Asolo Conservatory, conducts their performances in the 161-seat Cook Auditorium. FSU offers a three-year graduate degree Masters in Fine Arts program for 12 students that qualify from nationwide auditions. Graduates join the AEA upon completion. Their training is extensive including a showcase of talent in New York city and six weeks of training in London. In the third year they are full-time with the Asolo Repertory Theatre. Graduates have appeared on Broadway, television and movies. Upcoming events for these three theaters appear on our calendar web page.

Also on our calendar of events are performances for the Florida Studio Theatre, which is actually a village of three stages in downtown Sarasota close to the bayfront. The winter mainstage opened with the Tony-award winning musical, Hairspray, which runs through January 4. Other shows this season include Dancing Lessons, Fly, and Chapatti. The winter cabaret season has three shows on its schedule; Dancing In The Street, American Pie, and Never Marry A Girl With Cold Feet. FST has been in Sarasota since 1973 with shows that are considered more contemporary.

There are theaters in nearby cities also worth mentioning for their high quality entertainment. The Manatee Players have their live shows in the newly built Manatee Performing Arts Center in Bradenton. Amahl and the Night Visitors and Meet Me in St. Louis are two shows worth considering in December. This is the final week for two shows on two stages in the Venice Theatre, The Full Monty and God of Carnage. It might be a fun time while the adult-aged family is down for the holiday.

7038 Hawk Harbor Circle, Bowless Creek
7038 Hawks Harbor - Ideal opportunity to build your dream home near Whitfield Estates and Villa Cirque.

My family and I wish you the best of holidays and a safe and enjoyable Thanksgiving. If you are interested in seeing Villa Cirque mentioned above, please call our office at (941) 387-1840. Close to Villa Cirque I have another home in Whitfield Estates on the water that I can show you at 7322 Westmoreland, or a great property nearby at 7038 Hawks Harbor Circle that is in an ideal location with dockage and direct access to Sarasota Bay. Also, this is a great time to sell your property in Sarasota or Longboat Key. Beachfront homes are in high demand.

References to other entertainment venues in Sarasota

On Stage for the Weekend

by Roger C. Pettingell

With another weekend approaching, you might be in the market for more than a luxurious new home. If theater is something you enjoy, here are several possibilities for you.

Perfect Wedding is on stage at the Florida Studio Theatre [map]. The show is at 8pm and 10pm. 
   On the morning of his wedding, Bill wakes up in his honeymoon suite with a dreadful hangover and an unknown woman in his bed. It's a race against time as he has to either get her out or make up a plausible story before his fiancee and future mother-in-law arrive. Desperate times call for desperate measures in this hysterical romp of a love story gone wrong.

Crimes of the Heart, the Pulitzer Prize and Drama Critics Award winning play by Beth Henley is on stage at the Jane B. Cook Theatre at the FSU Center [map]. Presented by the Banyan Theater Company, you can see it at 8pm Friday and Saturday, and 2pm and 8pm Sunday.
   Three vastly different Magrath sisters, long separated, have gathered to tend to the last days of their elderly father. Lenny, the oldest at 30 and unmarried, is focused on her quest to find a mate. Meg, the middle sister, is just back from the West Coast after a failed singing career. Babe, the youngest, has just made bail after an arrest for having shot her husband.

Random Acts, the guerilla theater group that also bills itself as Attention Deficit Theatre, will be on stage Friday and Saturday nights beginning at 8pm.
   This show isn't for kids, as it contains adult language and partial nudity, but it is a lot of fun for adults who enjoy more improvisational theater.

This blog is maintained by Michael of Kim Hughes & Company.
Photo courtesy Banyan Theater Company

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Roger Pettingell of Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate is your Longboat Key, Florida Luxury Real Estate Specialist. Roger provides his real estate expertise to sellers, investors, developers, and buyers in the Sarasota area including Anna Maria, Bird Key, Bradenton Beach, Casey Key, Cortez, Grand Bay, Holmes Beach, Longboat Key, Marina Bay, Osprey and Siesta Key. Search for homes, luxury homes, condominiums, investment property, development property, and vacant land and lots on the Longboat Key, Florida and the surrounding area.