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