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High quality theater options to consider

by Roger Pettingell

Catch live performances here in Sarasota

Different experiences of performing arts at local not-for-profit centers

Palmer Ranch entertaining center in Sarasota is an option when looking for a theater experience
Glenridge Performing Arts Center - Palmer Ranch entertaining center in Sarasota is one option

You are standing in line for a cocktail in the lobby of the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, the lights flicker with a signal that the show is about to start. You get your drink and head to your seat. It’s a good experience as it is in many of the live theaters here in Sarasota. And there are other theaters on school campuses and community centers that offer an option to the for-profit live performance halls that are well celebrated.

The Addams Family, a new musical just finished a short run at Glenridge Performing Arts Center (GPAC), concluding its third season of performances by the Rise Above Performing Arts group. A student cast of 43 members led a lively song and dance of this spooky and kooky family in New York.

The 260-seat GPAC theater is in the Glenridge campus of the Palmer Ranch community in southeast Sarasota near Honore Avenue and Palmer Ranch Parkway. It has state-of-the art lighting and sound, large screen and Schimmel grand piano. It is also ADA compliant with wheelchair accessibility and an induction loop for the hearing impaired.

The next season of Rise Above performances at Glenridge picks up again September 12-15 with School of Rock; Glory Days, a new American Musical November 1-3; the classic West Side Story January 3-5 and January 9-11; and the season finale, Bring It On, based on the popular 2000 cheerleading movie, April 23-26. This exceptional group of talented young performers compete nationwide, including its show choir that were the 2018 Grand Champions at OrlandoFest.

When Rise Above is not performing at GPAC, there are concerts and other professional performances. This year Patchouli and Terra Guitarra presented Landscape of Guitar, a music and art production. The Four Freshman has an annual spring concert at GPAC. This group started in 1948 at Butler University in Indiana, and has endured over the years with new talent and a legacy that continues to today. Nate Najar returns December 13 for his annual Jazz Holiday, this year with Daniela Soledade, Chuck Redd and Adrian Cunningham.

Looking for dinner and a pre-show cocktail? Although Palmer Ranch is somewhat in seclusion and known for its privacy with lush landscaping, there are plenty of restaurants on Clark Road to enjoy before or after the show. Rise Above is also looking to build a new performing arts hall. Its new undisclosed location may be closer to restaurants. You can get involved by texting to 44321, donate.

College and community sponsored recitals and concerts are scheduled in the Neel Performing Arts Center on the South College of Florida campus in Bradenton. Built in 1966 and remodeled in 1999, this auditorium has wheelchair accessibility and seating for 830 guests. It is also the home of the Elizabeth M. Eaton Memorial Pipe organ built by master craftsman Charles McManis.

To enjoy a cocktail and dinner before the show there are plenty of franchise restaurants near the campus on 14th Street (US 41) in Bradenton. The Italian cuisine restaurant Primo Ristorante and the popular Anna Maria Oyster Bar are a short drive away.

Neel hosts a variety of tribute concerts including the upcoming tribute to Pink Floyd, Pig Floyd, May 18; John Denver December 8; James Taylor February 9; Linda Ronstadt February 16; and Beach Boys March 22. There are other performances by the Diamonds, a Broadway musical salute on January 12 and Bill and The Belles, a celebration of vintage country music and vaudeville on January 26.

Riverview Performing Arts Center has live concerts, recitals and performances
Riverview Performing Arts Center in Sarasota

On the high school campus, the Riverview Performing Arts Center closer to downtown Sarasota is an elegant theater that seats over 1,000 patrons. The auditorium was built in 2009 when the new Riverview High School campus was constructed. It is equipped with superior lighting and sound technology. There isn’t a bad seat in the house from the individual seating with comfortable arm rests on each. Franchise restaurants are also on US 41 past Phillippi Creek near Proctor Road in Sarasota.

High school and community programs include concert, dance, lecture, plays and meetings year round. This week the high school presents its Choir Spring Concert on Friday, the Annual Recital will be held May 25. On August 2 the Peace & Love Tour is a 50th anniversary tribute to the Woodstock concert. Snatam Kaur will perform live with songs from her new album on October 23 as the winter season begins with a new slate of concerts.

Shows at the Venice Performing Arts Center (VPAC) on the high school campus brings together three different organizations for the arts and a variety of community events with 120 performances each year. The Venice Institute for Performing Arts was chartered as a non-profit on January 1, 2017 to help the community build on its strong arts tradition and to teach student skills that will last a lifetime.

VPAC has 1,090 unobstructed view seats that slope to the 2,000 square-foot stage and orchestra pit that can accommodate 50 musicians. Acoustics are exceptional based on surround-sound boards placed throughout the venue. Handicap seating is available on the main floor and balcony. The center itself is nearly 47,000 square-feet.

Timeless Country with the CJ Simmons Band is up next June 29 for its special monthly summer show season at VPAC. The All American Boys Chorus based in Costa Mesa, California performs July 27, followed by the Sandy Toes Stand-up comedy August 10. The winter season picks up strong with The Nutcracker, December 14, Decades Rewind December 31, Cash, Killer & the King tribute January 18. Broadway Boys January 24, movie music by Dick Hyman, Ken Peplowski, and Clairdee, January 30, and Beatles vs. Stones in the Battle of the Brits as the winter season continues February 1. More February, March and April tributes concerts and shows are on the VPAC website. One of the more popular annual events in Venice is the performance of Shen Yun, March 13-16 at VPAC, that celebrates 5,000 years of Chinese heritage.

VPAC is not to be confused with The Venice Theatre, just a few blocks from VPAC downtown near Centennial Park. The Venice Theatre hosts many events too including Honk!, a musical tale of the ugly duckling, May 10-19. There are plenty of good dining experiences available around Centennial Park with French, Italian, seafood and casual cuisine.

All of the performances and more can be found on our Upcoming Events page. This list is updated every Thursday and at current lists events, festivals and shows up to June 7, 2020.

These venues listed above are available to the public for rent. You may be able to find more throughout Sarasota, such as the Visual Performing Arts Center at Booker High School. I have many properties in my inventory, please contact me at (941) 387-1840 for an exclusive showing or if you have a property to sell or buy.

References to other entertainment venues in Sarasota

Improving the local economy with good local schools

by Roger Pettingell

Sarasota high schools achieve high marks

Academic, athletic, parochial and military options available

Booker High School in Sarasota
Booker High School - One of eight high schools located in the northern Sarasota district.

Last month I wrote about the many fine colleges in the area, the high schools are stellar too. The students that graduate from public schools in Sarasota achieve higher in college placement and graduate a higher percentage of students than many school districts. Private schools provide excellent education for students, including St. Stephens Episcopal School in Bradenton, that is the ninth ranked private school in the state as reported by In sports, parents from around the country enroll their student-athletes in IMG Academy in Bradenton. Sarasota even has a high school military academy.

Public school districts in Florida are generally divided by counties so the largest districts in the United States reside here. Those include the Miami-Dade County District, fifth in the nation with over 347,000 enrolled students. Broward, Hillsborough, Orange, Palm Beach and Duval counties are in the top 25 as rated by 2010 attendance records. In the 2014-15 school year Sarasota recorded 41,910 students in its final count.

The county is divided into eight public high school zones, some of which are ranked high in the state and in the nation. Increasingly the district school board looks for budget items that divert classroom expenditures. To convert money for teacher salaries and supplies the board has created innovative programs. Recently the district has undergone an energy makeover to make it more efficient. The savings are substantial, reducing their energy costs to 96 cents per square foot. That is 24 cents below the state average. Its retrofit to LED lighting and Chiller ice tanks for thermal energy storage have saved the district scarce dollars that it is diverting to the schools for classroom expenses.

Pine View School is ranked number one in the state and seventh nationally with a 100% graduation rate and has a ranking of 100 in college readiness. They received the gold medal award from U.S. News & World Report. Pine View, located in Osprey, has an enrollment of 2,180 students with a 17:1 ratio of students to teachers. The school received a ranking of 10 out of 10 by The unique curriculum combines an independent study program with traditional classes.

Riverview High School in the city of Sarasota received a 9 rating by GreatSchools. It is the largest school in the county with 2,654 students enrolled. With 161 teachers the student to teacher ratio is 16:1. This school excels in athletics, graduating five professional baseball players and three professional football players. The current head football coach, Todd Johnson, played safety for the Chicago Bears, St. Louis Rams and Buffalo Bills in the span of 2004-2007. The baseball team has won eight state championships, the latest in 2007, and has won state titles in softball, tennis and boys golf.

Overall the county is listed fifth best in the state by with A grades in academics and student culture. Venice Senior High School received an 8 GreatSchools rating and also excels in athletics with four state volleyball and an equal number of baseball titles. The football program won the state championship in 2000 and was ranked seventh in the nation that year.

Sarasota High School is one of the oldest schools in the county, first established in 1913. With over 2,600 students and 139 teachers, the ratio is 19:1. The Sailor Circus began at the school in 1950 as a physical education class, but started the year before as a half-time football performance. Sailor Circus is now operated under the Circus Arts Conservatory but is still known as The Greatest Little Show On Earth. Professional golfers Paul Azinger and Scott Dunlap are alumni from the school that has graduated 15 professional baseball players over the years. Famous performer Pee-Wee Herman graduated in 1970 as Paul Rubenfeld.

North Port High School with a GreatSchools rating of 6 and Booker High School in Sarasota with a rating of 5 are two more fine Sarasota public schools. Oak Park School in Sarasota has a 6:1 student to teacher ratio, in comparison one of the smallest schools in the county with 337 students enrolled.

The county invested $16 million in 2008 for the career-focused Suncoast Polytechnical High School with studies from biomedical engineering to computer gaming. U.S. News & World Report gave this school a silver rating. From its inception, the school is limited to 600 students and currently has enrolled 528 with 26 full-time teachers.

Sarasota Military Academy (SMA)
The Sarasota Military Academy (SMA) with its JROTC Black Knight Raiders have won national competitions.

Integrity, honor and respect are key in academics and student participation at the Sarasota Military Academy (SMA). The charter school opened in 2002 and currently enrolls 1,000 students. The JROTC Black Knight Raiders have won national competitions with event testing in 5K runs, litter carries, rope-bridge building, tire flips and endurance events. Graduating seniors are accepted into higher education programs at a 90% rate.

In 2016 ranked Florida private schools and St. Stephen's Episcopal School fifth for best private school teachers, ninth for best private schools and fifth for best Christian high schools. It received A grades in academics, teachers, clubs and outcomes. The school touts its record that 100% of its graduates attend colleges with four-year degree programs. It has also graduated 33 national merit scholarship finalists since 2005. The school affiliated with the Episcopal Church was founded in 1970 and currently enrolls 800 students in grades pre-kindergarten through the senior class in high school.

Division I colleges look to IMG Academy when recruiting athletes for their sports programs. IMG trains student-athletes in golf, tennis, soccer, baseball, basketball, football, lacrosse, track and cross country. A long list of professional athletes have graduated from IMG, founded in 1978. In 2012 IMG Pendleton School changed its name to the current IMG Academy.

Combining the diversity of programs at the high school level and excellent higher education options, Sarasota continues to attract parents who pursue the best school options for their children. Better schools also attract quality businesses that improves the local economy. All in all, the real estate market benefits. Last week I listed The Belle of the Beach, a private beachfront chateau in Siesta Key with 4 bedrooms and 4.5 baths. 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
636 Beach Road, Siesta Key $6,750,000 Video Photo Slideshow


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