Arts on the Horizon: January

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By Rodger Skidmore

Jumping down the rabbit hole

Going down strange paths can certainly lead to interesting places – or things. A trip to the Art Ovation Hotel down at North Palm and Cocoanut can open one’s eyes to worlds of art. Yes, the foyer is full of abstract art (Dasha Reich), but in this hotel there are many rooms (paraphrasing John 14:2). Behind the foyer’s wall of art there are conference rooms which are often filled with a multitude of attendees. And, when those attendees take a break and wander about, there needs to be something to help re-focus their glazed-over eyes and get their minds working again.

What better way to do so than to put mind altering paintings (rational expressionism) in front of them. Yes, expressionism can be rational if one starts with a bit of realistic imagery, surrounded by rational enough deviations of the subject’s thoughts and achievements, in complementary color schemes.

So, focusing on a painting of a clearly representative segment of Dr. Eugenie Clark’s (the Shark Lady) face, one’s eyes can wander off to the left or right and see shark fins and currents highlighted on oceanographic maps, in shades of aqua, teal, and golden orange. Ms. Clark, many years ago, started what has become Mote Marine, and her spirit lingers on.

Or walk around this interior gallery and gaze at the face of Mable Ringling looking down at one of the blossoms from her rose garden. Javi Suárez, the artist, has done a realistic rendering of each but, behind John Ringling’s wife there is an architectural sketch of Ca’ d’Zan, their home on Sarasota Bay.

Nearby there is a likeness of David Cohen, who had been a musician, concertmaster of the Florida West Coast Symphony, City Commissioner, and Mayor of Sarasota. He was credited with being “the man who conceived the Van Wezel.”

Why does Mr. Suárez paint these iconic figures? He says they reflect “the better angels in our society, those who inspire us, who lead us, and those who we want to grow up to become.”

And, of course, there is a reason for all these architectural sketches and renderings of bridges, concert halls, homes and gardens in the background of the paintings on display. Just climb out of the rabbit warren you’ve entered and it will lead to real buildings, or a building like Sabal Palm Plaza on Ringling Boulevard, that look like a ship heading for the bay. The reason? Suárez, the artist, is also Suárez, the architect, a principle of Suárez Architecture. More art info at and at

The far out is not that far away

Listen to the music of Arnold Schoenberg, Earl Brown or Jacob Niesbaum and you might say, “Oh, that hurts my ears.” Or, then again, you might lean back (or forward) and feel that something is different, and that it moves you. Actually, it’s often (sometimes) nice to be moved, if in a good or not too disconcerting way. One can also say, “I like Chopin or Mozart, but I’ve just heard that piece twice in the last week and it would be nice (or _______, or _______) to hear something else.

That something else will be at a Mildred Sainer Pavilion near you. Kathleen Supové, one of America’s most acclaimed and versatile contemporary music pianists, will be entering into an Artist Conversation in the late afternoon of January 12. This will be a discussion of her upcoming New Music, New College concert titled NEXT DOOR. One of the pieces, The Children’s Journey, is a new composition by Rocco Di Pietro. This five-part suite parallels, to a degree, Robert Schumann’s Scenes From My Childhood. Other compositions will be discussed as well, including a world premiere.

Then, on the evening of the 14th Ms. Supové will present these works. Di Pietro’s notes give a hint as to how you might interpret his composition as, of course, filtered through your own perception. The first movement, The Playground, takes place in a toxic playground. But remember, this is where the child begins, not where it ends up. The second movement, Roaming Among the Cuckoos, alludes to the fact that a cuckoo chick is raised by a step-family, rather than by its own parents. The third, First Loss, Inner Flight, is, perhaps, something through which every child goes.

The last two, A Curious Story and About Strange Lands and Peoples, have the same titles as ones in Schumann’s extended composition.

The concert’s title, NEXT DOOR, is an opening through which we can enter other worlds and spaces and contemplate concepts which are alien to our own. Ms. Supové’s previous concerts held at New College have been both entertaining and mind-expanding – a lovely result when they are combined. More info at

Two for one

It may be a new year, but it’s always time to reflect on both old and new thoughts, those who first thought them, and those who think them now.

“Flyover country” is that part of the U.S. that is between New York and California. Allegedly to be ignored by those that live in New York and California. “Go west, young man” is another famous phrase, this one from a bygone era that encouraged unsettled people living in states on the east coast to go settle further west. Horace Greeley is credited with that slogan after having gone to California during the years of the Gold Rush.

At that time “the West” was anywhere west of Jersey City, and thousands moved from New England out to what we now call the Mid-West in order to build a new life. But they also came from the South, as portrayed in Pearl Cleage’s play Flyin’ West presented by the Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe from Jan. 4 through Feb. 12.

As the action takes place in the 1890s, they did not fly on American Airlines from Birmingham, Alabama to Nicodemus, Kansas. In this case the word “fly” was related to the more powerful word “flee,” and flee from the South this group of African American women did.

As leaving the harshness of one’s human oppressors and jumping feet first into the harshness of nature is not something one does without considerable thought, perhaps these ladies believed that nature, although sometimes harsh, and sometimes bountiful, was so to all, equally.

These women flyin’ west obviously had a dream and, some years later, someone else had an even greater dream. Not a dream for himself but for all of America. And each year the Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe celebrates that man and that dream. On Jan. 16, they honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in spoken word and song in a production arranged and directed by Nate Jacobs. More info at

North Tamiami Trail to become Broadway

Or, more exactly, Broad-Way.

There are thirty-two towns in America called Arcadia, and one each in Argentina, Canada, Egypt, and South Africa. There is even an open plain on Mars called Arcadia. But there are two even more important Arcadia’s. The original one is in Greece (Arcadia means scene of simple pleasure and quiet) and is where the first inhabitants of Greece lived. The other Arcadia, the one that is more important to the inhabitants of Sarasota, is Arcadian Broad, a Company Dancer with the Sarasota Ballet. Not only an accomplished member of the ballet, but a choreographer of note who has provided new works for the Orlando, Cincinnati, and DanceWorks Chicago ballet companies. And now one for the Sarasota Ballet, which will be presented as a World Premiere on January 27-30, at the FSU Center for the Performing Arts. This ballet, Frequency Hurtz, should be electrifying experience for all who attend. To make the performances even more interesting, the music, to which the ballet will be performed, was written by Mr. Broad and Jeremy Studinski.

While technically still winter, Sarasota occasionally gets hints of spring. And, for the first time in Sarasota, the Sarasota Ballet will be performing Shades of Spring, choreographed by Jessica Lang. This is a Sarasota Premiere – the World Premiere was by this same ballet company this past August at the Joyce Theater, an international leader in dance presentation, in New York. 

The third ballet being performed is Sir Frederick Ashton’s Façade, a look-with-a-laugh view of the Bloomsbury Set in London circa 1915-1935. Sir William Walton provides his take on the pop songs and dances of the roaring ‘20s to accompany these dancers. All these ballets are part of Sarasota Ballet’s Program 4 – In Rep. More info at


The typical configuration of a string quartet is two violins, viola, and cello. What is not typical is how they sound. Or, how well they sound, when one is discussing the Dover Quartet. The BBC named them, “one of the greatest string quartets of the last 100 years.” Given the sound quality of recordings made in the early 1920s such a claim may be hard to verify, but the BBC seems to be a credible organization, so perhaps they are to be believed. Those that like Beethoven and Mendelssohn should be in for a treat on January 10 at the Historic Asolo Theater. The members of the quartet are all graduates of both the Curtis Institute of Music and of the Rice University Shephard School of Music, and have been making beautiful music together since 2008.

If listening to a violin and piano recital by violinist Steven Moeckel, concertmaster of the Santa Fe Opera Company, and pianist Joanna Goldstein, head of the music department at Indiana University Southeast, is what you might like, then performances on January 29-30 at the Fischer/Weisenborne Salon are a must. The program features the works of a number of women composers. Info on these concerts at

If one is pressed for time, or all evenings are full, then an upcoming free Noontime concert might just fill the bill. On January 4, Passerine will be performing at David Cohen Hall as part of the Sarasota Concert Association’s Music Matinees. What is a Passerine? They are a group of four folk and bluegrass string players that write their own songs and then perform them with inventive vocal harmonies. Check them out (along with other SCA concerts) at


No, not Lyndon Baines Johnson, although lots of people did look up to him. The letters LBJ in the play Birds of North America stand for, “little brown job”. These are the multitude of sparrows and starlings that, in some people’s eyes, count for nothing, and that most birders don’t even count when doing their life lists.

While some birders do seek out at least one bird of each kind, many do so simply to complete their lists, and care little for the more common ones. But other birders, like Caitlyn, the younger one in this father/daughter play, do care. And she cares enough to stand up to her father when discussing who, or what, she cares about. Or does she just like standing up to her father? Anna Ouyang Moench’s Birds of North America is presented by Urbanite Theatre from January 6 – February 12. Summer Wallace directs.

The play takes place over a period of almost ten years and this pair, who can’t quite seem to connect, keeps trying, and mostly missing, the entire time. Old/young; tight/loose; father/daughter; life/death; consistency/change – how many ways are there to not get things right – and how many do you really need to finally make it? Info at

How do you spell ‘Fantastic’

The current way of spelling that word is, Something Rotten! Which, coincidently, is also the name of a musical that is currently playing at Florida Studio Theatre. That show was to end its run Jan. 1, but, due to the fact that everyone that’s seen it thinks it’s fantastic, it’s been held over through Jan. 14. 

The breakout characters in this show are Nick Bottom (of the infamous Bottom brothers), Nostradamus (actually his nephew, Thomas Nostradamus), and William Shakespeare. Charlie Tingen plays the famous bard, as a playwright that is both narcissistic and plagiaristic at the same time – but with extreme flair. Kraig Swartz is the seer the sees the future – well, almost correctly. He, his costume, and his acting, keep the audience convulsed whenever he is onstage. And, Cordell Cole, as Nick, the taller of the Bottom brothers, is, without a doubt, one of the best dramatic, comedic, athletic, heroic, and romantic actors to trod the boards, at any of the theaters at which he has appeared. He can sing, dance, act, caper, and cavort, all at the same time. And it is fun too, to watch Jillian Louis, as Nick’s long suffering, but loving, wife, as she sings and takes on her heroic tasks. 

 A show of this type can be either fun, great fun, or gargantuanesque fun. Deciding factors would, of course, be the Director and the Choreographer. In the case of Something Rotten!, these tasks are performed by the same person – Ellie Mooney, an FST Associate Artist. And in a period piece like this, the Costume Designer is also key. To match the direction, choreography, and acting of a show of this caliber, one would need a Tony award winning (multiple times) designer to really pull it off – like Gregg Barnes. All the costumes look exactly like we imagine they would – just more so.

If you love comedies and musicals, this one is a double bill – you should go see it. Info at

Rodger Skidmore
Author: Rodger Skidmore

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