By Rodger Skidmore
Not just snowbirds flying south
Some birds live in Sarasota year-round and others, like the snowbirds, come from the far north (anywhere north of Virginia) to spend the “winter” months here in Sarasota’s sunny clime.
The word winter is in quotes because snowbirds have expanded their season of content in both directions. They come earlier and stay later which, as far as the resident birds are concerned, is great. It means that the arts and entertainment (and fine dining) calendar has expanded as well. With the volume of potential patrons and customers ever higher, so are the cultural and culinary offerings.
There is an additional flock of birds that had taken up residence here in Sarasota back last spring, at the Harmony Art Gallery in the lobby of the Bea Friedman Symphony Center, and they had not flown north during the hot humid days of summer. In fact, they have flown a bit further south down to Venice Avenue in Venice near where the artist Bonnie Childs lives. There they will be preening their wings for all to see when they roost there, Nov. 4-5, in a protective tent during the Annual Venice Arts Festival.
These birds, an eclectic watercolor flock, include painted buntings, eagles, flamingos, blue birds, scrub jays and a cockatoo. They are emblematic of the various snowbirds that come to Sarasota at around the same time, which have different plumage, eating habits, roost in different nests (condos on Lake Michigan, Wisconsin farms, Boston and Brooklyn brownstones, and Manhattan high-rises), and some that have quite strange calls (eh?).
These birds, which have lingered since last spring, are dressed in a riot of colorful feathers – the blue of a heron juxtaposed with, and blending into, the pale purples and golds of the cockatoo. With the pink of a flamingo or two, they will be right at home within the galleries, tents, and booths housing the paintings, sculptures, ceramics, and jewelry of the 150 artists showing their wares at the festival.
Be still my beating heart
When frightened by unforeseen forces, for how long should a beating heart be still? Basically, from Oct. 13 (yes, Friday the 13th) until near enough to midnight on the 31st (remember, 31 is 13 backwards – so, a double beware this month).
In the evenings of these darkening nights, you can wander down an eerily lit path at the Spanish Point campus of Selby Gardens. Be sure to keep one crossed eye looking forward and the other looking backwards over your shoulder, watching for cute, campy things to creep around you.
A kid-oriented Halloween may be enjoyed by the younger generation at Selby Garden’s Spooktacular, being held in the late morning on Oct. 29 at Selby’s downtown location. There will be trick-or-treating mixed in with arts and crafts. Older children will be able to wander through an inflatable corn maze.
For those wanting a more chill experience, on the 26th there will be spine-tingling descriptions of poisonous and carnivorous plants and how they relate to history’s sinister potions and murderous plots. Witch-y cocktails and frightening food will by concocted on the spot with gruesome botanical ingredients by very Sage chefs. More info at Selby.org.
Hurricane season is ending soon
The official end of this year’s hurricane season is not until the last day of November, so trips to the Caribbean should be carefully planned. A better idea might be to visit a lovely Caribbean island right here in Sarasota, while being serenaded by exotic rhythms, as you watch a Tony award-winning musical at the Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe’s production of Once on this Island. This show runs from Oct. 11 through Nov. 19 at the WBTT’s Donnelly Theatre on North Orange. This means those attending on Oct. 18 will be there on the 33rd anniversary of the day this musical opened at Broadway’s Booth Theatre. It also won the Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Musical in London. Not too shabby.
This is a musical so it is, of course, also a love story. But not a boy meets girl, loses girl, gets girl, and they live happily ever after, sitcom type of love story. Instead, the action takes place on a small island, the Jewel of the Antilles, where a small girl, frightened by a storm brought on by Agwé, god of Water, cries out in fear. The tale that is told to calm her is of an earlier girl, a boy from “the other side of the island,” and how the Mother of the Earth, the god of Water, the goddess of Love, and the demon of Death interact with her and her future.
And, as this show is presented during our hurricane season, it is appropriate that, in the story, a terrible storm causes a devastating flood, wiping out whole villages, but ultimately bringing a semblance of future happiness to their world.
This musical is directed by Jim Weaver. More info at Westcoastblacktheatre.org.
End of one means the beginning of another
As October winds to its eventual end and segues into November, one must be mindful of the events happening at that transitional time. As the fall leaves in Vermont are tinged with reds and oranges, so too are the stage of the Historic Asolo Theatre and the courtyard of the Ringling Art Museum. Tinged not with red or orange, but with the sensuous, pulsing rhythms of Spain and the Caribbean.
On Oct. 20, the Ringling courtyard becomes a White Hot Fête with (direct from Paris) La Dame Blanche. Yalte Ramos Rodriguez, born in Cuba and daughter of the trombonist leader of the Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club, has been HOT ever since her debut recording of 2014. Her performance of hip-hop-urbano-Cubano music is a blend of sound, spirit, and Latin innovation delivered direct to you by this singing, dancing, flute-playing percussionist. Her performance comes between the DJ sessions of DJ Moses Belanger. His techno waves and cosmopolitan fusion vibes were forged in Montreal and will take audience members before and after La Dame Blanche’s performance onto a separate musical journey.
Spanish classical and Flamenco guitar come alive with the guitar of Diego del Morao and voice of Israel Fernandez, as their cante jondo songs of passion, lost love, and death, surround you in the Historic Asolo Theatre on Nov. 2.
While Flamenco singing and Flamenco guitar certainly are distinct art forms from Spain, there is nothing to compare with Flamenco dancing. As a toreador glides and stamps across the bull ring to excite a bull into charging, the Flamenco dancer does the same in the nightclub or on stage to get your heart, and the heart of his/her lover, to pulse to the same feverish beat. Prepare to see the precision choreography and dancing of Rafael Ramírez at the Historic Asolo the evenings of November 4-5 as he performs Lo Preciso. More info at Ringling.org.
Back by popular demand
What if Cinderella had been a boy? Well, in one telling, Benjamin Britten’s The Little Sweep, that was the case. The delicate step-daughter of the traditional story is forced to sweep up the bits of charred wood and soot that have fallen down from the chimney before she goes off (tra-la-la) to the prince’s ball. In the Britten opera, a young boy is forced to go up into the chimney, in order to clean it before the dirty bits and pieces could fall down to darken the hearth of some rich children’s bedroom.
There are, of course, many other amusing and suspenseful differences between the two stories: there is no fairy godmother, but there is a very empathetic nursery room maid. Also, no mice to help smooth the way out of trouble, just very pleasant children who always remember to wash behind their ears. And, naturally, a very different ending.
The Youth Opera’s first production of this was in 2005 and the last in 2018, so the afternoons of Nov. 4 and 5 seem just right for a replay at the Sarasota Opera House. Jesse Martin will be conducting. More info at Sarasotaopera.org.
Scene in a play: A white wooden trellis, covered by intertwined Bougainvillea and Wisteria vines climbing upwards towards glory. Sound beautiful at first, but after a calm bucolic opening, the colors and motives of all involved might begin to clash. Well, they are not vines that are intertwined, but professor and student. And there is no trellis, wooden or otherwise, but rather the ivy-covered walls of Yale. Sound mysterious and fraught with danger? Yes.
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you, that is the golden rule. But ask others to do as you would have them do, that is another rule altogether.
The author of this thriller, which is appearing at the Urbanite Theater through Dec. 3, is Pulitzer Prize finalist Adam Rapp. The play, The Sound Inside, was nominated for 6 Tony Awards, including best play in 2020. Yale’s ivy and the heroine’s life are both steeped in rich tradition and nourished, at times, in sorrow and pain. “Mary, Mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow?” — as goes Mary, so goes Bella.
The Sound Inside is directed by Kristin Clippard, who has directed dozens of plays, many in Florida and Ohio, quite often in St. Petersburg and Orlando. Vickie Daignault plays Bella, and last appeared in Sarasota in the Urbanite’s production of Woman Laughing Alone With Salad. More info at Urbanitetheatre.com.
Pictures not in a museum
Many composers have used musical imagery to portray their visions: babbling brooks and bird trills brought to life by violins and piccolos; kettle drums and cymbals bring to mind the imagined reality of a thunderstorm; and the rattling of beans in various tubes evoke the patter of rain upon a window pane. Greig, Liszt and Mozart all tried to bring to your ears what their ears had heard.
Harder still is trying to bring to you what a composer’s eyes have seen, but this is what Mussorgsky did in his Pictures at an Exhibition.
An exhibition of some of the works of Mussorgsky’s friend Viktor Hartmann, including a depiction of his proposed Bogatyr Gates for entering the city of Kiev (Kyiv), was held at the Imperial Academy of Arts in Saint Petersburg, a revered school for art and architecture, shortly after Hartmann’s death in 1863. Mussorgsky leads the listener on a promenade through the school’s exhibition halls, while viewing ten of Hartmann’s pictures. Most of these pictures have, through the course of a revolution and two world wars, been lost. The few that remain are occasionally augmented by the images brought into the minds of listeners of Mussorgsky’s work.
Ilya Yakushev, winner of the 2005 World Piano Competition, will, with his commanding keystrokes, take you on just such a promenade through the music hall of the Historic Asolo Theater on Oct. 10, as part of the Artist Series Concerts of Sarasota’s Piano Forte series. Yakushev will be accompanied by a string quartet which includes Daniel Jordan, concertmaster of the Sarasota Orchestra.
Two cello/piano afternoon concerts will be held at the Fischer/Weisenborne Residence on Oct. 29 and 30 when Amit Peled (cello) and Solomon Eichner (piano) come to play. Compared to Taylor Swift and Bad Bunny, Peled and Eichner do not sell out 72,000 seat stadiums, nor do their fans stand on their chairs with LED lights in hand and strobe lights flashing from the rafters. Fortunately for some concert attendees, it is not the height of emotion that matters, but its depth.
At a recent concert at the Newport Art Museum, this duo performed Gershwin’s Three Preludes for Cello and Piano and Florence Price’s Adagio for Cello and Piano. Samuel Barber’s Sonata for Cello and Piano and Herbert’s Cello Concert No. 2, among other pieces, were also heard. More info at Artistseriesconcerts.org.
Beyond the veil
Beyond the Pale often means unacceptable behavior, while Beyond the Veil is the unknown state of being after death. So, who knows what is acceptable or unacceptable in the great beyond. Haunting new works will be at First Congregational Church on Oct. 23 in enSRQ’s eighth season, and their first presentation this fall. This will not be spooky Halloween music but an enchanting ethereal glimpse into the world beyond.
Julia Adolphe’s string quartet, Veil of Leaves, is a merging and diverging of musical voices that, like the veins of a leaf, branch outward to form interweaving voices. In a book, the Afterword is what the author has to say when the action has been completed. Chris Rogerson’s Afterword, For Two Violins And Piano is what happens when these instruments get together and ask what comes next, after all is thought to have been said and done. Philippe Manoury’s extended piece Tensio brings the full meaning of “other worldly” into fruition. And Nia Imani Franklin’s Burgundy in Autumn was written with the fall season in mind, thus a perfect string quartet for Sarasota’s venture into these final months before winter. Samantha Bennett and Jennifer Best Takeda will be featured on their violins. More info at ensrq.org.
‘By the Light of the Silvery Moon’
That old song was written in 1909, which means that a vampire born back then would be 114 years old this month (give or take a few weeks). One that young would be just entering its (his/her) prime — ready to dance in the moonlight.
Since hurricane season isn’t officially over until the end of November, one of the three evenings near the end of this month (27th through 29th), could quite possibly be a dark and stormy night (or afternoon).
Romanian born Béla Ferenc Dezső Blaskó (aka Béla Lugosi) will not be appearing as the lead character in these performances of Dracula, being presented on two nights and an afternoon, due to a kind of wardrobe malfunction (casket won’t open). Instead, ballet dancers from the Gulfcoast Studio Company of the Sarasota Cuban Ballet School will populate the stage of the new Sarasota Cuban Ballet School Auditorium on Cattlemen Road. No cloves of garlic or silver bullets should be brought into the theatre. These members of the Gulfcoast Studio Company are well on their way along the path from student training to a professional career. More Info at srqcubanballet.org.