Arts on the Horizon: February 2021

By Rodger Skidmore

Here, there, and everywhere

     Have you missed going to the theatre? If you are a theatre-goer, surely the answer is a resounding, “YES.” Or maybe a more subdued, “Yes, but….”, followed by a series of thoughts about the safety of being with other people. Some theatre groups have responded to the “Yes, buts…” by moving their productions outdoors (and to be closed down by COVID spreading amongst, not the patrons, but the staff). Others are presenting readings, where the actors do not move around the stage mist-ifying each other as well as the audience, but are more sedate, less emotional, and therefore emoting less. A third choice (three strikes and you’re out?) has been to stream old productions as a way to keep connected with their subscribers. 

     The Urbanite Theatre has come upon a new way to provide a true (and safe) theatrical experience – in a theatre – with real actors that do not spray those in the first row. From February 26th thru April 4th, The Urbanite will present the premiere of Safe House, an immersive and interactive play written and directed by Brendan Ragan. If you like spy thrillers, with kidnappings, this might just be the play for you. 

     If you are familiar with the Escape Room craze that took over vacant stores in suburban shopping malls a few years back, you know that you and your friends enter a room which is then locked. The idea is to get from the first room and on into the next, and then the next, etc. until you are outside and safe. You look around the first room and see a cute sign that says, “Cats are cuddly”, look under an ugly plaster cat, and find the key to the next room. And so it goes. But what if a cyber security expert has left his job, is being pursued, goes to a safe house, and his wife is kidnapped? Ha, that adds another dimension to that cuddly cat business, doesn’t it? The only way out is to seek help from some theatre-goers who have accidentally wandered into that safe house. Can they be trusted, and who are these theatre-goers? Why you, of course. Don’t worry, you are only trapped inside the Safe House for half an hour. And, since only 4 people go inside at a time, those who don’t wish to be with strangers, especially across a crowded room, one can buy all 4 tickets and be entertained safely, along with family or friends at the Urbanite Theatre on Second Street, across from Whole Foods.

     Still like the ideas of staged readings of plays or of seeing them outdoors? Well, the Urbanite comes through by combining those approaches. See/Listen to Emily Kaczmerak’s Sam & Lizzy on February 13th on Manasota Key, at the Hermitage Artist Retreat (2 shows), or on the 14th at Selby Gardens. Tickets and info for all at shows at Urbanitetheatre.com.

Silver linings

     When the Romans invaded the British Isles, they went as far to the East and North as they could, but stopped when their supply lines got too stretched – or when they were beaten back by the local inhabitants (according to the local inhabitants). Too bad for the Roman Empire, but great for the Welsh and Scots that still have their separate identities.

     COVID-19 has not been too kind to Sarasota as many arts organizations have had to cancel their programs for 2020-2021, including the Sarasota Concert Series. Every year for the last 75 years they have brought outstanding musical artists to Sarasota. To have them cancel their current season, which was to have brought top orchestras and quartets so that we would not have to travel to New York, Cleveland, Moscow, Japan or other far flung cultural venues to indulge our listening pleasure, was truly depressing. Late last year they cancelled the first half of their season and, as was unfortunately expected, they recently cancelled the final three concerts. Did they give up and shout out that old baseball chant, “Wait ‘till next year”? No, our silver thread (calling it a silver lining might be a tad too much) is that they are now offering three FREE concerts and conversations with the artists. For a week, starting February 25th, the Sarasota Concert Association will be presenting Garrick Ohlsson and Kirill Gerstein, a fabulous piano duo, playing pieces by Ravel and Rachmaninoff. Then in late February (actually the week starting March 11th), the co-directors of the local group NEWSRQ will play a number of contemporary pieces. They are the hot new group here in Sarasota. Samantha Bennett is also a member of the Sarasota Orchestra and George Nickson is with the Dallas Symphony. Then in late, late February (the week starting March 25th) the ensemble, the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, will feature works by Bach, Messiaen, and MacMillan, followed by Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 4 and Mozart’s Symphony No. 29. Each program will be moderated by Charles Turon, who will share his insights in a conversational way. To register for these free Musically Speaking concerts, go to scasarasota.org. 

New York, Dallas, and San Francisco

     Those are three of the cities where big art shows from London and Paris usually are shown. It is not just middle America that is considered to be fly-over country, but just about everywhere else in the USA. Four main reasons: Cost of insurance and of moving everything around; The fact that painting and sculpture can really be damaged when they are moved about; The museums and galleries that loaned the art work don’t want it gone for too long; And if the art is only shown in 3 cities then art lovers that really want to see the shows will travel to those cultural hubs.

     Today photographic shows are different. After all, photos are just representations of the original objects (although Photoshop can make them more than that), so why not have shows depicting the representations of the original objects that can travel around the country for many more people to enjoy. Of course, one could use their cell phone to look at a series of photos taken of that show – images of the depictions of the representations of the original objects. But there is, perhaps, a deciding factor on how to view all of this. Imagine a little girl, holding a broken doll, and crying (the girl, not you). She, sitting on the curb, thus a heart sobbing bundle that is two feet tall. The negative of a photo of her is 2 1/2” X 3”, the photo shown in a gallery, printed on archival paper, is 10” X 12”, and the image on you cell phone is just 3” X 4”. But on a sheet of vinyl along a fence at the north end of Benderson Park, the image is 2 1/2 feet by 3 feet – quite a difference. An extra benefit is that you are out of your house/home office/refuge from the world of COVID, for a lovely stroll in the sun to see 89 other disparate photos, seven by Florida photographers. You can see this exhibit, Photoville FENCE, in Seattle, New Orleans and Brooklyn – or here in Sarasota thru February 28th.