SARASOTA — When you’ve been the premier professional theater in the area for more than half a century, it’s not easy to continue to outdo yourself. But for its 55th season, the Asolo Repertory Theatre delivers an epic lineup anchored by Frank Galati’s Tony Award-winning adaptation of John Steinbeck’s epic American novel, The Grapes of Wrath and one of the most revered American musicals of all time, Show Boat.
The Asolo Repertory Theatre is the largest Equity theatre in Florida, and also has the distinction of being the largest Repertory theatre in the entire Southeast. Since 1990, it has staged its main performances in the Mertz Theatre, an exquisitely-appointed 500-seat facility in the the Florida State University Center for the Performing Arts, a multi-theater complex, on the grounds of the John and Mable Ringling Museum. Originally built in 1903 in Dunfermline, Scotland, as an opera house, it was later disassembled and shipped to the United States. The striking, yet intimate setting, is every bit a part of the Asolo Rep experience as the performances themselves and remains the preeminent venue in the area.
For 2014, Producing Artistic Director Michael Donald Edwards and Associate Artistic Director Greg Leaming have selected a bold collection of ambitious productions that have the potential to be Asolo’s best season to date. From award-winning classics to hot new works, stage aficionados will have the chance to enjoy a dazzling array of plays and musicals under one roof.
The repertory season will kick off in January with Galati’s production of Philadelphia, Here I come! by Brian Friel followed by Other Desert Cities by Jon Robin Baitz (creator of the hit TV show Brothers and Sisters). Then it’s Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, the smash comedy written by Christopher Durang, which is currently playing to rave reviews on Broadway, where it stars Sigourney Weaver and David Hyde Pierce.
In March, the season kicks into high gear with Galati’s epic adaptation of The Grapes of Wrath, Steinbeck’s quintessential American novel about the Joad family’s brutal, depression-era journey across the dust bowl in search of the California promised land. Directed by Michael Donald Edwards, Grapes will likely be the biggest area theatre event of the season.
Also in March, Asolo brings musical fans the regional premiere of the new musical Hero, followed by what TIME Magazine called “the best new play of 2012, hands down” — 4,000 Miles by Amy Herzog, a touching story centered on a 20-something vagabond who drops in on her grandmother for an extended stay, while on a cross-country bicycle tour.
“We are very excited about this new season,” said Michael Donald Edwards. “It’s a brilliant combination of world-class artists, and a mix of rediscovered classics and innovative new works. Each year when we are in the planning stages, we think ‘how do we top the last,’ and this time, I think we have outdone ourselves.”
In the upcoming season, Asolo Rep expands on its American Character Project, a 5-year initiative in which it seeks to ask introspective and thought-provoking questions about the evolution and development of the American character through people, culture and experiences.
“Each one of the shows this season is about an amazing journey in some way, with characters moving forward to embrace change,” explains Edwards. “I think with this season, people will really get a sense now of what we mean when we say these plays are speaking to each other. Taken as a whole, this season is another step forward for this theatre’s own bold artistic journey.”
The FSU/Asolo Conservatory for Actor Training also has an exciting season on tap, including a production of the Pulitzer-Prize winning play How I Learned to Drive by Paula Vogel. A modern update of the Greek tragedy Antigone explores the dangers of taking a stand against the state in the modern age, and Joel Orton’s dark comedy Loot will each provide ample fare for the talent-laden Conservatory to flash its chops.
In addition to its exciting schedule, Asolo Rep has announced the continuation of some of its other beloved programs. After a successful debut in which it delivered Shakespeare’s Macbeth to more than 18,000 Florida students in 2012, the Asolo Rep/FSU Conservatory for Actor Training New Stages Tour returns this year with a 45-minute adaptation of Shakespeare’s romantic tragedy, Romeo and Juliet later this fall.
The New Stages Tour showcases the talents of the entire third-year class of The FSU/Asolo Conservatory for Actor Training through impressive, stripped-down productions, which are nonetheless fully costumed and propped in a manner that can be easily transported to schools across the state. Asolo Rep’s popular new play festival Unplugged will also return for its fifth season in late spring of next year.
In response to audience feedback, Asolo Rep has announced some changes to its season format. The fall musical, which in previous seasons closed immediately before Christmas, will be extended for an additional week to run through the December holidays to allow visiting friends and family the opportunity to attend, while also creating and opportunity for people to take in a show over the holidays.
The spring musical will come on board much earlier, with previews in April, in order for seasonal residents to have the opportunity to see it before returning north for summer. This means that a second, full-scale musical is part of the rep season, which will be announced at a later date.
“This new format greatly increases our artistic flexibility, said Linda DiGabriele, Managing Director of Asolo Rep. "The spring musical slot is getting a great deal of attention from artists and producers who see it as an ideal time to develop new work with us, a strong part of our mission. It has become apparent that it serves the new work best if it can open earlier and expect a larger audience as part of the subscription base as well as attracting residents before they leave town.”
To view the entire schedule, click here. Subscriptions for the season are available now. Single tickets go on sale in September 2013. For information on purchasing a subscription or individual tickets for Asolo Rep’s 2013-2014 season, please contact the box office at 941.351.8000 or toll-free at800.361.8388, or visit the website at www.AsoloRep.org.
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