Scene & Heard by Heidi Kurpiela

Scene & Heard 09.23.10

Posted September 22, 2010 at 6:00 am

by Heidi Kurpiela

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+ WBTT raises the roof at Marina Tower
The Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe toasted its successful Summer Sizzler series Thursday night, at Jesse and Katie Biter’s Marina Tower penthouse.

The happy hour get-together kicked off with drinks and appetizers in the Biters’ posh upstairs bar. The usual WBTT crew was in attendance, including Artistic Director Nate Jacobs, Executive Director Christine Jennings and Board of Trustees President Howard Millman.

Biter and friends applauded WBTT’s youngest and most famous crooner, Chris Eisenberg, who spent his summer juggling troupe performances and a short-lived run on “America’s Got Talent.”

Before turning the floor over to the bashful pre-teen, Biter turned on his flat-screen television and cued Eisenberg’s final performance on the NBC talent show.

“Without Nate, I never would have had the guts to go on TV,” Eisenberg said.

The evening concluded with Jnana Wilson singing a killer a-cappella rendition of “Keepin’ Out of Mischief Now” from “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” which will open the troupe’s 11th season Dec. 15.

Single tickets go on sale Oct. 1.

Below: Jnana Wilson gives a tease performance from WBTT’s “Ain’t Misbehavin’”.

+ Fans cheer ballet’s downtown invasion
This week’s benevolent developer shout-out goes to John Simon, who not only donated a Pineapple Square vacancy to the Sarasota Ballet this month, but was also spotted huffing down Lemon Avenue Thursday afternoon lugging a load of water bottles to the ballet’s downtown studio unveiling.

Simon even came up with a name for the sun-drenched studio ­­–– Studio 20 –– which has dual significance because this year marks the company’s 20th anniversary and the studio is located at 20 Lemon Avenue.
The ballet unveiled its new downtown digs with a series of stirring performances by students in the trainee and pre-trainee program.

The organization’s education program has exhausted its studio space at the FSU Center for the Performing Arts. Student enrollment has doubled in the last two years.

Studio 20 will not only be open to Sarasota Ballet School students and professional company members, but will be utilized for adult dance lessons.

“Downtown is supposed to be three-dimensional,” Simon said, before turning over the new Marley dance floor to a dozen young ballerinas. “And this adds another dimension to downtown.”

Below: Pre-trainees perform in Sarasota Ballet’s Studio 20.

+ s/ART/q counts its T-shirt money
The s/ART/q Print Party attendance tally is in.

Organizers estimate that 1,500 people turned out for the Sept. 11 screen-printing event, filling the s/ART/q coffers with $5,000.

The money will go toward producing more public art exhibitions.

“To see the amount of people that came out to support us was amazing,” said s/ART/q President Tim Jaeger. “This year’s print party raised more money and was better attended than last year. With results like this, it reveals to us how much our community desires contemporary art and art-accessible events.”

Below: s/ART/q president Tim Jaeger

+ Theaters enjoy record early ticket sales
Want further evidence that this season is going to be a blockbuster theater season?

Sarasota box offices at two different theaters are swimming in ticket sales this week.

The Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall and the Asolo Repertory Theatre reported record ticket sales last week.

More than 300 people showed up at Van Wezel Sunday, Sept. 12, to buy tickets for the 2010-2011 season. Theater staffers were so overwhelmed they had to divide the crowd into three groups and hand out numbers in order to efficiently process the transactions.

Meanwhile, the Asolo Rep continues to crank out tickets for the pre-Broadway production of “Bonnie & Clyde.”

According to Julia Guzman, the Asolo Rep’s public relations manager, the musical has piqued the interests of theatergoers in Boston, New York and Chicago.

“The phone lines have been going crazy,” Guzman says. “The machine that makes the tickets after they’re purchased online is working overtime. It’s like an ‘I Love Lucy’ episode. There’s this huge pile of tickets on the floor.”

+ Hot tickets
‘Straight Ahead Jazz’: Award-winning pianist Mike Markaverich will play in the styles of Art Tatum, Oscar Peterson and Billy Taylor at 4 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 26, at the Unitarian Universalist Church at 3975 Fruitville Road. See the Sarasota pianist everyone is talking about. Tickets are $12 at the door or $10 in advance. For more information, call 404-0028 or email

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