Some Sarasota theatergoers are so devoted to George Bernard Shaw they’re willing to cross borders to watch his plays.
The Asolo Repertory Theatre’s travel club is gearing up for a six-day trip next month to Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada, for Ontario’s annual Shaw Festival. This year marks the club’s second Shaw Festival tour, and, according to trip organizer Susan Buck, the club is looking for four more tourists to add to its roster.
“The trip is a little bit like a reunion,” says Buck, who, in 2007, was asked to organize Asolo Rep Adventures, a club designated for theater-related excursions. “Of the 28 people going to Canada, 20 of them were with us two years ago when we had our first Shaw Festival experience. I think that speaks well for our trips.”
Buck and her husband, Jim, part-time Siesta Key residents, are one of two dozen Sarasota retirees who make up the Asolo Rep’s travel club. Many of its members come from Longboat Key, and almost all of them are familiar faces on the Sarasota theater scene.
“We’ve developed a following,” Buck says. “We’ve got a diverse group of people — professionals and non-professionals, people in their 50s, people in their 70s, couples and singles. The thing that unites us all is that we love theater.”
Two years ago, when former Asolo board President Margaret Wise approached Buck with the idea of reviving the Asolo’s old travel club, Buck agreed to spearhead the endeavor under one condition: All trips had to revolve around theater.
“No cruises or trips to Africa,” Buck said, referencing past trips with loose Asolo connections.
In two years, the club has logged thousands of miles and embarked on a variety of theater-friendly jaunts, including trips to The Old Globe Theater, in San Diego; the Shakespeare Festival, in Stratford, Ontario; and the Tony Awards, in New York City, where suspense novelist and Sarasota resident Leslie Glass invited the club over for brunch.
Contrary to the Shaw Festival name, the club’s theater lineup includes plays by Noel Coward, Garson Kanin and Stephen Sondheim, as well as standard Shaw fare, such as “The Devil’s Disciple,” an American Revolution-era comedy staged earlier this year at the Asolo.
The crew will take a half-day tour of Niagara Falls and mingle with festival actors and actresses at private cocktail parties at local homes. Buck expects Shaw Festival Artistic Director Jackie Maxwell to attend at least one cocktail party and hopes other directors will follow suit.
“The more we do these trips, the more we’ve gotten to know the artistic teams and the people who live in these towns and cities,” Buck says. “The interactions with actors and directors are what make these very special things. It’s the sort of thing you can’t just sign up for and do on your own.”
ATTENTION THEATER LOVERS
Asolo Rep Adventures will attend the Shaw Festival Sept. 8 through Sept. 13, in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario. The trip costs $3,900 per couple or $2,675 per person and includes a room at Queen’s Landing, a vintage hotel on the Niagara River and tickets to four shows: “Devil’s Disciple,” “Brief Encounters,” “Sunday in the Park with George” and “Born Yesterday.” The trip’s cost includes a $500 tax-deductible donation to the Asolo Repertory Theatre. For more information or to make a reservation, call 351-9010, Ext. 4702.
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