It’s fall, but it feels like spring. The once-dormant area art scene is finally making a comeback. Here’s a glimpse of what’s happening.
Bringing it back home. Eubie Blake had a knack for the piano. In his teens, he made a good living playing in dives and houses of ill repute. He grew up to be the godfather of ragtime. In 1921, Blake also crossed the color line with “Shuffle Along,” the first hit Broadway musical written, directed and performed by Black talents. “Eubie” honors Blake’s legacy with a revue of 20 of his classic tunes, including “I’m Just Wild About Harry,” of course. This was the first show staged by Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe in its first full season in 2002-03, and WBTT is bringing it back home this year with Jim Weaver directing. We’d like to think that Blake is smiling up in ragtime heaven. Oct. 6 to Nov. 21; Westcoast Black Theatre, 1012 N. Orange Ave., Sarasota; 941-366-1505; WestCoastBlackTheatre.org.
Saviors, suitors and scamps — oh my! One of Gioachino Rossini’s first commercial successes and his sixth opera (written when he was 20), “La scala di seta” (“The Silken Ladder”), is based on a libretto by poet Giuseppe Foppa thatwas based on a French play. The scoop? Dorvil is secretly married to Giulia, who lives in her guardian’s villa. Said guardian has secretly promised her hand to a man who is secretly in love with another woman. The ladder in question? It’s silk and employed by Dorvil for his nightly conjugal visits. (Nudge, nudge, wink wink.) Rossini’s frenetic farce is filled with comic turns, plot twists, charming interludes, great music and, of course, a happy ending. It’s one of Rossini’s most sparkling creations — and it never gets old. Six performances, Oct. 29 to Nov. 13; Sarasota Opera, 61 N. Pineapple Ave., Sarasota; 941-328-1300; SarasotaOpera.org.
Inconvenient truths. Impolite painter. “Art and Race Matters: The Career of Robert Colescott” at Sarasota Art Museum investigates the legacy of one of America’s most significant Black artists. The late artist had an unflinching eye for the racist subtext of pop culture imagery — and combined that high-powered perception with precisely aimed satire. Colescott’s laserlike vision burned through the hypocrisy of Hollywood and the whites-only hero worship of Western art. Colescott’s “Shirley Temple Black and Bill Robinson White” swaps the skin colors of the child star and the adult dancer. His “1919” turns America’s larger-than-life story of “How the West Was Won” into the intimate story of his family’s migration to California. Some of Colescott’s paintings will make you laugh; others will make you cry. After leaving this exhibit, you’ll see the images of American art and advertising with entirely different eyes. Through Oct. 31; Sarasota Art Museum, 1001 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota; 941-309-4300; SarasotaArtMuseum.org.
A drag of a party. Urbanite Theatre opens its long-delayed season of live theater with a funeral, but feel free not to wear black and leave your hanky at home. Terry Guest’s provocative “At the Wake of a Dead Drag Queen” celebrates Blackness, queerness, sarcasm and the fine arts of glitz, glam and drag. Guest’s one-act play is all about life, not death. That said, his play revolves around a dead person — Courtney Berringers, a queer, 20-something Black American who recently died from AIDS. Clever storyteller that he is, Guest unfolds Berringers’ life story via a series of flashbacks steeped in drama and drag. The result is a clever investigation of identity, gender, illness and our self-constructed narratives. This “Dead Man’s Party” aims straight for your funny bone — when it doesn’t pluck your heartstrings. On second thought, better bring that hanky just in case. Oct. 29 to Dec. 12; Urbanite Theatre, 1487 Second St., Sarasota, 941-321-1397; UrbaniteTheatre.com.
Metafictional mania. Until The Players Centre for Performing Arts moves to its swanky new home in Lakewood Ranch, it’ll be staging productions in Studio 1130, a theater space inside a former Banana Republic in a Sarasota mall. The season opens with a snappy, one-act musical comedy called “[Title of Show].” The show follows two newbie writers as they race to finish writing a musical, not to mention casting it, for a theater festival that’s only weeks away. The metafictional mania includes close encounters of the backstage artistic process and all its ego-fueled Sturm und Drang. For an extra meta twist, composer Jeff Bowen and writer Hunter Bell first staged this musical about writing a musical at the New York Musical Theatre Festival in 2004. In 2008, they got to see it staged on Broadway. Talk about life imitating art! 7:30 p.m. Oct. 6-9, 12-16 and 2 p.m. Oct. 10, 16-17; Studio 1130, The Crossings at Siesta Key, 3501 S. Tamiami Trail, Suite 1130, Sarasota; 941-365-2494; ThePlayers.org.
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