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Arts and Entertainment Saturday, Apr. 4, 2020 5 months ago

Asolo Rep, FSU/Asolo Conservatory announce 2020-21 seasons

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Two canceled musicals from this season will get another chance next spring
by: Klint Lowry Arts + Entertainment Editor

It wasn’t the way they’d hoped to do it a couple of weeks ago, in a crowded theater where everyone there could contribute to an draw from a sense of excitement, but Asolo Repertory Theatre and FSU/Asolo Conservatory for Actor Training managed to create a sense of online fanfare Friday as they announced the lineup for next year’s season.

The announcement was made on Facebook Live, with Michael Edwards, producing artistic

director of Asolo Rep, and FSU/Asolo Conservatory Director Greg Leaming announcing their respective seasons.

Before he started, Edwards commended his staff for putting together the online announcement. A live announcement event planned for March 21 had been one of the many events that were scrapped in the past month, and he and everyone at the theater saw it as something of a duty to the community to follow through.

"It seems to us at Asolo Rep, that what we need now in these dark days is a light at the end of the tunnel,” Edwards says, “a galvanizing call to action to see our community through this incredibly difficult trial. That is what we hope to bring you with this season: human stories that inspire hope for a bright future, and healing in the times to come.”

Along with the affirmation that there is a season to look forward to, the season itself will have overall theme of family, humanity and community, Edwards says.

The season will get off to a blazing fast start with the annual fall musical, which this season will be the four-time Olivier Award-winning and 10-time Tony Award-winning “Billy  Elliot the Musical,” Nov. 18 to Jan. 2.

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This dance-filled sensation, with music by Elton John, is set amidst the turmoil of the 1984 coal miners’ strike in England. A dance teacher discovers a diamond in the rough in 11-year-old Billy — a boy whose passion for dance inspires and unites the entire town. 

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The winter repertory season opens in swashbuckling fashion with Ken Ludwig’s “The Three Musketeers,” Jan. 13 through March 13.  Adapted from the Alexandre Dumas novel, the play follows young d’Artagnan and his sister Sabine as they head for Paris in search of fame, fortune and adventure. He joins the famous Musketeers of the Guard. Boisterous shilly-shallying ensues, and a fair amount of fencing, drinking and romance. But it’s all balanced with acts of heroism, courage and honor.

“This is a play that truly captures something about the need of our time,” Edwards says, “it's very famous mantra ‘all for one and one for all.’”

The season moves to the present day with a new comedy fresh off a smash-hit run on Broadway. “Grand Horizons,” by Bess Wohl, will run Jan. 20 through March 25.

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The play takes an intimate look at the unpredictable but enduring nature of love. Bill and Nancy have been together 50 years. Just as they are about settle into their new retirement home, Nancy announces that she wants a divorce. As their two adult sons struggle to cope with the news, they’re forced to question everything they assumed about the people they thought they knew best.

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The season then presents what has been called possibly the greatest American play ever written, Thornton Wider’s classic, “Our Town,” Feb 10 through March 27.  Long after it won the 1938 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, it continues to remind audiences to always celebrate love, family, community, and the beauty in the ordinary, as it is all subject to inescapable change. “Perhaps no play rings Truer today,” says Edwards, who will direct the production.

Asolo Rep will then present Lindsay Joelle’s “Trayf,” March 24 through April 18). Trayf is a yiddish word describing food that does not meet the requirements of Jewish law.

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In 1991 Manhattan, two Chasidic young men who are best friends are determined to take on the world. One of them, however, secretly takes on parts of it the other doesn’t know about. The play looks at the turbulence of youth and the desire to fit in and the roles faith and friends have in getting us through it all.

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Asolo Rep will round out its 2020-21 season by taking care of some unfinished business from this season. First, it will present the new musical “Hood,” a modernized take on the Robin Hood legend, April 9 though June 1. It has all the familiar elements — Robin and his band defending justice for the people of Sherwood and thwarting the evil Sheriff of Nottingham while Robin attempts to win the heart of Maid Marian. Only she’s a much more 21st-century Marian, as is much of the story, not to mention the folk-rock score.

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Then, finally, will come the event Asolo followers will have been waiting nearly a year and a half for, the world premiere of the musical “Knoxville,” May 15 through June 5 Based on the autobiographical novel “A Death in the Family” by James Agee, and in part by the play “All the Way Home” by Ted Mosel, “Knoxville” tells the story of a young Agee and an event that taught him something about family, faith and love.

In keeping with tradition, Edwards says, Asolo Rep will close out the season with family-friendly production in June, although it hasn’t been decided yet what that show will be.

He added that prior to the season, In October and early November, Asolo Rep will present its annual fall educational tour, an FSU/Asolo Conservatory production of Shakespeare's “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

The FSU/Asolo Conservatory will open its season with a homegrown product, the world premiere of “Sister Carrie.” Adapted for the stage by Asolo Conservatory’s Greg Leaming from the novel by Theodore Dreiser, The play, set in 1900,  follows a young woman’s rise from obscurity to fame, as she discovers the allure of money and sex – and how little morality plays a role.

Next up will be Lauren Gunderson’s dark comedy, “Exit, Pursued By a Bear,” Jan. 6-24. With the help of friends, a woman decides the time has come to leave her abusive husband and teach him a lesson on the process. 

The season continues with Christopher Durang’s “Baby with the Bathwater,” Feb. 16 through March 7. This dark, somewhat absurdist comedy looks at how, for better or worse, family makes us who we are.

The conservatory closes its season outdoors, at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, with Shakespeare’s masterpiece of political intrigue, “Julius Caesar.”

Subscription packages are now available at asolorep.org. Individual tickets will be available to donors and subscribers immediately after Labor Day, Sept. 7, and will be available to the general public starting the last weekend in September.  

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