Mark your calendars for yet another Town Center Green event. This time, it will be a candid conversation with Longboat Key resident and Tony award-winning theatrical producer Tom Kirdahy and Tony award winner and Hermitage Artist Retreat Chief Executive Director and Artistic Director Andy Sandberg.
The pair will continue a conversation they started on the Hermitage’s beach on Manasota Key in summer 2021 about the link between early development and production of a work of theater. It’s part of the “Artists and Thinkers” series from the Hermitage, and Sandberg is excited about the deep understanding Kirdahy brings to the link between development and production.
“I often say what we do at the Hermitage is to focus on giving artists the space and time to create eight or 10 years before the first premiere or public showing or workshop, that the ground level is really even before the ground level,” Sandberg said. “(Kirdahy) is the kind of producer who, like me, focuses on trying to get involved at that early stage where there is a creative role. It's not just about coming in and putting on a show. … I think he's really smart about following a show's journey.”
Kirdahy moved to Longboat Key shortly before the pandemic with his late husband, Tony-winning playwright Terrence McNally. Before the world shut down, Kirdahy had begun to get involved with the theater scene in his new community, including with organizations such as Asolo Repertory Theater and Marie Selby Botanical Gardens.
“He's not only a theater guy, and I think his richness and appreciation for the arts at large informs what makes him so good and well-versed in the world of theater,” Sandberg said. “He's also just a really engaging speaker. He has such an interesting background through his legal practice and civil rights work, and what he's done for the LGBTQ community, as well as his passion on the producing end of theaters.”
One of Kirdahy’s strong suits, Sandberg said, is his ability to understand perspectives from the audience to the cast to the artists involved as he’s producing a show. Currently, he’s working on three Broadway productions, including “Little Shop of Horrors.”
The communication with the town of Longboat Key started about a year ago, Sandberg said, after the initial Artists and Thinkers event. The town mentioned doing an event on Town Center Green but told Sandberg it wasn’t quite ready for large events yet.
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“We actually said, ‘It's beyond ready for us. We love an open field of grass,’” Sandberg said. “Our whole ethos is not about putting on polished production. It's about coming to see a work in progress or a candid conversation. It’s a space for an audience and artists to share some of the most candid dialogues I think you can get. It's one of the unique things we offer. So we loved that it was an unfinished space in a community that we have a number of supporters and friends from and Tom has a number of friends and as a resident.”
So it will be Kirdahy and Sandberg in folding chairs on Town Center Green, talking about the behind-the-scenes work of producing theater. After the discussion, attendees will be welcome to ask questions, and after this event, Sandberg said the Hermitage will likely partner with the town again to bring more events, either to Town Center Green or to other venues on Longboat Key. It’s an opportunity to bring the Hermitage to another part of the community, Sandberg said, and there are already a good deal of supporters and trustees on the island.
“This is designed to be open for the community for anyone who has an appreciation for theater, or just an appreciation for the creative process, which is really at the core of what the Hermitage is about,” Sandberg said.