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Productions and exhibits to catch before they’re gone

What’s happening in the arts this breezy season? Read on for a sneak peek at five cool bets.

Dekyi Rongé with her canine companion in “Westminster.”
Dekyi Rongé with her canine companion in “Westminster.”
Photo by Sorcha Augustine
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Love Me, Love My Dog

They say people tend to resemble their dogs. In today’s polarized America, that could lead to a few dogfights. Brenda Withers’ “Westminster,” directed by Summer Dawn Wallace, reveals the combative results at Urbanite Theatre. It all starts innocently enough. Pia surprises her old friend Krys with the gift of a rescue dog — a big dog. (The play doesn’t specify the breed, but it has a bad reputation.) The prejudice against the pooch taps into prejudices against the kind of people who love those dogs. From there, Withers’ biting comedy enters surreal territory. Bitter arguments follow. From a canine perspective, it doesn’t make sense. Why are the people I love shouting at each other? Why can’t they stop? Good questions. Withers’ play was the winner of Urbanite’s 2023 Modern Work Festival and this marks its world premiere. Through April 28;

Murder He Wrought

Jeffrey Hatcher’s contemporary adaptation of Alfred Hitchcock’s “Dial M for Murder” (1950) speeds up the pace and cuts down on expository speeches but keeps all the gripping suspense. It’s still set in mid-20th-century London, and still revolves around a husband’s foolproof plan to murder his wife. When his foolish plot unravels with fatal consequences, he still ties himself up in knots to escape justice. But Hatcher’s stylish, 2022 update adds a few twists and turns that Hitchcock (or the original novelist, Frederick Knott) never imagined. Céline Rosenthal directs this Asolo Repertory Theatre production and notes that Hatcher’s revamped thriller is even more thrilling than the original — and promises to dial up the suspense. Through April 25;

Far From the Madding Crowd
A work in wood by Sanford Biggers is part of “Impact: Contemporary Artists at the Hermitage Artist Retreat.”
Courtesy image

The Hermitage Artist Retreat on Manasota Key offers contemporary artists a quiet place to create that’s far from the madding crowd. “Impact: Contemporary Artists at the Hermitage Artist Retreat” at Sarasota Art Museum showcases the resulting creations of 10 of these artists. Curated by Dan Cameron, this exhibition features work by Diana Al Hadid, Sanford Biggers, Chitra Ganesh, Todd Gray, Trenton Doyle Hancock, Michelle Lopez, Ted Riederer, John Sims, Kukuli Velarde and William Villalongo. Their art spans the media spectrum, encompassing sculpture, painting, installation, video, photography, prints, ceramics, textiles and social practice. Work by the late John Sims is especially revelatory. This Sarasota-based artist challenged prejudices and perceptions with his “Afro-Confederate Flag Project” and “AfroDixie Remixes” song collection. According to Cameron, his paradigm-shifting message is as relevant than ever. Through July 7;

Inner Child’s Play
“Astronaut” by Lori Childers.
Courtesy image

“Lori Childers: Playgrounds” invites the viewer’s inner child to come out and play at Mara Studio + Gallery this month. Her series of oil-on-canvas paintings captures the icons of classic playground technology. “Twinkle” depicts a circus tent with rings; “North West East South” is a merry-go-round with multicolored seats; “Caterpillar” captures the sinuous s-curve of a caterpillar jungle gym. Childers’ playful paintings have a weightless, gravity-defying quality; they draw the eye with strong compositions, bold colors and an intoxicating sense of movement. “I’m mining my memories for what delighted me as a child,” the artist says. “I’d like you to imagine yourself in the corner of a playground with infinite possibilities.” Artist reception: 5:30-7:30 p.m. April 12; exhibit: April 4–30;


Lush Life

Clyde Butcher lovingly documents Florida’s few remaining wild landscapes with his stunning black-and-white photography. Marie Selby Botanical Gardens is showcasing his visions of Florida’s subtropical Eden with “Clyde Butcher: Nature Through the Lens” at its Historic Spanish Point campus. These large-scale, aluminum-panel prints capture Butcher’s vignettes on a massive scale in the setting of Spanish Point’s real-world natural beauty. These jaw-dropping Sunshine State vistas include scenes of the Big Cypress National Preserve, Myakka River State Park, Casey Key, and Everglades National Park. Seeing Florida’s lush life through Butcher’s eyes, you can’t help but fall in love with it. That’s the reason Butcher took these photographs in the first place, of course. He’s a passionate conservationist. While preserving Florida’s unspoiled landscapes on film, Butcher also fights to save the real thing. Through Aug. 31;



Su Byron

Su Byron has worked in the regional arts and cultural world for the past 25 years as a writer, an editor, and a public relations and marketing specialist. For 12 of those years, she was the co-publisher of the Sarasota Arts Review, a monthly arts and entertainment newspaper. Su is a freelance writer whose regular columns and articles appear in a host of regional and national publications.

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