Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Sarasota's Banyan Theater Company announces 2015 season

Tanner in "The Amish Project"
   Two years ago, Sarasota actor Katherine Michelle Tanner delivered one of the most amazing performances local theater goers have ever seen. The play was the American Stage production of Jessica Dickey's "The Amish Project," which is based on a mass murder in an Amish school in 2006. Tanner played all seven characters, male and female, from young victims to the killer's wife to townspeople only peripherally involved. No one who saw that performance will forget it.
   Those who missed it will have another chance. "The Amish Project," with Tanner reprising her roles, is part of the recently announced Banyan Theater Company season.
   Banyan produces shows only in the summer. "The Amish Project" is the second show of the Banyan's 14th season.
   All shows in the Banyan season are in the Jane B. Cook Theatre at the FSU Center for the Performing Arts in Sarasota. A three-show subscription costs $70, a two-show package is $52 and single tickets are $28.50. Go to for information and tickets.

    Here's the season schedule:

  "Art" by Yasmina Reza, translated by Christopher Hampton, June 25-July 12
   The winner of the 1998 Tony Award for Best Play and the 1996 Olivier Award for Best Comedy revolves around friends who argue over the artistic value of a painting.

   "The Amish Project" by Jessica Dickey, July 16-Aug. 2
    A devastating and beautiful play that gives an intriguing glimpse into Amish culture and compels the audience with our own capacity for forgiveness and condemnation.

   "My Old Lady" by Israel Horovitz, Aug. 6-23
   Horovitz (the father of Beastie Boy Ad-Rock) has written more good plays than most people have seen. This one, which was made into a movie starring Kevin Kline and Maggie Smith, is one of his best. It's about a financially struggling middle-aged man who inherits an apartment in Paris and finds that French law says the tenant can stay there until she dies. He has no choice but to move in with her.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Five Finger Death Punch heads 98Rockfest lineup

   Five Finger Death Punch heads the recently announced lineup for this year's 98Rockfest.
Taylor Momsen of the Pretty Reckless
   The hard-rock concert is set for April 24 in the Amalie Arena in Tampa. The other bands on the program are Rise Against, Breaking Benjamin, the Pretty Reckless -- who sure seem to be performing in the Tampa area a lot lately -- and Nothing More.
   There's a free pre-show on the west plaza of the arena that starts at
2 p.m. and features
 performances by 98ROCK’s Skratch n Sniff, Sleepwave, Beartooth and Young Guns.
   Tickets go on sale to the general public at 10 a.m. Friday, Jan. 30. They'll run you $25, $39 and $59. VIP packages start at $169. There's a service charge on top of all those prices.
   Call 800-745-3000 or go to


Friday, January 16, 2015

Pixies, Strokes headline Tampa's Big Guava festival

   The lineup for this year's Big Guava Music Festival was announced Friday, and it's a great one.
   The Strokes are the nominal headliners. They're great live, but the lineup also includes the Pixies, one of the most important bands of the past 30 years, and TV on the Radio, the phenomenal avant garde rock band.
   Other big names include the electronic indie band Passion Pit, indie darling Jenny Lewis, alt-country icon Ryan Adams, Irish singer-songwriter Hozier and British electronica artist James Blake.
The Pixies
   Other acts are likely to be announced later.
   The Big Guava Music Festival is slated for May 8 and 9 at the Florida State Fairgrounds and the MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre. Besides the music, there's going to be craft beer and food trucks, and the fairgrounds' midway will be open.
   You can get two-day "early bird" passes for $89 right now, but there's a limited number available. At 10 a.m. Jan. 23 the price will go up to $115. You get access to all the stages and unlimited midway rides for that price. 
   You can also get premium tickets with a bunch of perks and extras for $325 today, and $350 starting Jan. 23.
    Go to for tickets and information.

'Book of Mormon' lottery returns to Tampa

   If you want to see "The Book of Mormon" but you don't want to shell out $66 for the cheapest tickets, here's some good news for you.
  The producers of the show are again offering a lottery that will let you purchase tickets for $31. And they're not all cheap seats. You could end up getting a $178.50 tickets for $31.
   Here's how it works: Between two and two and a half hours before any performance, you go to the box office at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts in Tampa and fill out a form. You specify whether you want one ticket or two for that performance. You can't enter any drawing more than once.
A scene from "the Book of Mormon"
 Then, two hours before curtain, someone draws names and an unknown number of people will get the discounted tickets. It's cash only. You have to be there to win. 
   These lotteries have drawn as many as 800 entrants. You might have a better shot earlier in the run, before word of mouth about the show and about the lottery has peaked. You might also have a better shot on weekdays, because the drawing will at 5:30 p.m and a lot of people won't be able to get to the Straz Center after work by then.
  The Straz Center is at 1010 N. MacInnes Place in downtown  Tampa. "The Book of Mormon" opens Jan. 20 and runs through Feb. 1. Curtain is at  7:30 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Sunday. Call 813-229-7827 or go to

Thursday, January 15, 2015

One Oscar nomination thrills Sarasota Film Festival organizers

   The opening film for the 2014 Sarasota Film Festival was an obscure documentary called "Last Days in Vietnam."
   It's not likely to be obscure much longer.
  This morning, when this year's Academy Award nominations were announced, "Last Days in Vietnam" was among the contenders for Best Documentary Feature.
   Festival president Mark Famiglio said he has been in touch with director, Rory Kennedy, and that she was thrilled with the nomination.
  "She's been texting me all morning," he said. "We've been back and forth. She's through the roof, as she should be. It's very exciting news."
   Kennedy, the daughter of Robert F. Kennedy, attended the festival this past spring with her mother Ethel. Ethel Kennedy had been the subject of one of Rory Kennedy's earlier documentaries, "Ethel," which was part of the 2012 Sarasota Film Festival.
Rory Kennedy, dfirector of "Last Days in Vietnam"
 "I think it's a great festival," she said in a phone interview last year. "It's a nice, small, intimate festival. They treat filmmakers very well, and they do get a lot of great films."            
   Kennedy, who was born six months after her father was assassinated, said she was initially reluctant to do a documentary about Vietnam.
   "As I was growing up, Vietnam was such a part of the ether of our lives," she said. "When I was approached by 'American Experience' to do this film, I thought there was nothing new to say. But I discovered that there was a lot I didn't know."
   Her film focuses on the American evacuation of South Vietnam 1975 as the North Vietnamese military was about to take over. It's packed with little-known stories of American heroism, and with dramatic footage that almost no one had seen before.
   As powerful as the film is, Famiglio said festival officials didn't expect the Oscar nomination.
   "This was unexpected," he said. "It made the short list some time back, but we thought that was just a nod, you know, a nod to a great film. But now she has a chance to win. She's very excited and so are we. She's a rock star."
   Incidentally, the Sarasota Film Festival announced some new staff appointments this week.
   Michael Dunaway is the new director of programming. He's currently the editor of the film section of Paste magazine, and the founding partner of Gasoline Films and of Poitier & Dunaway Motion Pictures. Other programmers are Maggie MacKay, Derek Horne and Caley Fagerstrom; Nadine Zylberberg is the new social media manager.
   The 17th Annual Sarasota Film Festival is scheduled for April 10-19.



Friday, January 9, 2015

Doors guitarist added to St. Petersburg Festival lineup

   One classic rock guitarist is out, but another is in.
   Dickey Betts has canceled his scheduled appearance at the third annual Sunshine Music and Blues Festival in St. Petersburg, citing a family emergency.
   Taking his place is R
obby Krieger, the guitarist for the Doors.
   The rest of the festival lineup remains intact: The Tedeschi Trucks Band, Los Lobos, the Both (Aimee Mann and Ted Leo), Grace Potter, the Chris Robinson Brotherhood, the Rebrth Brass Band, Matt Schofield and  Sean Chambers.
   The festival is set for noon Saturday, Jan. 17 at VInoy Park in St. Petersburg. Tickets are on sale now. They'll set you back  $63.50 for general seating and $117.65 for reserved seats. Call 800-745-3000 or go to

Friday, January 2, 2015

'Hairspray' extended through Jan. 24 in Sarasota

"Hairspray" Photo by Maria Lyle.
  Florida Studio Theatre's production of "Hairspray" was supposed to end this weekend. It was so popular that FST extended the run for a week.
 Even that apparently wasn't enough to satisfy the demand. FST has announced that it's holding over "Hairspray" for two more weeks, until Jan. 24. But it's absolutely, positively going to close then.
   "Hairspray"  is the musical version of a classic John Waters film about an indomitable teen girl in 1950s Baltimore who tries to integrate her favorite TV dance show. It's full of catchy song (including the show-stopper “Can’t Stop the Beat”).
   Show times are 8 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, 3 and 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Tickets are $18-$49. Call 941-366-9000 or go to