Itinerary: A Week's Worth of Performing Arts in Sarasota
Sarasota is known as Florida’s Cultural Coast, thanks to the number of arts venues right here in our backyard. You can’t beat Sarasota’s combination of top-class performing arts while you’re just minutes away from beautiful Gulf Coast beaches.
Here’s an itinerary to fill your days with performing arts events. Make sure to check with each venue in advance to find out what specific shows are in town during your visit and to buy tickets. Some of these venues may have a limited schedule in the summer.
Florida Studio Theatre
Located in downtown Sarasota, Florida Studio Theatre’s diverse roster of shows brings in more than 200,000 attendees each year, according to its website. It’s also the largest subscription theatre in the state of Florida. Florida Studio Theatre has five stages and more than 20 professional productions annually. Come check out a show to get a real feel for downtown Sarasota’s theater scene.
Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall
The Van Wezel (pronounced Van Wayzull) is a must-visit if you’re spending time in Sarasota. The purple-hued hall, located right on beautiful Sarasota Bay, has more than 100 events each year, included Broadway musicals, national and international performers, dance shows, comedians, and symphony orchestras. The Van Wezel also hosts performances and events for the Sarasota Ballet, Sarasota Concert Association, Sarasota Orchestra, and the Ringling Library Town Hall Lecture Series. If you’re looking for a bite to eat before a show, Mattison’s at the Van Wezel offers a buffet.
Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe
Bring on the energy if you plan to see a performance at Sarasota’s Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe. WBTT, as it’s often called, says that it provides a professional platform for gifted minority artists to showcase their talents. Some of these are rising young performers, and others are more seasoned. The end result is an engaging mix of shows, including shows like “Ruby” and “Marvin Gaye: Prince of Soul” (the most requested show at WBTT) in 2024.
McCurdy’s Comedy Theatre and Humor Institute
Ready for a laugh? Enjoy local and national comedians at Sarasota’s own comedy club, McCurdy’s Comedy Theatre and Humor Institute. McCurdy’s welcomes acts like Pauly Shore, Patrick Gerrity, Andrew Dice Clay, and Lynne Koplitz. McCurdy’s also has Open Mic Nights. One other cool thing about McCurdy’s is its Adult Comedy Bootcamp, providing 12 hours of training to prep a three- to five-minute standup set. There are regular dates on its schedule to see the comedy students perform.
The renowned Sarasota Opera has been part of the Sarasota performing arts community since 1960, when it originally performed in the Asolo Theater on the grounds of Sarasota’s Ringling Museum of Art. In 1979, it found its current home in the former A.B. Edwards Theater in downtown Sarasota. After renovations, it opened in 1984 as the Sarasota Opera House, now located on the National Register of Historic Places. The Sarasota Opera attracts a range of performances each season.
Venice Performing Arts Center
Looking to hear some toe-tapping musical memories and more during your visit to the Sarasota area? Head to the Venice Performing Arts Center for some great shows like “Bee Gees Gold: The Tribute,” “Simply Tina: The Ultimate Tribute to Tina Turner,” and “Who’s Zeppelin” (paying homage to both the The Who and Led Zeppelin). Yet the Venice Performing Arts Center does more than just keep you rockin’. Other performances include a Rhythm of the Dance Christmas Special and Venice Concert Band concerts.
Artist Series Concerts of Sarasota
Artist Series Concerts of Sarasota focuses on live musical performances by rising stars of the next generation in a range of styles, from classical to jazz to pops to Broadway. The concert series takes place in a variety of local venues, such as the Historic Asolo Theater, Sarasota Opera House, Sarasota Yacht Club, and Marie Selby Botanical Gardens.
The 76-member Sarasota Orchestra has enhanced the city’s performing arts scene since 1949 and is now the oldest continuing orchestra in the state. In fact, Sarasota Orchestra performs more than 100 chamber music, classical, community outreach, and pops concerts. Sarasota Orchestra performs at several venues around town, including Sarasota Opera House and Riverview High School.
Asolo Repetory Theatre
George and Ira Gershwin’s “Crazy for You” and the courtroom classic “Inherit the Wind” are just two performances planned for the 2023-2024 season at Asolo Repertory Theatre, which describes itself as “Florida’s premier professional theatre.” Each season, Asolo stages up to 15 productions, including plays, reinterpretations of classical and contemporary works, and musical theatre experiences. Asolo is located at the Florida State Center for the Performing Arts, which is right beside the Ringling Museum of Art, another great artistic venue right here in Sarasota.
Historic Asolo Theater
Not to be confused with Asolo Repertory Theatre, Historic Asolo Theater welcomes a range of performances in its theater, which was actually constructed in 1798 inside a Renaissance-era palace in Asolo, Italy. It stayed there until 1931, after which its paintings, decorative panels, and stage boxes stayed in storage until The Ringling purchased them in 1949 and reassembled them. Historic Asolo Theater of Sarasota made its debut in 1952. The theater can put on high-quality productions while also offering a glimpse into history. The Historic Asolo Theater is located on the grounds of the Ringling Museum of Art.