A Year of Milestones for Sarasota’s Top Music & Culture Venues

Sarasota is known for its art, music, and culture due to its long history of visual, performing, literary, and circus arts. The city has a rich cultural history that dates back to its beginnings with the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, which is located on the shore of Sarasota Bay just a short distance north of the downtown area.

Sarasota County is home to some of Florida’s oldest and most prestigious institutions, including the Ringling Museum of Art, Sarasota Orchestra, Asolo Repertory Theatre, Florida Studio Theatre, Sarasota Ballet, Sarasota Opera, Asolo Repertory Theatre and many more that offer live theater, concerts, museums and galleries that has given Sarasota the reputation as a “cultural mecca of Florida.” Few communities in the nation have the depth and quality of arts and cultural offerings that are found here.

2023-2024 Milestones for Sarasota music, arts & culture

This year and next are significant milestones in the histories and inception of some of the most prestigious institutions in Sarasota:

Florida Studio Theatre

Florida Studio Theatre (FST) is Sarasota’s contemporary theatre. Founded in 1973, FST has grown to a village of five theatres located in the heart of downtown Sarasota. Each theatre is small in size and large in impact— providing intimate and engaging settings for high-quality, professional performances. Today, FST has established itself as a major force in American Theatre. FST is the largest subscription theatre in the state of Florida and among the largest in the country, serving more than 225,000 live attendees each year across its diverse programs: Mainstage, Cabaret, Stage III, Children’s Theatre, Improv, The FST School, and New Play Development. FST kicks off its 50th Winter Mainstage Series with Little Shop of Horrors, a hit Broadway sci-fi musical that has entertained audiences for 40 years. Little Shop of Horrors begins playing November 15 in FST’s Gompertz Theatre. Click here for FST website and tickets.

Marie Selby Botanical Gardens

Marie Selby Botanical Gardens 

Since its establishment in 1973, Marie Selby Botanical Gardens has formed the largest scientifically documented collection of living orchids in the world. The Orchid Show 2023 celebrates Marie Selby Botanical Gardens is a 45-acre botanical garden located in Sarasota, that connects people with air plants of the world, native nature, and regional history. The gardens were named after Marie Selby, a philanthropist known for her support of various arts and cultural centers.

Here is a brief history of the gardens:
1. Marie Selby was born Mariah Minshall in Wood County, West Virginia, on August 9, 1885
2. The Selbys made Sarasota their permanent home in 1921 when they purchased land on the Sarasota Bay and Hudson Bayou
3. The modest, Spanish-style house on the grounds of the gardens was built by the Selbys in the early 1920s, marking the beginning of the grounds’ journey to what it is today
4. Marie Selby died in 1971 at the age of 86, leaving her property and $2 million as an endowment for the development of a botanical garden.

5. The gardens are the only botanical garden in the world dedicated to the display and study of epiphytic orchids, bromeliads, gesneriads, and ferns, and other tropical plants
6. The gardens have more than doubled in size since the Selby family bequeathed the grounds to the public, from seven acres to an impressive fifteen, sitting on a beautiful bayfront property
7.The Historic Spanish Point campus provides visitors the opportunity to explore Florida’s heritage via an ancient shell midden and collection of historic structures and serves as one of the largest preserves showcasing native Florida plants that is interpreted for and open to the public

The Marie Selby Botanical Gardens is a Smithsonian affiliate and is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums. Today, the gardens are a leading botanical garden for the study and conservation of plant species.

The FSU/Asolo Conservatory for Actor Training (Asolo Repertory Theatre)

The Asolo Repertory Theatre is 72 years old, but they are celebrating the 50th anniversary of their partnership with the FSU/Asolo Conservatory for Actor Training – a three-year graduate program culminating in a Master of Fine Arts degree. Only twelve students are chosen each year from the thousands who audition nationwide to work in a program that combines rigorous classroom training with guest artist workshops and professional production experience.

Upon graduation, all students are eligible to join Actors’ Equity Association and enter the ranks of this country’s most highly regarded professional artists. Graduates of the program have appeared on and off Broadway, in regional theatres, in feature films and on television. The program was initiated by the Florida State University School of Theatre in Tallahassee in 1968 and moved to Sarasota five years later to establish a permanent relationship with the Asolo Repertory Theatre.

From the origins of their name, to the stages on which they have performed, the ‘Asolo’ story is rich in history – both in Sarasota and abroad.

The name ‘Asolo’ comes to us from Asolo, Italy, a beautiful town tucked in the hills of the northern countryside. There, a lovely 18th-century theatre, caught the eye of Everett “Chick” Austin, the first Director of the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art. He acquired the theatre’s interior for the museum’s collection in 1949. In this little jewel of a theatre, a fledgling acting company, founded by faculty of Florida State University (FSU), began performing a summer series of plays and operas, first as the Asolo Theatre Festival and later as the Asolo Theatre Company.

Over time, the company grew from a seasonal festival into a year-round operation and was recognized as the first State Theatre of Florida, later becoming a founding member of the prestigious League of Resident Theatres (LORT).

The acting company and its audiences eventually outgrew the Ringling’s Historic Asolo Theater, and the company moved into its current home within the FSU Center for the Performing Arts, where it has enjoyed notable success. While it is impossible to capture all the miraculous moments of Asolo, Sarasota Events Calendar hopes readers will buy tickets to a few of their season performances. In doing so, readers will get the impression of a community deeply committed to the transformative power of theatre and a theatre that delivers just that.

Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe

In 2023-2024, Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe celebrates their 24th anniversary as one of the premiere Black Theatre companies in the nation.

The Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe (WBTT) is a nonprofit theater company founded in December 1999 by actor, singer, director, and playwright Nate Jacobs. The mission of the organization is to produce professional theater that promotes and celebrates African American history and experience, engages a broad base of patrons and audiences, supports the development of a dynamic group of aspiring artists, and builds self-esteem in youth of color. Since its inception, WBTT has grown from a grassroots organization to a successful not-for-profit, professional theater with a five-show season at its own theater campus. The troupe produces musicals, some Broadway hits, others written, adapted, and directed by Nate Jacobs, as well as comedies and thought-provoking dramas from notable playwrights.

In addition to performances and events on its campus on Orange Avenue in downtown Sarasota, WBTT reaches out to the community to present events at various locations and WBTT also provides a variety of community outreach and education programs, including a summer intensive musical theater camp for underserved youth, a JazzLinks program for area high schools that helps bring history to life, and a Young Artists series in which aspiring artists produce and perform in their individual concerts on the MainStage. The troupe has mentored and inspired many African-American youth and young adults through participation in its programs.  Their 24th Gala will be held at the Circus Conservatory on November 11. For the rest of the season shows,, Buy tickets here.

Through Women’s Eyes: Women’s International Film Festival

A film gem in Sarasota, the Women’s International Film Festival celebrates a 25th Anniversary festival, “Reel Equals” March 7-12, 2024.  They are an international, mission-driven festival, dedicated to women filmmakers and films that address issues inadequately represented in the mainstream media. Every year they host significant numbers of films from all over the world. They frequently select films that go on to commercial success (RBG), publicize the work of voices that need to be heard (Nobel Prize Winner Nadia Murad), and remind the world about issues that need more attention (violence as an act of war in the DRC featuring Nobel Prize Winner Dennis Mukwege). The film festival will be held March 7 – 12, 2024 and will be open for ticket sales December 1st. They will be offering our annual new films from around the world, plus some of their Greatest Hits from the past 25 years – you won’t want to miss them!

Sarasota Women’s International Film Festival 

75th anniversary celebration logotype blue and red colored. Birthday logo on white background.

Sarasota Orchestra

The Sarasota Orchestra is the oldest continuing orchestra in the state of Florida, founded in 1949 as the Florida West Coast Symphony. The orchestra’s first season contained three concerts, with the first taking place on January 19, 1950. During the first six years of the orchestra, the orchestra did not have a single resident venue. In 1955, the Sarasota city commission approved construction of rehearsal space for the orchestra in the Sarasota civic center. In 1961, Paul Wolfe began a 35-year tenure as artistic director and conductor. His leadership allowed the orchestra to establish a core chamber and four resident chamber ensembles, expand the Youth Orchestra Program and consolidate the then Florida West Coast Symphony and the Music Festival of Florida, to create the Sarasota Music Festival. In 1985, the orchestra merged with the Sarasota Music Festival. Each June, the Sarasota Music Festival welcomes 60 pre-professional fellows from around the globe and 40 faculty artists representing the top conservatories, music colleges, and classical music ensembles for three weeks of intensive study and public performances

Today, the Sarasota Orchestra is an 80-member orchestra that performs more than 100 classical, pops, and family concerts each year. Sarasota Orchestra’s acclaimed music education program includes the Sarasota Youth Orchestras, established in 1959 and currently supporting eight student ensembles, as well as the annual Summer Music Camp. The Sarasota Orchestra also offers music lessons for students of all ages and abilities and sponsors multiple outreach program and is dedicated to exquisite performance and first-class musical education.

In 2019, Sarasota Orchestra set a plan to build a dedicated Music Center that offers a transformative experience for the community it serves. The new facility will be a destination for residents and visitors from around the world and will increase the Orchestra’s educational programs for more young people to fulfill their musical ambitions.

Sarasota Orchestra will be celebrating their 75th anniversary at a Gala performance at the Van Wezel, the Sarasota Orchestra  and will present a concert program, led by Creative Partner Peter Oundjian, to capture all the euphoria of reaching this milestone in their history as Florida’s oldest continuously operating orchestra. After two stirring fanfares by Aaron Copland and Joan Tower, legendary pianist Garrick Ohlsson joins Sarasota Orchestra for Rachmaninoff’s monumental Piano Concerto No. 3. Paired with Gershwin’s An American in Paris, a rhapsodic portrait of a stroll through the City of Lights, this one-night-only program promises to thrill.

McCurdy’s Comedy Club

McCurdy’s Comedy Club celebrates 35 years of making Sarasotans laugh.

McCurdy’s Comedy Club, now known as McCurdy’s Comedy Theatre, is a popular comedy venue located in Sarasota, and founded by Les & Pam McCurdy.  The club was originally located in a hotel banquet room and later moved to an old theater on the North Trail. In 1996, the last concert was held at McCurdy’s Comedy Club, featuring Tommy Chong.
In 2015, McCurdy’s Comedy Theatre moved to a spacious downtown location off Ringling Blvd.

This year McCurdy’s Comedy Theatre celebrates its 35th anniversary. Today, McCurdy’s Comedy Theatre is a popular destination for comedy lovers in Sarasota and beyond. The venue has hosted many famous comedians over the years, including Jerry Seinfeld, Jay Leno, and Chris Rock  The theatre also offers comedy classes and workshops through its Humor Institute.

~ Andrea Martone

Andrea Mastrocinque-Martone is Sarasota Event Calendar’s Chief Editor. She is the former A & E Editor for Sarasota Observer Newspapers and is currently a public relations consultant. www.Insightfulpr.com

Andrea Martone

Andrea Martone is a former Arts & Entertainment Editor for the Sarasota Observer Newspaper Group, as well as a former Editor-in-Chief of a Long Island (New York) newspaper chain. She moved to Sarasota 14 years ago after working as an executive in NYC in public relations and marketing. She currently is a Public relations & marketing consultant and President of Insightful PR. She lives and breathes all things art, culture, music food and wine and is proud to be the Executive Editor of Sarasota Events Calendar.

Related posts

Deck the Halls, a Family-Friendly Holiday Tradition, Returns with an All-New Show

Here’s something you and your family won’t want to miss this Christmas & Chanukah season! Florida Studio Theatre (FST)…

Read More

Tantalizing Tortellino: A Taste of Bologna, Italy in Every Bite

The Gulf Gate area of Sarasota (between S. Tamiami Trail and Beneva) has gained significant popularity in recent years, especially for its…

Read More

“Who Took the Merry Out of Christmas?”

If anyone who loves live Christmas theatre and shows doubts that the adjective “Merry” isn’t an integral part of Christmas these days,…

Read More


December 2023

  • M
  • T
  • W
  • T
  • F
  • S
  • S
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
  • 11
  • 12
  • 13
  • 14
  • 15
  • 16
  • 17
  • 18
  • 19
  • 20
  • 21
  • 22
  • 23
  • 24
  • 25
  • 26
  • 27
  • 28
  • 29
  • 30
  • 31
0 Adults

Compare listings