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SRQ DAILY Dec 24, 2021

Friday Weekend Edition

Friday Weekend Edition

"We are grateful for the beauty, abundance and relationships all around us - then prompted by that gratitude, we are moved to share it with others."

- Jim Miller, JMX Brands CEO

[Theater ]  FST’s ‘America in One Room’ Reconciles Beyond the Stage
Andrew Fabian, andrew.fabian@srqme.com

In September of 2019, 523 Americans gathered in Grapevine, Texas to participate in a weekend of deliberative polling. Pulled from all walks of life, the event’s goal was to force politically diverse strangers into moderated conversations about some of the biggest issues of the day—immigration, the environment, the economy, healthcare, and foreign policy. Called “America in One Room,” the event proved fruitful in that it demonstrated a highly informed public engaged in respectful dialogue is more likely to find common ground. For playwright Jason Odell Williams, the event would prove fruitful for reasons professional and personal.

 “I had the ‘New York Times’ story about ‘America in One Room’ on my desk for a while,” says Williams, “and I eventually put together two pages of notes on what a play based on the event might look like.” Then COVID-19 began its insidious spread, forcing theatres to shutter their doors and sending Williams into a bit of an existential quandary. “I was unemployed for a bit, watched a lot of BoJack Horseman, hung out a lot with my family,” says Williams, “but generally I was just living with all this uncertainty.” Until he got a call from Florida Studio Theatre (FST) reps who were trying to accumulate strong pitches for commissions. “The call was a lifeline,” says Williams.

 He took those two pages of notes and built out a story based on the article sitting on his desk. FST selected his work, appropriately titled ‘America in One Room,’ for a commission. “That commission allowed me to survive in New York for a while,” says Williams, “but more importantly, it gave me a sense of direction.”

 Though a full production was never guaranteed, a final version of the screenplay made its world premiere at FST on December 8th. The story explores the dynamic of eight fictional characters that Williams crafted after careful research of the actual event from 2019. “I dug through all of the research data on the event’s website and I even managed to track down four of the attendees through Facebook that were willing to talk to me about their experience,” says Williams.

 That research helped lend real-world tension to the plays real-world themes. Those themes include all the hot-button issues by which people of different political persuasions judge each other. “The play certainly has a red-blue divide, but it’s not about the issues themselves,” says Williams, “it’s about how these characters with different viewpoints relate to each other.”

 As in the ‘America in One Room’ event from 2019, Williams’ characters come to realize the polarized narratives they’ve staked their claims to crumble when meaningful dialogue takes place. They come to learn that, as Barack Obama said in the wake of the 2019 event, “behind every opinion lies a real human being with a story to tell.”

 To that end, Williams found that in researching the 2019 event and writing the diverse cast of ‘America in One Room,’ his relationships with friends and family that had differing opinions grew less tense. “The play has some ugly moments, but ultimately it’s hopeful,” says Williams. “I think there’s a way for this country to move forward. I don’t know what it looks like, but I know it starts with listening. For me, I try to ask more questions now rather than get into arguments.”

 ‘American in One Room’ runs through February 27th, 2022. On Thursdays through February 17th, discussions inspired by the play’s themes will take place in FST’s Keating Theatre.


Photo Caption: Jason Odell Williams, Almeria Campbell, Lipica Shah, and Nicholas Caycedo workshop ‘America in One Room’ before its world premiere. Photo by John Jones.

For more information click here

[SRQ Book Club]  Fiction Book Review of The Lost Daughter
Bookseller Roxanne Baker, BookStoreOne Sarasota

Being a movie buff, I often like to beat the filmmaker's to the punch and read the book before the movie opens at the box office. This doesn’t always bode well for the movie as it’s virtually impossible to make a movie as rich as literature.  However, loving the actresses Olivia Coleman and Dakota Johnson makes me optimistic about the film rendition of Elena Ferrante’s The Lost Daughter.

The Lost Daughter is perfect for all mothers, but especially those with more than one daughter as offspring. While most boys are transparent, female relationships can be fraught with murky emotions and long held grudges.  Much like my description, Ferrante captures an independent woman who faces extreme psychological difficulties during her child rearing years. 

Most already know Ferrante from her brilliant Neopolitan series. I highly encourage all fiction fans to seek out this earlier 2008 novel for its intriguing psychological family dynamics.   

The Lost Daughter is available in store at BookStore1 12 S. Palm Ave Sarasota FL 34236 and on their online store www.sarasotabooks.com. Publication date-2008 ISBN:  9781933372426.
[Music Event]  The Van Wezel Welcomes Iconic Classic Rock Band Kansas

The Van Wezel is excited to welcome KANSAS to Sarasota on Friday, Jan. 28 at 8 p.m. With a legendary career spanning nearly five decades, KANSAS has established itself as one of America’s iconic classic rock bands. This "garage band" from Topeka released their debut album in 1974 after being discovered by Wally Gold, who worked for Don Kirshner. The band has sold more than 30 million albums worldwide. The band is currently comprised of original drummer Phil Ehart, bassist/vocalist Billy Greer, vocalist/keyboardist Ronnie Platt, violinist/guitarist David Ragsdale, keyboardist/vocalist Tom Brislin, and original guitarist Richard Williams. With no signs of slowing down, KANSAS continues to perform in front of large and enthusiastic audiences around the world. Tickets are $68-$141 and can be purchased at www.VanWezel.org, by calling the box office at 941-263-6799 or by visiting the box office Monday through Friday between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. 

To learn more, visit

[Music Event]  Steve Forbert Returns to Fogartyville

With a raspy voice and a harmonica strapped upon his neck, Forbert offers folk and blues that can certainly be met with comparisons to Bob Dylan.  Forbert is best known for his hit "Romeo's Tune" from his 1979 album Jackrabbit Slim. He has been a font of music ever since, releasing more than a dozen studio albums, including a Grammy nominated tribute to Jimmie Rodgers in 2003.  Anyone who reviews Steve’s catalogue of music can see the writer in the musician. His songs are as literary as they are musically vibrant. Brutally honest lyrics delivered with sensitivity create an uncommon trust with his listeners. Excelling in every decade of his career, Forbert exemplifies the best of the troubadour tradition. Steve Forbert will play the Fogartyville Community Media and Arts Center on Thursday, January 6 at 8pm.  Tickets are $27 in advance and $30 at the door.   

Steve Forbert. Photo courtesy of wslr.org.

For advance tickets, click here.

[Holiday Donations]  JMX Brands Employees Raise Funds for Two Local Non-Profits

During a busy season when most businesses are focused on generating revenue, JMX Brands decided to give back to the community. Closing on a record-breaking year for the niche ecommerce retailer, JMX Brands’ CEO Jim Miller and Vice President Linse Miller offered to personally match employees’ gifts up to $1,000 and gave a company match up to $2,000. In alignment with the company’s core value of giving, a Giving Committee was established at the Sarasota-based business in September to foster a culture of generosity at JMX Brands. The funds raised by employees will be donated to All Faiths Food Bank in Sarasota, Fla. and Goshen Interfaith Hospitality Network in Goshen, Ind.

“Expressions of gratitude and generosity are fundamental responses that make us human,” said Miller in a statement.  “We’re grateful for the beauty, abundance and relationships all around us – then prompted by that gratitude, we’re moved to share it with others.” 

[SOON]  FILM: Virtual: This Light Of Mine: The Making of the Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe , December 17 – December 31

The dream of one man became a cultural tour de force for Sarasota’s performing arts community. In 1999, actor and playwright Nate Jacobs founded the Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe, establishing a unique dramatic company to present and explore the Black experience. After twenty years of challenges and hard-won triumphs, the troupe experienced one of its toughest years yet in 2020. The killing of George Floyd ignited a national reckoning on race, and the COVID-19 pandemic made theatres go dark. Drawing on the resilient spirit that carried the troupe across previous hardships, WBTT has reimagined ways to stage its performances and fulfill its mission to promote inclusion and diversity in the arts. As a new generation of artists comes onboard, the troupe also finds successful approaches to address racism and lift others up through opportunity, mentorship and outreach. Produced by WEDU PBS in partnership with the Community Foundation of Sarasota County with generous funding from the George J. & Alice Pugh Donor Advised Fund. The film is available at https://www.wedu.org/shows/documentaries/this-light-of-mine/

[SOON]  : Discover Sarasota: City Sightseeing Tour , January 1 – December 31

On this air-conditioned City Sightseeing Trolley or Van Tour, see the BEST places to tour, shop, and dine through Sarasota’s historic downtown neighborhoods of Gillespie Park, Burns Court, Laurel Park, St. Armands Circle, Lido Key, and the Rosemary Design District. You also see our world-class artistic and cultural organizations: The Ringling Museum, Ringling College, Asolo Theater, Selby Library, Van Wezel Performing Arts Center, Selby Gardens, Sarasota Opera House, Art Center Sarasota, and Sarasota Symphony Orchestra. Learn more about the architects and developers who designed some of our most unique homes and buildings, like the Blue Pagoda, Crocker Memorial Church, and Splendida. Circus history, Amish culture, real estate development booms and busts, and colorful stories about Sarasota’s founders give you a true overview of Sarasota’s rich and amazing cultural history. Trolley tours usually run on Fridays. Tours with fewer than 10 guests will travel in our comfortably air-conditioned high-top van. Tour is year-round, tickets are $34.99 and include FREE Parking.

[SOON]  GRAB BAG: Discover Sarasota: Psychic Sunday Tour , January 1 – December 31

Get in touch with Sarasota’s psychic influence on this interesting trolley or van tour. Learn why Sarasota is called Sedona by the Sea, explore the tools psychics and mediums use, hear about the history of the tarot, and learn why Sarasota is a psychic and spiritual energy center. Visit Pixie Dust on Sarasota’s Main Street, walk the sands of Siesta Key Beach, explore a labyrinth, and then enjoy a Spirit Gallery Reading and a mini tarot reading on the trolley or van. You can also book a 15-minute personal tarot reading with tour guide Michael Newton-Brown at the cottage after the tour. Ages 12+; young people ages 12-20 may attend if accompanied by a parent or legal guardian. Tours with fewer than 10 guests will travel in our comfortably air-conditioned high-top van. Tour tickets are $34.99 and include FREE Parking.

[SOON]  SEMINAR: Virtual: The Ringling: Private Lectures presented by Dr. David Berry , April 13 – December 31

David Berry, Associate Director of Academic Affairs and Special Projects, is one of Sarasota’s favorite lecturers. His dry sense of humor and wealth of knowledge is sure to both entertain and educate your group. Dr. Berry is available to speak on any of the following subjects: The origins of museums, museum architecture and display, The Victorian museum, early museums in America, museums, education, and community engagement, great women collectors, the illicit trafficking of cultural property, world fairs, an introduction to natural history, great illustrated natural history books, natural history and children’s literature, scientific illustration, natural history specimens, natural history collections, art and medicine, the art of anatomy, the art of astronomy and microscopy, the art of geology and paleontology (including dinosaurs), botanical and zoological art, botanical and zoological gardens, the golden age of botanical exploration, the orchid craze in Victorian Britain, and Japanese garden design and horticultural practices (ikebana and bonsai). $100 flat fee; must be scheduled at least 3 weeks in advance, $250 for custom topics; must be scheduled at least 6 weeks in advance. Lectures include a single-speaker, slide illustrated lecture. All programs are hosted via Zoom. For additional information, or to book a virtual program, contact Laura Steefel-Moore, Head of Educational Programs, at laura.steefel-moore@ringling.org.

[SOON]  PERFORMANCE: Florida Studio Theatre Improv: Triple Play , March 20 – December 25, 8:30pm

Florida Studio Theatre’s resident improv troupe, FST Improv, will return to a weekly live performance schedule with Triple Play, a full-length show created specifically to entertain from a distance. Drawing inspiration from audience suggestions, a rotating cast of three improvisers will perform games, scenes, and songs—all made up on the spot. Starting Saturday, March 20, Triple Play will take place Saturday evenings at 8:30pm for socially-distanced audiences in FST’s Keating Theatre. Tickets are $15 per person and are now on sale. To purchase tickets, call FST’s Box Office at 941.366.9000 or visit FloridaStudioTheatre.org. FST's musical improvisers, Jim Prosser and Helena Rankin, will provide comical accompaniment as performers play some of Sarasota's favorite improv games - all while maintaining social distancing. In addition to live audiences, the cast of Triple Play will draw inspiration from prompts submitted virtually through text or via Twitter. With this added virtual element, FST Improv will engage with audiences in Sarasota and beyond. Triple Play performances will be socially-distanced and in compliance of all CDC guidelines, including socially-distanced seating, paperless ticketing, and limited theatre capacities. Facial coverings must be worn at all times - including throughout performances - when on campus at FST, aside from dining in FST's Green Room Cafe & Bar. Socially-distanced pre-show dining is available indoors and outdoors in FST's Green Room Cafe & Bar one hour before each Triple Play performance.

[SOON]  GRAB BAG: Discover Sarasota: Circus Secrets Of Sarasota , January 1 – December 31

Learn about the rich circus history of Sarasota on an unforgettable trolley or van tour. Pass by key city landmarks as our informative and passionate tour guide, Bob Collins, tells stories about the colorful cast of circus characters, showmen, and performers who called Sarasota home. Meander through historic neighborhoods such as the Rosemary District, known for its vibrant food and art scene. Learn about the rich history of the Ringling brothers, the five brothers who owned and operated the circus renowned as the “Greatest Show on Earth.” Pass by the 21-gallery museum John Ringling constructed to house his extensive artwork collection, which opened to the public in 1931. Explore several other locations intimately involved in Sarasota’s circus history, including Sarasota Jungle Gardens, Circus Arts Conservatory, and the Circus Ring of Fame on St. Armands Circle. This 90-minute trolley or van tour is perfect for all ages and shows you a whole new side of Sarasota. Get ready for a fun-filled circus adventure during this show on wheels. It’s an illuminating experience you don’t want to miss. Tours with fewer than 10 guests will travel in our comfortably air-conditioned high-top van. Tour tickets are $34.99 and include FREE Parking.

SRQ Media Group

SRQ DAILY is produced by SRQ | The Magazine. Note: The views and opinions expressed in the Saturday Perspectives Edition and in the Letters department of SRQ DAILY are those of the author(s) and do not imply endorsement by SRQ Media. Senior Editor Jacob Ogles edits the Saturday Perspective Edition, Letters and Guest Contributor columns.In the CocoTele department, SRQ DAILY is providing excerpts from news releases as a public service. Reference to any specific product or entity does not constitute an endorsement or recommendation by SRQ DAILY. The views expressed by individuals are their own and their appearance in this section does not imply an endorsement of them or any entity they represent. For rates on SRQ DAILY banner advertising and sponsored content opportunities, please contact Ashley Ryan Cannon at 941-365-7702 x211 or via email

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