Experts from three of Sarasota’s performing arts venues were guests at our April 30 Foundation Forum entitled The Performance Landscape. President and CEO Harry Hobson moderated the Forum, and led the others in a discussion that included the trends and lessons learned in design and renovation of performing arts halls. Forum participants included Mary Bensel (Executive Director of the Van Wezel), Richard Russell (Executive Director of The Opera House), and Steve Turrisi (Development Associate of the Florida Studio Theatre).
As Plymouth Harbor approaches its 50-year anniversary, we hope to be in a position of upgrading Pilgrim Hall in a way that meets the expectations of the audiences regardless of the use. This Foundation Forum was the first step in our due diligence as we heard from the leadership of the Van Wezel, The Opera House, and Florida Studio Theatre. They shared with us the range of entertainment they offer and what they have learned during their respective upgrading projects.
A little background…Plymouth Harbor’s Pilgrim Hall was opened in the 1960s. Outside of some occasional sound system upgrades, enhanced video capabilities, and the addition of lighting and new seating (dating back at least 25 years), there has not been a focus on changes.
During these nearly 50 years, we have experienced a full gamut of group activities in Pilgrim Hall, resulting in its use as “multi-purpose.” We all realize that there are challenges when using the same venue for a musical performance, lecture, or video presentation.
Of the many comments made during the Forum, one notable was that Sarasota residents are blessed with the quality and quantity of arts venues in the city. Panel experts commented that Sarasota’s venues attract performances and productions of major-city proportions, such as Philadelphia, Chicago, and Kansas City, while still being considered a small city. We are very lucky.