Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

A Dream Fulfilled

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

A Dream Fulfilled

Article excerpt

Every opening is a special occasion, holding so much promise. But some opening nights are a bit more special, a time when the event itself becomes far bigger than just the show you've come to see.

There was some of that feeling when the Manatee Performing Arts Center opened on March 28 as the new home of the Manatee Players. Supporters, government officials and board members had been waiting for this night for nearly a decade, so you can imagine the anticipatory buzz during the pre-show reception.

It had been eight years since ground was broken (and even longer since fundraising began), so there was a lot more than just idle curiosity about the building. Some of those in attendance had put a lot of effort into ensuring that the building got finished.

Some in the black-tie crowd compared the opening to something of a miracle. I wouldn't go that far, but it sure was exciting to be part of that audience, taking in what looks like a building filled with splendor and lots of possibilities.

To be sure, the performing arts center isn't quite finished yet. Work crews cleared out just in time for the opening night of "Miss Saigon." The paint was barely dried on the walls, and there may have been dust floating around in the closed-off stairwells from last- minute sweeping.

But what patrons could see looked warm and inviting. There's not yet much in the way of decoration to speak of, other than a chandelier on loan from the Sarasota Opera that was featured in the film "Gone with the Wind." It serves as an old-fashioned touch in a more contemporary-looking building.

Even with hundreds of people milling about in the lobby, comparing notes and noshing on some antipasto and drinks, there was never a sense of feeling crowded in the large open area.

To the east side is a bar surrounded by small tables where patrons eventually will be able to dine before performances, or where cabaret shows might be staged.

Inside Stone Hall, the larger of the building's two theaters, audiences will be equally impressed. It has been designed in a curved shape that makes even the back row feel relatively close to the stage. …

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