By Jessi Smith
Like a living and breathing entity, the Ringling International Arts Festival (RIAF) evolves and reinvents itself each year with genre-defying music, dance and theatre performances that draw crowds from every corner of the world. RIAF has weathered growing pains and established itself as a cornerstone of Sarasota’s art and culture scene, and as it enters its fourth year, the festival is tighter than ever.
This will be the first year I attend the RIAF and I am excited to add my voice to the buzz that surrounds Sarasota’s premiere performing arts festival. In fact, I am already in the process of drawing up my list of “must see” performances.
Perched at the top of that list is New York City’s Mark Morris Dance Group (MMDG), which kicks off RIAF’s opening night celebration with an October 10 performance. The dance group is internationally acclaimed for its tightly-choreographed, innovative and humor-infused performances that are executed with a level of cohesive fluidity few dance companies fully achieve. YouTube videos can only do so much justice, for the MMDG is clearly meant to be experienced in person in an elegant setting like the 500-seat Mertz Theatre, where subsequent performances will take place October 11, 12 and 13.
Next on the list is The Pig Iron Theatre Company, a self-described “dance-clown-theatre ensemble,” that appeals to my inner bibliophile with its upcoming production of Zero Cost House, a fresh and semi-autobiographical play about moving out of Tokyo that doubles as a re-working of Henry David Thoreau’s Walden. The play, which makes its world premiere at the Philadelphia Live Arts Festival in September before taking the stage at RIAF in the intimate 161-seat Cook Theatre, promises to be zany, comical and elaborately-costumed; an absurd treat I simply cannot wait to enjoy.
Although the opening reception took center stage as the festival highlight in previous years, RIAF 2012 is pulling out all the stops to host an epic grand finale at the October 13 wrap party. New Orleans’ internationally-acclaimed The Dirty Dozen Brass Band will rock the Ringling Museum courtyard with the same jazzy, funky genre-warping riffs that scored them a place on the lineup at private parties hosted by the Rolling Stones more than 30 years ago, closing out RIAF 2012 with a bigger bang than ever.
These are but a few of the highlights of RIAF 2012. Stay tuned in upcoming months as we fill you in on everything you need to know about what to expect at this year’s festival. In the meantime, take a peek at RIAF 2012 brochure and leave a comment telling us which performances you’re most looking forward to attending!