“Hermitage Sunsets @ Benderson Park” Kicks Off New Season on November 16

The Hermitage Artist Retreat announces a newly developed partnership with Nathan Benderson Park as a part of the Hermitage’s 2023-2024 season. Expanding on the success of the Hermitage programming at Selby Gardens and other venues throughout the region, the new “Hermitage Sunsets @ Benderson Park” series launches this year following a popular Hermitage program at the park last season. That event featured award-winning composer and Hermitage alumna Zoe Sarnak and an ensemble of performers who shared Sarnak’s original songs as a part of the Ruby E. Crosby Alumni Music Initiative at the Hermitage. Each program in the “Hermitage Sunsets @ Benderson Park” series will feature a celebrated Hermitage artist (or artists) to be announced. The outdoor series features performances and explorations of works-in-progress by Hermitage artists-in-residence and alumni.

“Hermitage Sunsets @ Benderson Park” events are currently scheduled to take place by Benderson Lake near the Nathan Benderson Family Finish Tower (5851 Nathan Benderson Circle, Sarasota, FL 34235). The first event in this series – scheduled for Thursday, November 16th at 5pm – features two of the most innovative voices working in theater today. “Hermitage Sunsets @ Benderson Park: Theater on the Lake” showcases the talents of Hermitage Fellows Terry Guest and James Anthony Tyler. These two talentssplit the bill to share some of their latest work and discuss the creative process as the sun goes down over the lake. This first program in the new series is presented in partnership with Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe, Urbanite Theatre, and Nathan Benderson Park Conservancy. Admission is free, but registration is required ($5/person) at HermitageArtistRetreat.org.

“As we continue to offer one-of-a-kind Hermitage programming throughout the region, we are excited to welcome Sarasota and Gulf Coast audiences to another fantastic venue where they can share a magical evening with Hermitage artists against the beautiful backdrop of Nathan Benderson Park’s lakefront location,” says Hermitage Artistic Director and CEO Andy Sandberg. “We are thrilled to build upon the success of our first program at Nathan Benderson Park last spring. Much like our beach programs on Manasota Key and other locations throughout Sarasota and Manatee County, these hour-long events will offer our community the opportunity to experience a ‘sneak peek’ into these extraordinary artists’ creative process.” 

“We are honored to partner with the Hermitage Artist Retreat to celebrate the arts at Nathan Benderson Park,” added Bruce C. Patneaude, Chief Operating Officer of Nathan Benderson Park Conservancy. “The artists coming to the Hermitage are some of the very best in the world. It is a unique opportunity to watch their creative performances and interactions with the audience. Hosting this event at the Park is one of the many ways we are pleased to bring creativity, diversity, and culture to the Sarasota County and Manatee County communities. We look forward to building a fantastic annual series of events.” 

Hermitage Fellow and award-winning writer-performer Terry Guest is the playwright behind Urbanite Theatre’s extended 2021 run of At the Wake of a Dead Drag Queen, their upcoming production of Oak in 2024, and the Hermitage’s 2023 presentation of The Madness of Mary Todd, which was part of the “Hermitage Sunsets @ Selby Gardens” series, also in partnership with Urbanite. Guest, a Chicago-based playwright, also recently shared selections from his work about Eartha Kitt, A Ghost in Satin, on the Hermitage Beach. His play The Magnolia Ballet has been performed all around the country and was the recipient of two Jeff Awards in Chicago, with Guest’s play Marie Antionette and the Magical Negros winning three Jeff Awards. “We are thrilled to once again partner with the Hermitage in support of Terry’s remarkable work,” said Urbanite Producing Artistic Director Summer Dawn Wallace. “Sharing insight into Terry’s process at this scenic outdoor venue is the perfect way to get audiences tuned into this brilliant writer’s voice and excited for this season’s production of Oak.” 

Hermitage Fellow James Anthony Tyler, the third annual recipient of the Horton Foote Award, has the distinguished honor of being one of the first playwrights commissioned by Audible to produce an audio play specifically for that platform, Hop Tha A, which Sarasota audiences will recall hearing selections from on the Hermitage Beach during Tyler’s last residency. “James’ works tell the kinds of stories we uplift at WBTT, those that promote and celebrate African-American history and experience,” added Nate Jacobs, Founder and Artistic Director of Westcoast Black Theater Troupe. “We always enjoy partnering with the Hermitage to celebrate some of the nation’s most exciting new voices and playwrights.”

Confirmed 2023-2024 dates for this first official season of “Hermitage Sunsets @ Benderson Park” include Thursday, November 16, 2023, at 5pm; Friday, February 2, 2024, at 5pm; and Thursday, March 14, 2024, at 6:30pm.

These outdoor events are one part of many “Hermitage North” programs, series, and collaborations planned throughout the season, spanning Sarasota County and the surrounding region. The programs feature industry-leading and award-winning playwrights, visual artists, musicians, poets, choreographers, and more — all free to the members of our community with a $5/person registration fee.