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Our History

From the origins of our name, to the stages on which we have performed, the 'Asolo' story is rich in history –  both in our community and abroad. For those of us who have played a part in the story, it is familiar. For others, it is newly discovered. But for all of us, it is a treasure.

The word ‘Asolo’ originated in Asolo, Italy with a lovely 18th-century theater acquired by the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art for its collection more than 50 years ago. In this little jewel of a theatre, a fledgling acting company, founded by faculty of Florida State University (FSU), began performing a summer series of plays first as the Asolo Theatre Festival and later as the Asolo Theatre Company.

Later, the company grew to become the respected first State Theatre of Florida, eventually evolving into a year-round professional theatre, a member of the prestigious League of Resident Theatres (LORT). In 1973, the theatre officially partnered with the FSU School of Theatre to mentor the actors in its MFA program – a relationship which became the highly acclaimed FSU/Asolo Conservatory for Actor Training.

The acting company and its audiences eventually outgrew the Ringling's Historic Asolo Theater, and the company moved into its current home within the FSU Center for the Performing Arts, where it has enjoyed notable success.

Our Timeline

1960

Faculty of Florida State University start a summer acting company in Sarasota, which performs in the Ringling Museum's Historic Asolo Theater and soon becomes known as the Asolo Theatre Festival.

1965

Asolo Theatre Festival becomes the first State Theatre of Florida.

1966

Asolo Theatre Festival becomes a year-round professional theatre and a member of prestigious League of Resident Theatres (LORT).

1968

FSU begins sending acting students to complete internships with the company.

1973

FSU's MFA in Acting program comes to Sarasota and the FSU/Asolo Conservatory for Actor Training is born.

1989

Company outgrows the Historic Asolo at the Ringling and dedicates a new building – Asolo Center for the Performing Arts. The Dunfermline Opera House is purchased from Scotland and reconstructed inside the Center, becoming the Mertz Theatre in honor of its benefactors, Harold E. and Esther M. Mertz.

1990

Company begins performing in the Center and the Mertz Theatre becomes its new mainstage.

1991

 Center's name is changed to FSU Center for the Performing Arts.

1994

Jane B. Cook Theatre opens and becomes the main performance venue for the Conservatory, and second stage for Asolo Theatre Company.

2003

Centennial celebration for the Mertz theatre.

2006

The Asolo Theatre Company renamed Asolo Repertory Theatre. The Historic Asolo Theater at the Ringling Museum reopens as a venue and exhibit. The Conservatory gives first guest theatrical performance in the Ringling's Historic Asolo Theater.

2007

Asolo Rep gives first guest theatrical performance in the Ringling's Historic Asolo Theater.

2008

Stephen Schwartz works with Asolo Rep to re-imagine an updated production of Working, with new songs by Tony Award-winning Lin-Manuel Miranda. Barnum, produced by Asolo Rep in co-production with Maltz Jupiter Theatre, and starring Brad Oscar, enjoys a sell-out run and goes on to win multiple Carbonell Awards.

2009

Asolo Rep presents another notable world premiere with Jason Wells' award-winning production of Perfect MendacityContact is produced in a landmark partnership with The Sarasota Ballet. Asolo Rep’s production of The Life of Galileo garners national attention and an outstanding review by the Wall Street Journal’s Terry Teachout.

2010

Asolo Rep produces Bonnie & Clyde,  starring Laura Osnes (reprising the role she originated at La Jolla Playhouse) and Jeremy Jordan (debuting as Clyde in Sarasota). Jeff Calhoun directed the musical, which featured a book by Ivan Menchell, lyrics by Don Black, and music by Frank Wildhorn. Bonnie & Clyde received national attention and moved to Broadway’s Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre for a fall of 2011 opening, starring Osnes and Jordan.

2011

Twelve Angry Men, directed by Tony Award-winner Frank Galati, gaines national attention with a rave review by the Wall Street Journal’s Terry Teachout.

2012

Asolo Rep is awarded WEDU's seventh annual BE MORE Arts & Culture Award, honoring Tampa Bay area non-profit organizations. Asolo Rep earns recognition with this award for contribution to the spirit of adventure and exploration through education in the arts, and bringing rich and engaging experiences to audiences.

Once in a Lifetime, directed by Mark Rucker, receives national attention from a rave review by the Wall Street Journal’s Terry Teachout.

Asolo Rep’s production of Yentl and its music composer Jill Sobule are featured on NPR’s All Things Considered: Weekend Edition. The national broadcast featured original music from the show.