Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Florida - West Coast

Ringling International Arts Festival
The Ringling Museum of Art
Review by William S. Oser | Season Schedule

Also see Bill's recent reviews of Assassins and Gypsy

Gravity & Other Myths
Photo by Steve Ullathorne
It's mid October in Sarasota and time for the 2016 edition of the Ringling International Arts Festival (October 13-16, 2016). Launched in 2009, the festival exceeded all expectations from the very beginning and now is a yearly event. It brings together acts that might best be described as "fringe" from all over the world. I have incredible memories of some of the shows I have seen, and several have gone onto my list of the greatest things I have ever seen.

I began on opening evening with Gravity & Other Myths' A Simple Space. Seven incredible acrobats from Australia and musician/performer Elliot Zoerner performed a one-hour show that featured what could be described as super human strength, but that wouldn't begin to do justice to what the audience was treated to. The show consisted of ensemble sections, everyone coming together to perform all manner of formations, tumbling and every kind of acrobatic trick imaginable. In between these sections were set pieces. The first set piece had three of the men in a competition of strip jump rope. The person who missed had to remove an item of clothing, shirt first, pants next and, yes, skivvies. At the show I attended, Elliot was the loser and had to perform some rope jumping with his hands over his most personal attributes. Another set piece had two women being thrown all over by the men, including criss-crossing each other from one group of men to the other. In my favorite piece, Lewie West went flying, then landing on all the men's backs and legs, just everywhere. The entire group was unbelievably good, performing for a solid hour with no downtime.

We returned on Friday for a double-header, first The Pianist, a "solo comic contemporary circus piece" starring Thomas Monckton. The show was one hour of very good slapstick comedy centered around a grand piano. Every piece of slapstick shtick ever tried in the last 100 years seemed to make its way into this show. Your hapless critic was drawn into the mayhem during the show, assisting Mr. Monckton onto the stage a couple of times. Unfortunately, slapstick comedy is not one of my great theatrical loves, so the show left me a little cold, but the audience around me were sending gales of laughter into the world.

Next was 17 Border Crossings, a theater piece by Thaddeus Phillips. Mr. Phillips told us stories of his and other people's journeys across borders, all over the world. The theatrical elements consisted of a wooden table, a coffee mug, and a lighting element which provided much of the fascination, thanks to David Todaro's brilliant lighting design. Twice during the one-hour, 20-minute running time, the table was tipped on its side and the audience got an arresting view of things. The vignettes were variable, some much more interesting than others. I had extreme difficulty hearing Mr. Phillips at times, thereby losing the arc of several of the stories. The connection between each of the stories was unclear, especially when switching characters. The one unifying theme I could garner was the variability of the people who protect borders and the extreme importance of passports.

Other events I was not able to take in included two dance pieces, doug elkins choreography, etc. and B.A.N.G.S.: made in america by LMn03; Eighth Blackbird; a contemporary classical ensemble; and cellist Matt Haimovitz playing three concerts in three different locations, each containing at least one of the six Bach suites for cello.

The Ringling International Arts Festival scores with a great variety of unusual performances and performers from all over the world. Now the powers that be at Ringling Museum will begin planning the 2017 edition.

Ringling International Arts Festival, produced by Ringling Museum of Art on October 13-16, 2016, at 5401 Bay Shore Road, Sarasota, FL 34243 1-800-660-4278 (Box Office), or

Gravity & Other Myths, A Simple Space
Cast: Lachlan Binns
Jascha Boyce
Jacob Randall
Martin Schreiber
Joann Curry
Lewie West
Simon McClure
Musician: Elliot Zoerner

The Pianist
Produced by Circo Aereo & Thomas Monckton
Direction & Planning: Thomas Monckton & Sanna Silvennoinen
Lighting Design: Juho Rahijärvi
Sound Design: Tuomas Norvio
Costume Design: Kati Mantere
Stage Manager: Anna Hunscott
Technical Director: Ian Dixon-Wilson

17 Border Crossings
Creation, Production Design and Performance: Thaddeus Phillips
Dramaturgy: Patrick Kealy
Direction: Tatiana Mallarino
Lights: David Todaro
Sound Design: Robert Kaplowitz
Production Manger: Spencer Sheridan

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