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Venice Little Theatre

Nineteen miles south of Sarasota is the beautiful island of Venice, Florida. With the Intracoastal Waterway to the east and the Gulf of Mexico to the west, it was developed by the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers (BLE) from 1925 to 1927; the estimated cost was $16 million. The great depression that began in 1929 forced the BLE into receivership and the city of Venice became a ghost town.

Today it is a mecca for boating, fishing and golf, a visitor’s Shangri-La. When in the area, see the Venice Train Depot on Sarasota County’s Legacy Trail. Constructed by the BLE, the Venice Train Depot was critical to the U.S. Army/Air Force in WWII when they were training fighter pilots. It was used by the Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey Circus in the 1960s; their winter home was in Venice. The last passenger train left the depot on April 10, 1971. It is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

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A visitor’s must-attend is a performance at the Venice Theatre, formerly known as the Venice Little Theater (VLT). Performances there regularly take “Best Production” honors at the Southeastern Theater Conference.

The VLT was formed in 1950 by 40 volunteers who staged three different shows in a vacant hangar at the Venice Airport. By 1993 the attendance reached 20,000 and in 1997 their budget was $675,000. Also in 1997, the play “A Fool for Love” took “Best Production” honors at the Florida Theatre Conference. The VLT was officially commended by the Sarasota County government for outstanding accomplishments and contributions to the cultural richness of Sarasota County.

Sarasota saw their first moving picture show in 1910. The “theatre” in which the movies were run was a tent, pitched on a vacant lot at the foot of Main Street. The show was ballyhooed for weeks ahead of time and when the first movie was flashed on the screen, the tent was packed – and scores of people stood outside, waiting for the next performance. Saturday, November 12, 1910 was a big night for Sarasota. Three shows a week were held. The crowds were so good that the owner of the tent show bought a larger tent and pitched it at Seventh and Central. To prove how up-to-date he was, he installed a player piano to take the place of the ordinary graphophone! In 1912 he gave Sarasota its first indoor theatre when he leased the entire ground floor of the Tonnelier Building. The theatre was called the Palms.

The Venice Little Theatre officially changed its name in 2008 to the Venice Theatre because as its board said, “We are not little anymore.” Venice Theatre has been deemed the third-largest community theatre in the country by the American Association of Community Theatre. It currently produces four series that give audiences the opportunity to see traditional Broadway-style shows (Main Stage), contemporary words (Stage II), light musical revues (Cabaret) and family-friendly fare (Generations). Add to this a variety of concerts and special events, classes and outreach projects, and you will rarely find a quiet day or night at Venice Theatre. VLT core values include a commitment to: integrity, inclusiveness, fairness, excellence, accessibility, accountability and growth.

You’re entertainment is assured. The Venice Theatre telephone number is 941-488-1115.

Copyright © Leland Desmon for One Image Media Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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