German antiquarian, Adolph Loewi, had the foresight to purchase the Asolo Theater at that time for storage in his private collection. A. Everett Austin, Jr., who served as the first director of the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, saw the theater in Loewi’s collection and it was love at first sight. Austin purchased the theater and it was brought to Sarasota in the late 1940s.
Today, the Asolo is the only 18th century theater on American soil. During a recent renovation, completed in 2006, the theater moved to a new location on the museum grounds and underwent an extensive cataloguing, cleaning and conservation of the pieces, which were in desperate need of repair. “The theater is historic. You step into it and look to the past. But when it came to Sarasota, it brought possibility and promise and represented a future,” says Dwight Currie, associate director for museum programs at the Ringling Museum. The Historic Asolo Theater was the birthplace for a lot of the theater and music that we enjoy today in Sarasota. It’s not just a dead museum piece. It’s very much alive and forward looking.” What was once a playhouse fit for royalty is now a theater worthy of iconic status in Sarasota’s rich arts community.