There aren't too many performers who have had a longer or more varied stage career than Sarasota's Ann Morrison.
Morrison has been a constant presence on and off-Broadway since 1981, when Harold Prince and Stephen Sondheim chose her to originate the role of Mary in "Merrily We Roll Along."
Since then, she's starred in "Lovemusik" on Broadway, "Peg" in London's West End and "Goblin Market" and "Forbidden Broadway" Off-Broadway.
In recent years, she's focused on solo shows that she writes herself or in collaboration with her ex-husband and still-soulmate Blake Walton. A few weeks ago she performed one of those shows, the cabaret "Now You Know: An Evening of Steve, Lenny and Annie," at St. Petersburg's freeFall Theatre. The show is a reminiscence about her Broadway career and her work with Stephen Sondheim and Leonard Bernstein.
"It was amazing, and I do not say that lightly," said Matthew McGee, a longtime theater professional and community outreach director for freeFall. "It was one of the best cabaret shows I've ever seen."
She'll be talking about her solo work, and performing selections, on Thursday at the Historic Asolo Theater in Sarasota.
"It'll be very informal," Morrison said. "It'll be me and my pianist and I'll be sitting there singing and talking."
She's calling it a "presentation," but it's not as dry as that sounds. It's part performance and part friendly chat, and ought to entertain anyone who's interested in the process of theater.
Whether you call it a "presentation" or a "performance," it's an outgrowth of her 2010 John Ringling Towers Fund Award for Individual Performing Artists. The award is a cash grant to help an artist develop new work. Besides the cash, the artist gets a six-week residency at the Hermitage Artist Retreat and an opportunity to do a presentation at the Historic Asolo Theater.
"I'll do pieces from my cabaret shows, I'll do pieces from my new show, 'Word Painting,' " she said. "It's just about how I go about creating one of my shows. It's about that process."
In addition to seeing Morrison perform excerpts from that brand-new show, the full title of which is "Word Painting: Soliloquies Around an Easel" at the Historic Asolo Theater, local audiences will soon have a chance to see it in its entirety. Morrison will perform the show Oct. 31 and Nov. 4-5 at Home Resource furniture store at 741 Central Ave. in Sarasota that occasionally hosts theater.
"It's different points of view from around an easel," she said. "So the painter speaks, the model speaks, critic and even the painting itself speaks at one point."
The presentation at the Historic Asolo Theater, part of the hermitage Artist of Our Time series, starts at 7 p.m. Thursday4. It's free to Ringling members and to people who have purchased a ticket to the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art for that day. It's $5 for everyone else. For reservations and information, call 941-360-7399 or visit www.hermirtageartistretreat.org.
Marty Clear, features writer/columnist, can be reached at 941-708-7919. Follow twitter.com/martinclear.