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Downstage Pays Off

If you're tired of the same old, same old in theater, check this out:  Three alums of the Downstage Miami playwrights' program (it's now known as the "Playwright Development Program," still run by the Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs) are going to have world premieres at South Florida theaters over the next month.

Tic3_wkend21_likeness_photo_2 First up is Likeness by David Caudle. The play by the Miamian-turned-New Yorker officially opens Saturday at New Theatre, where it will run through Oct. 28.  This one is about a Boston painter (Matthew Leddy) who must create the perfect portrait of a British loyalist's daughter (Vanessa Thompson) in the turbulent days before the American Revolution.  Caudle, whose play The Sunken Living Room premiered at New Theatre and won the Southern New Plays Festival in 2005, has lured two colleagues from Lincoln Center -- costume designer Lynn Bowling and wig master Lazaro Arencibia -- to Coral Gables to work on his newest play.

Also premiering in the next few weeks are two more Downstage Miami-bred plays. 

Juan_sanchez_4 Juan C. Sanchez, who once worked as the house manager at the still-dark Coconut Grove Playhouse, has a second world premiere at the Davie-based Promethean Theatre, after 2005's Buck Fever. His new play, Red Tide, is an adults-only thriller about two brothers and the woman who gets between them. It opens Oct. 12 and runs through Oct. 28 in the Mailman Hollywood Theatre on the Nova Southeastern University campus.

Marco_ramirez_2 On Nov. 2, another Downstage Miami grad, Marco Ramirez, will be in the house at Miami's Mad Cat Theatre for the premiere of his full-length play, Mr. Beast.  Ramirez, who works as literary manager for City Theatre and its annual Summer Shorts festival, won the prestigious Heideman Award for his short play I Am Not Batman, which got its premiere during the Humana Festival of New American Plays earlier this year.  Mad Cat founder and artistic director Paul Tei describes Mr. Beast, which will run for four weeks in the Light Box performance space, as "a horror play set in a small town that has been recently inundated with a series of attacks."

It's true that, despite being home to talented playwrights like Nilo Cruz, Michael McKeever and Mario Diament, this part of the world has been behind the curve in terms of nurturing new works by local writers.  But thanks in part to Downstage Miami, that facet of South Florida theater is taking off.

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