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17 posts from March 2008

March 31, 2008

An honor and a mystery

Laufer_2Deborah Zoe Laufer had a wonderful weekend. After all, it isn't every Saturday night that a playwright gets to stand on the biggest stage at Actors Theatre of Louisville, in front of a Humana Festival crowd full of producers, artistic directors, critics and theater lovers from all over the world, and get both an award citation and a check for $7,500.  But that's what happened to Laufer on March 29.

Laufer and fellow playwright Sarah Ruhl were honored for, in essence, having written two of the three best plays of 2007, in the estimation of the American Theatre Critics Association (ATCA) and the Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust.  An ATCA committee read 28 new plays submitted by its members, chosing Moises Kauffman's 33 Variations (which debuted at Washington's Arena Stage) for the top $25,000 prize, giving citations and $7,500 each to Ruhl for Dead Man's Cell Phone (which premiered at Washington's Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company) and Laufer for End Days.

Enddays Though Laufer lives outside New York City, End Days has a major South Florida connection.  Like two earlier Laufer scripts, it premiered at Florida Stage in Manalapan.  Here's the first sentence of the review I wrote after the play opened last October:  "End Days, Deborah Zoe Laufer's rapturously funny play about a family trying to survive in a world hurtling toward Armageddon, proves that the right playwright can inspire healing laughter in even the most sobering subjects." (I might change that last bit to "...through even the most sobering subjects" if I were writing it today, but oh well.)

I share this information not just because the Steinberg/ATCA citation is a much-deserved honor for a talented playwright (it is) but because the ATCA committee saw End Days much differently than did those who recommend productions for Carbonell Awards consideration.  The Carbonells, which will take place again on April 7 at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, are South Florida's equivalent of the Joseph Jefferson Awards, the Helen Hayes Awards, whatever awards program you can think of that honors theater in a community.

  But when the nominees are read out at the ceremony on Monday, those in attendance will not hear Laufer's name or End Days on that short list.  That's because the local group that considered End Days last October decided it wasn't nomination-worthy.  The mysteries of the Carbonell recommendation process -- and, debatably, its flaws -- have generated a lot of buzz and some fury in South Florida's theater community of late.  That process is certainly going to be on the agenda at some future Carbonell meeting, after everyone gets glammed up and this year's awards are given out. Though not to Laufer.

I'm guessing, though, that the citation at the Humana Festival and the $7,500 check are some consolation.

March 27, 2008

A Broadway star comes home

Marc Kudish, who grew up in Plantation and graduated from Florida Atlantic University, has become one of Broaday's go-to stars in recent seasons.  He earned Tony Award nominations for his performances as a comedic bad guy in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and the stuffy (but very funny) boss in Thoroughly Modern Millie.

Marckudisch For just one day, South Floridians can experience what Kudisch's fans do whenever he's in a Broadway musical: This is a guy who uses his robust baritone artfully, whether he's singing a big romantic ballad or doing the kind of amusing patter song that helped get him that Tony nomination for Millie.

Kudish, along with fellow Broadway veterans Carter Calvert, Rob Evan, Tamra Hayden and Danny Zolli, will be at the Parker Playhouse on April 12 for performances of Neil Berg's 100 Years of Broadway at 3 and 8 p.m.  Musical director Berg and a band will accompany the performers as they sing show tunes spanning a century.

Tickets are $29-$49, and the Parker is at 707 NE Eighth St. in Fort Lauderdale.  For information, call 954-462-0222 or visit the Parker web site.

March 26, 2008

Theater old and new

Here's the 411 on two productions set in days gone by, both with Florida connections.

Bartholmew_fair Miami's New World School of the Arts is about to tackle a play that no professional theater here would dare touch -- if only because it has five acts and requires a cast of 25.  (That's the polar opposite of the one-set solo shows that seem to make so much sense to budget-minded artistic directors.)  The play is Ben Jonson's Bartholomew Fair, a comedy from 1614, and faculty director Andrew Noble describes it as  "...multiple stories which are interwoven to create a rich and varied portrait of life in London."

Featuring Ashley Price, David Hemphill and Rachel Clark in its sizable company, Bartholomew Fair runs April 9-13 at New World, 25 NE Second Ave., Miami.  Performances are at 7:30 nightly except Sunday's, which is at 2 p.m.  Tickets are $12 ($5 for students and seniors).  Call 305-237-3541 or visit the New World web site.

Twocities Just announced is the Broadway run of the new musical version of Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities. The show, with a book, music and lyrics by Jill Santoriello, got its start at Sarasota's Asolo Repertory Theatre last fall.  It will begin previews at Broadway's Al Hirschfeld Theatre (currently home to the musical Curtains, which closes June 29) on Aug. 19.  Its official opening is set for Sept. 19.

When the musical set against the backdrop of the French Revolution had its world premiere at the Asolo, Broadway baritone James Barbour (who played the Broward Center last season as Sir Lancelot in Camelot), starred as the heroic Sydney Carton.  In January, Barbour pled guilty to two misdemeanor counts of endangering the welfare of a minor, stemming from sexual contact he had with a then-15-year-old girl when he was starring on Broadway in Jane Eyre.  He was sentenced to 60 days in jail and three years' probation -- and, as part of his plea bargain, had to admit that the young woman's account of their past relationship was true, something he had denied.  So: no word on whether Barbour will be Broadway's Sydney Carton.

(Carol Rosegg photo of the Asolo production)

March 25, 2008

Guys and Dolls and Underpants

Two of South Florida's premiere college theater programs are doing their spring shows in the next few weeks.

Stevemartin First up is Florida International University's production of Steve Martin's The Underpants.

The former wild-and-crazy guy adapted Carl Sternheim's banned 1911 play into a sex farce about a married woman whose undies drop to her ankles while she's watching a parade. Though her husband is scandalized, the men who saw the descending undergarments find themselves in a more lustful frame of mind.

The Underpants runs April 3-6 in the Wertheim Performing Arts Center Studio Theatre on FIU's main University Park campus. From April 10-13, it plays the Mary Ann Wolfe Theatre on the Biscayne Bay campus in North Miami.  Tickets are $10 ($8 for seniors, students and FIU alumni).  For tickets, call 305-348-3789 or visit the FIU theater website.

Guysand_dollsgroup2lights At the University of Miami, spring brings a big musical:  Guys and Dolls.  The 1950 Frank Loesser-Abe Burrows-Jo Swerling smash is set in Damon Runyon's version of New York, and it features such well-known showtunes as Luck Be a Lady, Adelaide's Lament and Sit Down, You're Rockin' the Boat. The show runs April 16-18 at the Jerry Herman Ring Theatre, 1312 Miller Dr. in Coral Gables. Tickets are $18-$20 (seniors, faculty, staff and alumni pay $16-$18; students pay $8-$10).  For information, call 305-284-3355 or visit UM's theater web site.

March 24, 2008

A premiere season at Florida Stage

Florida Stage is now presenting the world premiere of Jessica Goldberg's Ward 57, a thought-provoking play about wounded Iraq War soldiers and making sense of their sacrifice.  But premieres are nothing new at the Manalapan company, which has made the nurturing of new work its mission for the past 21 years.

Logo The just-announced 2008-2009 season brings more of the same;  four plays getting their world premieres, a fifth being one for the first time in the southeast.

Florida Stage's next season begins Oct. 22-Nov. 30 with the world premiere of Willliam Mastrosimone's Dirty Business.  The play, which generated much buzz when it was read at the company's second 1st Stage New Works Festival a few weeks ago, is based on the true story of a party girl caught between a Mafia boss and an American president. 

Next is the southeastern prmiere of Michele Lowe's Mezzulah, 1946.  The play about an aircraft plant worker who refuses to give up her job to a returning warrior runs Dec. 10-Jan. 19.  Cagney!, a musical tribute to actor-hoofer-tough guy Jimmy Cagney, follows Jan. 28-March 8, with Robert Creighton starring as Cagney.

Another play from this year's New Works Festival, Catherine Trieshmann's The Bridegroom of Blowing Rock, has its world premiere March 25-May 3, 2009.  That one is about romance and revenge in the period right after the Civil War.  Steven Dietz's Yankee Tavern, a thriller set after 9/11 (and a script read during the company's first New Works Festival), winds up the regular season from May 13 to June 21.

But...the company will also do another 1st Stage New Works Festival, a summer musical and its annual Young Playwrights and Monologue Festival.  For subscription information, go to the web site or call 1-800-514-3837.

March 21, 2008

A Miami Wonderland

Alice is going back to Wonderland, but this time with a South Florida twist.  PlayGround Theatre Artistic Director Stephanie Ansin has adapted Lewis Carroll's classic for a new production that will be seen by hundreds of families and, at last count, more than 4,000 elementary and middle school students (and those students will see the show for free).

Jeff_keogh_mad_hatter In crafting her made-in-Miami Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Ansin made Alice (played by Kristen Dawn McCorkell) a Catholic school student from Coral Gables.  The Doormouse (Melissa Almaguer) is a Spanish-speaking Cuban mouse.  The garden Alice explores is a dream version of Fairchild Tropical Gardens.  And so on.  Also in the cast are Jeff Keogh, Linda Bernhard, Edgar Caraballo, Carolina Fonseca, Gonzalo Madurga, Marjorie O'Neill-Butler and Jesus Quintero.

Co-adaptor and set-costume-lighting designer Fernando Calzadilla, a doctoral candidate at New York University; video/photo projections by Maria Teresa Alvarado; and original music/sound design by Luciano Stazzone all contribute to the Alice-goes-tropical feeling of the production.

The PlayGround production has its official premiere Saturday, March 29, at 7 p.m. at the company's theater, 9806 NE Second Ave. in Miami Shores.  It will have both school and public performances there through April 13; from April 18-20, the show will be done at Miami Beach's Colony Theatre, 1040 Lincoln Road.  Tickets are $15, but groups of 20 or more pay $10 per ticket, and students can buy a ticket through Miami-Dade County's Culture Shock program for just $5.  Call 305-751-9550, ext. 223, visit the PlayGround web site or get Colony tickets via Ticketmaster.

March 20, 2008

A company begins with a bench

Max Pearl, Darrell Calvin and Aaron Morris -- experienced theater guys all -- are getting ready for the launch of their new company, the Pinecrest Repertory Theatre.

0109051298_2 The adventure begins at 4 p.m. Saturday, March 29, when Pinecrest Rep unveils its inaugural production, a double bill of early one-acts by David Mamet (right) and Edward Albee (below).  The common thread, beyond the fact that Mamet's Duck Variations and Albee's Zoo Story are the young works of great dramatists? Both plays take place on a park bench.

In Duck Variations, two elderly men talk about ducks, yes, but their conversation ranges over friendship, life and death.  In Zoo Story, a middle class man and a volatile younger one meet on a bench in Central Park, with disturbing results.

0204081903 Pinecrest Rep will perform in the 550-seat Banyan Bowl at Pinecrest Gardens, the former home of Parrot Jungle, at 11000 Red Rd. in Pinecrest.  Tickets are just $10 -- for for students, seniors and members of the military, $8.  Though the opening performance is at 4 p.m., subsequent ones are at 2 p.m.  Performance dates are March 29-30, April 12-13, April 20, April 27 and May 3.  Pearl directs an acting company that includes Mitchell Carrey, Brian McCormack, Steve Schlam, Gary Solomon and Skye Whitcomb.

For information, call 305-720-0811 or go to the Pinecrest Rep web site.

March 19, 2008

Special theater awards

Each year South Florida's theater community -- well, a great deal of it, from Miami-Dade to Palm Beach County -- gathers at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts to recognize some of the best work done at the region's many theaters during the previous year.  The annual Carbonell Awards, which will take place on Monday, April 7, at 7:30 p.m. in the Broward Center's Amaturo Theater, also give out several special honors, including the George Abbott Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Arts. It goes this year to Jack Zink, longtime Sun-Sentinel theater critic, for his many contributions to theater, to the evolution of the Carbonells themselves and to the work he did as president of the American Theatre Critics Association foundation. The hard-working, multi-tasking Zink becomes the first person to win the Abbott Award twice.

The recipients of three other special awards were announced today. 

Deacha_2 The Bill Hindman Award -- an honor very close to my heart, as it is named for my late father -- goes to New Theatre founder Rafael de Acha.  The award recognizes significant long-term contributions to the region's cultural life.  As artistic director of a theater where a multicultural company performed classics and new work, De Acha was responsible for helping get the commission that led to Nilo Cruz's Anna in the Tropics, a play that made Cruz the first Latino winner of the Pulitzer Prize for drama after its world premiere at New Theatre.  De Acha also directed my dad in many productions, giving him a real working "home" toward the end of his life and becoming his dear friend.

Michael_hall_12707sigvision_2 Also being honored at this year's Carbonells is Michael Hall, founder and artistic director of Boca Raton's 33-year-old Caldwell Theatre Company.  Hall is being given the Ruth Foreman Award, named in honor of the late producer-director who was long known as Florida's "First Lady of Theater."  The Foreman recognizes contributions to South Florida theater development, and Hall is getting it for his achievement in guiding his company's new $10 million Count de Hoernle Theatre from dream to reality.

Phone22_lasher_trop_clw The third honor, the Howard Kleinberg Award, goes to the Theatre League of South Florida.  Named for former Miami News editor Howard Kleinberg, it recognizes contributions to the health and development of the arts in South Florida.  Meredith Lasher, the League's current president, will accept the award at the Carbonell ceremony.

Congratulations to all!

March 18, 2008

Summertime dreamin'

Florida Stage traditionally does a musical revue in the summer, usually something full of show tunes that appeal to its loyal and undeniably (how to say this?) vintage group of theatergoers.

Mamaspapas The Manalapan company has just announced this summer's show and -- surprise! -- it's actually full of songs that were popular after the 1940s and '50s, and in a different genre.

Dream a Little Dream, subtitled "The Nearly True Story of the Mamas and The Papas," is a bio-musical put together by Paul Ledoux and the late Denny Doherty, one of the members of the powerhouse '60s folk-rock group (that's Doherty waving in the photo at left, in back of Cass Elliot, who's beside Michelle and John Phillips).

An evolved version of a show which had an Off-Broadway run in 2003 as a vehicle for Doherty, Dream a Little Dream tells the story of the group and runs through its biggest hits: California Dreamin', Monday Monday, Dedicated to the One I Love, Creeque Alley and, of course, Dream a Little Dream.

It will play Florida Stage from June 25 through Aug. 31; right now, only subscribers and groups can buy tickets, but anyone can starting May 1.  For info, call 1-800-514-3837.

And yes, I do realize that to people in their 20s, 30s, maybe 40s, a Mamas and Papas revue might feel as old school as a Rodgers and Hart show feels to Baby Boomers.  But hey -- it's progress!

March 13, 2008

Lifting the curtain on Caldwell's summer lineup

Boca Raton's Caldwell Theatre Company, which will wind up its first regular season in the spiffy new $10 million Count de Hoernle Theatre with a production of Tuesdays With Morrie, doesn't plan to let that expensive real estate stay dormant over the summer.

Doubt Its three-show summer lineup begins June 20-July 6 with Pete 'n' Keely, a musical about singing sweethearts who reunite for a live television show in 1968 after not speaking for five years.  Carbonell Award winner Connie SaLoutos plays Keely in the musical by James Hindman.

John Patrick Shanley's Pulitzer Prize-winning Doubt, the play that inaugurated the Caldwell's new home in December, returns Aug. 1-17 with the same cast:  Amy Montminy, Pat Nesbit, Terry Hardcastle (pictured at left) and Pat Bowie, nominated for a Carbonell Award for her performance in the play.

Last is David C. Hyer's Lying in State, a crazy comedy that skewers politicians.  Though probably no moreso than they manage to skewer themselves. It runs Sept. 5-21.  The Caldwell is offering tickets to a single play or the option of two- or three-show subscriptions. One play costs $34 or $38; two are $60 or $70; three are $84 or $93, depending on seat location.  For information, call 561-241-7432, 1-877-245-7432 or visit the Caldwell web site.