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17 posts from March 2008

March 12, 2008

An original work takes flight

Artist and playwright Vanessa Garcia is a Miami-born Cuban-American who is making art in her hometown after graduating (summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa) from Barnard College in 2001.  Her Miami company, The Krane, is home to a group of versatile artists who do both visual arts and theater projects, one of which is debuting now in Coconut Grove.

Cristinamorrisonandnicolegarciaasam Garcia's  Cloudcuckooland, subtitled "A Play About Life, Love and Miami," is inspired by Aristophanes' The Birds.  Set in present-day Miami, it follows a mid-20s Cuban-American woman named Bobby as she decides to enter a competition to build a flying machine.  In her dreams, she encounters lost aviatrix Amelia Earhart (that's Cristina Morrison as Earhart and Nicole Garcia as Bobby in Stefan Pinto's photo at left) and another woman who's good at flying, Mary Poppins.  The play explores love, faith, determination and the bonds of family, in a city where hope and danger coexist.

Cloudcuckooland, an adventurous young artist's reaction to a classic, is definitely not the same old thing in South Florida theater.  It runs this weekend at Abanico Theatre, 3138 Commodore Plaza, Coconut Grove.  Performances are 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday.  Tickets are $25 ($15 for students, $7 for children).  For info, call 305-450-9931.

March 11, 2008

Let them entertain (and enlighten) you

For the third year running, South Florida's sprawling theater community -- which stretches from Key West in the south to Jupiter in the north -- is celebrating the richness and sheer number of its offerings with the annual South Florida Theatre Festival.

Theater_league The region's producers and artistic directors (some pictured in Michael Murphy's photo: in front row, left to right, Joseph Adler of GableStage, Barbara Stein of Actors' Playhouse, Stephanie Norman of City Theatre, Richard Jay Simon of MosaicTheatre; back row, left to right, Avi Hoffman of New Vista Theatre, Nan Barnett of Florida Stage, Meredith Lasher of the Women's Theatre Project and Antonio Amadeo of the Naked Stage) are trying to introduce theater fans to their companies with discounted tickets, play readings and three special forums during the festival, which runs through May 12.

The forums begin March 25 with a session on gay and lesbian theater, to be held at the ArtServe Auditorium, 1350 E. Sunrise Blvd., Fort Lauderdale, with critic/editor Mary Damiano moderating.  A forum on ethnic theater takes place April 22 at New Theatre, 4120 Laguna St. in Coral Gables, with Channel 10 anchor Charles Perez moderating.  A Yiddish theater forum is set for May 5 at New Vista Theatre, 12811 Glades Rd., Boca Raton, with Gail Garrisan moderating a panel that will include Hoffman and Tony-nominated actor Bruce Adler.  All sessions are free and begin at 7 p.m.

Tlsf_poster_1 Theatre League board president Meredith Lasher points out that the festival encompasses 40 shows at 37 theaters in four counties, adding, "Theaters are producing free events that are open to the public, like play readings and workshops.  They are holding talk-backs after their shows to invite audiences to have a peek behind the curtain and learn more about the inner workings of theater...there is certainly something for everyone to enjoy."

As the winning festival poster, which was designed by playwright-actor-set designer-graphic artist Michael McKeever, conveys, there's a lot that's festive about this festival.  Theatremania is sponsoring an audience favorite contest, taking votes at each theater and at the South Florida Theatre website, with the winning theater in each county receiving $1,000 and marketing support.  An audience member will win too:   One person whose name is drawn from those entries will receive subscriptions to GableStage, the Broward Center and Florida Stage for next season.  There will also be an online Celebrity Cruise auction.

The closing party on May 12, to be held at Stork's Cafe, 1109 E. Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale, will be an awards bash, with the presentation of the Theatre League's Lifetime Achievement Award, the REMY Award for service to the League and the Silver Palm Awards, citations for excellence during the festival. The party is free to League members, $25 for anyone else who'd like to join in the celebration.

But meanwhile, check out what the hoopla is all about, and see a show.

March 10, 2008

A chilling play, a call for entries and an honor

Pillowman It has been a Martin McDonagh-rich season in South Florida so far, beginning with GableStage's bloody wonderful Carbonell Award-nominated The Lieutenant of Inishmore, followed by Naked Stage's beautifully acted study of spiteful brothers in The Lonesome West.  GableStage won several Carbonells last year for its terrific production of McDonagh's The Pillowman, and if you missed that one, you have another chance to see the play.

The theater department at Broward Community College is tackling McDonagh's shocking script about the interrogation of a writer in a totalitarian state, a writer whose chilling stories about children are being replicated in real life.  The Pillowman begins performances Thursday at 8 p.m. at the Fine Arts Theatre in Bldg. 6 of the main campus, 3501 SW Davie Rd. in Davie. It runs through March 22, with shows at 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and 2 p.m. Saturday matinees.  Tickets are $10 ($5 if you attend or work at BCC).  Call 954-201-6884 for info.


Ryan_capiro_jpg97x152_2  The sixth annual Lavender Footlights Festival is happening May 31 and June 1 at Miami's Museum of Science & Planetarium.  But the deadline for submitting scripts for the play-reading event is much sooner: March 24.  Plays (no musicals or screenplays) must have themes of interest to the gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender community.  Submissions need to have a cover letter with return address, contact information and a statement that the play hasn't been produced in Florida; a copy of the script and a one-page synopsis if the play is full length. Mail submissions to festival artistic director Ryan Capiro (that's Ryan at left), Lavendar Footlights Festival, PO Box 942107, Miami, FL 33194-2107.  You can also submit via Email.


Merrily_we_roll_alongGood news for Erik Liberman, the Miami-raised actor and New World School of the Arts grad who played Charley in Stephen Sondheim's Merrily We Roll Along at Virginia's Signature Theatre last season.  All three leads in the show -- Erik (at left), Tracy Lynn Olivera and Will Gartshore -- have been nominated for the Helen Hayes Award, the Washington D.C. area's version of South Florida's Carbonells.  Erik is up for outstanding supporting actor in a resident musical for his performance as Charley Kringas.  He'll find out whether he's the Hayes winner during the ceremony April 28.

March 08, 2008

New voices in play writing

You have four chances -- two today, two on Sunday -- to hear what the young playwrights at Miami's New World School of the Arts have on their minds.

Ten new student plays are being done at this year's New Playwright Festival, which happens today at 4:30 and 7:30 p.m., Sunday at 1 and 4 p.m. in Studio 5902 and 5903 on the ninth floor at the school, 25 NE Second St.  And you can see it all for free.

New_playwrights_festival_2 The lineup includes Samantha Fraga's Pretend (pictured at left), a play that blurs the line between life and fairy-tale, and I Lost My Mind With the Easter Eggs, a piece about a father trying to persuade his daughter that there is no Easter Bunny; Sasha Vokovic's Cure, a mixed-media work about the thoughts of a serial killer; Chrystie Martinez's Roar, about a rampaging beast; Hannah Benitez's Boom, a post-Apocalyptic play, and When I Fly Around, a piece imagining flight; Ana Heretoiu's Jelly Bean, I stole your heart, which involves a tango and jelly beans; Mark Della Ventura's Bill & Nick, about two boys and a surprising afternoon; and Monica Skoko's Gravity Rides Everything, which looks at the games we all play.

Questions? Call 305-237-3541 or visit the New World web site.

March 06, 2008

New play work pays off...and more free theater!

Fresh from its successful 1st Stage New Works Festival, Florida Stage gets more good news about a play that was part of last year's inaugural event:  End Days by Deborah Zoe Laufer, which got a fully staged world premiere at the company earlier this season, is one of six finalists for the Steinberg/ATCA New Play Awards.

End_days This is quite the big deal.  Funded by the Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust and administered by the American Theatre Critics Association, the first-place script brings both recognition and a $25,000 prize to its author -- the largest national play-writing award.  Second and third place winners get $7,500 each, which is not too shabby either.

Laufer's smart comedy, which featured Michaela Cronan and Scott Borish (pictured at left), is an insightful examination of faith, family and science in a post-9/11 world.  And the playwright, who has had several plays premiered at the Manalapan theater, is in very good company.  The other finalists for the award are Sarah Ruhl's Dead Man's Cell Phone, which began at Washington D.C.'s Woolly Mammoth Theatre and has just opened in New York; Rebecca Gilman's The Crowd You're In With, from San Francisco's Magic Theatre; Robert Brustein's "The English Channel," which debuted at Suffolk University and the Vineyard Playhouse; Naomi Iizuka's Strike-Slip, which premiered at last year's Humana Festival of New American Plays; and Moises Kaufman's 33 Variations, which debuted at Arena Stage.

Laufer will learn March 29 at this year's Humana Festival whether she's one of the Steinberg/ATCA winners.  Whatever happens, she can rejoice that hers is among just six of 28 nominated new plays (not to mention all the other new plays done in the United States in 2007) to be vying for the most generous playwrights' prize.


Jar_the_floor If you're not busy and you have an itch to see a good play, The Women's Theatre Project (TWTP) has a deal for you.  A group had booked all 45 seats in the company's intimate theater for tonight's performance of Cheryl L. West's Jar the Floor, a terrific play about the abiding love and explosive conflict that surface when four generations of women gather to celebrate the matriarch's 90th birthday (that's Karen Stephens and Charlette Seward in a scene from the show at right).  The group had to change its date, so TWTP is giving away tickets to tonight's show for free, on a first-come, first-served basis.  To get one, email TWTP or call 954-462-2334.

March 04, 2008

A bombshell season

It may not quite be spring, but theaters are starting to roll out news of their 2008-2009 season choices.  Actors' Playhouse, South Florida's musical powerhouse, has just raised the curtain on its new lineup, and it plans to do five, count 'em five, musicals.

First is the Tony Award-winning 1776, the Sherman Edwards-Peter Stone musical about America's founding fathers (it kicks off the season Oct. 1-Nov. 2).  Then comes the comic musical Gutenberg! The Musical! (Dec. 3-Jan. 4, 2009), a two-man spoof about playwrights pitching a big musical to prospective producers.

Then comes the world premiere of Miami Bombshells, The Musical.  Based on the book Dish and Tell, with a score by Miamian Jeanette Hopkins, the vignette-filled show looks at how women balance their personal and professional lives. It will debut Jan. 14-Feb. 8, 2009.

Les_miz Next comes the biggie, the area regional theater premiere of Les Miserables.  The Tony Award-winning musical, which runs March 4-April 5, 2009, retells Victor Hugo's timeless story of bravery and sacrifice, set to a stirring score by Claude-Michel Schoenberg and Alain Boublil.

Havana Bourgeois, a play by Carlos Lacamara, follows May 6-June 7, 2009.  Set in Cuba from 1958 to 1960, the drama examines the effect of the revolution on the country's middle class.  Closing out the season July 8-Aug. 16, 2009, is the musical Married Alive, which looks at both newlyweds and a long-married couple. 

Subscriptions for the new season run from $174 for previews to $432 for opening nights.

March 03, 2008

"Two Sisters" and a playwright

It isn't often that a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright is in the audience when a small theater produces one of his plays.  But that's just what happened on Saturday when Nilo Cruz came to Davie to see how The Promethean Theatre did with his 1999 play Two Sisters and a Piano.

Sisters_talkback After the actors took their bows, Cruz sat in the rocking chair on Daniel Gelbmann's weathered set and listened as dramaturg Jane Duncan talked a little about the play, which was commissioned by the McCarter Theatre at Princeton.  (That's Cruz at left in George Schiavone's photo, with cast members Deborah L. Sherman [who is also the theater's producing artistic director] and Ricky Waugh.)

What did Cruz think?  He liked it, he really liked it.  He spoke about the intimate scale of Promethean's production, which he thought served the play better than the operatically large, elaborate McCarter premiere.  He talked about opening up the story for a movie version, and speculated about what might happen to the play's two sisters if they were able to escape Cuba to freedom in Florida.  Cruz, who made his own journey from Cuba to Miami as a child, was charming, insightful and as supportive a playwright as any theater, large or small, could wish.