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.
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.
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.