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20 posts from April 2008

April 16, 2008

Tragic insight

Delay of Play:  Naked Stage artistic director Antonio Amadeo put out the word late Wednesday (April 16) that the company's production of 4.48 Psychosis has been delayed by a week.  The reason: a cast change.  So the info below has been updated to reflect the new dates and cast...Christine Dolen, a.k.a. Drama Queen

British playwright Sarah Kane was both reviled and celebrated during her short life and controversial career.  The five plays she wrote from 1995 to 1999 -- Blasted, Phaedra's Love, Cleansed, Crave and 4.48 Psychosis -- experimented with form and style.  Her disturbing work included scenes of rape, torture, suicide, cannibalism and violence both psychological and physical.

4148_postcard_front 4.48 Psychosis was Kane's final play.  Plagued by debilitating depression for much of her adult life, she wrote the play -- a chilling portrait of a disintegrating, tormented mind -- in late 1998 and into the beginning of 1999.  On Feb. 20, 1999, at the age of 28, Kane took her own life, hanging herself in the hospital where she had been taken after overdosing on prescription drugs.

For its third production, The Naked Stage is taking on the challenge of Kane's intense, disturbing play.  Mad Cat Theatre founder Paul Tei, who just won best actor/best supporting actor in a play Carbonell Awards, is guest-directing the piece, which has no stage directions and doesn't even specify how many actors should perform it.  Three actors will take on the roles of patient, therapist and lover in the Naked Stage production: Katherine Amadeo, Kim Ehly and Erin Joy Schmidt.

448_psychosis_website On April 24, Naked Stage artistic director Antonio Amadeo and a professor from Barry University's psychology department will lead a discussion about the play's themes after a free ppeview for Barry theater and psychology students.  Naked Stage performs at the Pelican Theatre on Barry's campus, 11300 NE  Second Ave., Miami Shores.  The play opens Friday, April 25, and runs through May 18.  Performances are 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday.  Tickets are $25 (seniors $18, students $12).  For info or tickets, visit Naked Stage's web site; tickets also available via Theatermania or by calling 1-866-811-4111. 

Sounds like fun

Alex Fumero, Lucas Leyva and Marco Ramirez are all Miami playwrights who went to college in New York.  The three have cooked up something they call Foryoucansee Theater, which Fumero describes as a company with "a mission to make theater for the '305' audience...This is home-grown Miami theater: by Miami, about Miami, for Miami."

Alex305 The guys are getting together on Friday, April 25, for their first event.  First comes an open bar, from 7 to 8 p.m., which should make for a more receptive audience.  Then they'll read a selection of short plays that fit the mission.

Ramirez has written something called El caballero de Paris, which Fumero (that's him with the 305 on his dome) describes as "a Charlie Kaufman-esque play about his father making him write a play about El Caballero de Paris, a legendary hobo in old Havana."  Ramirez, a quick and prolific writer, will also share a second play, about kids drag-racing on Krome Avenue.

Lucasleyvabiopic Leyva (at right) had one idea and scrapped it, Fumero says. Now he thinks his play will be about "a genie coming out of a [bottle of] grape Fanta." Or maybe not.

Fumero thinks he'll contribute "a very short play...about misanthropic misadvantures with women in Miami."  Maybe he should be hoping said women don't show up.

The drinks-and-drama action happens at Centrol Cultural Espanol, 800 Douglas Rd., Suite 170, Coral Gables.  That's in the plaza at the corner of SW Eighth St. and Douglas Road. 

April 14, 2008

Brothers and teens and cannibals, oh my!

The Promethean Theatre, one of Broward County's ascending small companies, has picked its 2008-2009 lineup.  The company's fifth anniversary season is an eclectic one, ranging from a set-in-Florida play to a piece by a Pulitzer Prize winner to a musical that just might be Hannibal Lecter's favorite.

Debsherman To kick things off Oct. 17-Nov. 2, artistic director Deborah L. Sherman (pictured at right in Juan C. Sanchez's Red Tide, in what is undoubtedly the least boring picture of an artistic director ever) has chosen Barton Bishop's Still the River Runs, a play about Central Florida brothers who return home to bury a relative.  Next up, running Dec. 12-21, is actor Ken Clement starring in Tom Mula's Jacob Marley's Christmas Carol, about Ebenezer Scrooge's equally avaricious late partner.

Kimberly Akimbo, Pulitzer winner David Lindsay-Abaire's play about a teen coping with a body that ages too fast and a family full of eccentrics, runs March 27-April 12, 2009.  And in the summer of 2009 (exact dates to be announced), Promethean will present Cannibal! The Musical, Live on Stage, the campy musical by South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone.

Promethean performs on the campus of Nova Southeastern University.  For info, visit the web site or call 786-317-7580.

April 10, 2008

A soaring career

Writer, artist, playwright and theater company founder Vanessa Garcia leads a busy, culturally eclectic life.  That she is a rising star in Miami's arts world and beyond is confirmed by some happy news:  Garcia has been named one of four finalists in the literature division of the Geneva-based Rolex Mentor and Protege Arts Initiative.

Vanessa_headshot What that means is that Garcia, 28, may have the chance to spend a year being mentored by Wole Soyinka, the Nigerian poet, playwright, novelist and humanitarian.  Each finalist will spend a week working with Soyinka in May, then the Nobel Prize winner will choose the young artist who will become his protege from June 2008 'til June 2009.

Garcia is in prestigious company.  She is one of just 19 finalists chosen from 124 nominees in 38 countries.  The other mentors for the program's next cycle are Rebecca Horn in visual arts, Jiri Kylian in dance, Youssou N'Dour in music, Martin Scorsese in film and Kate Valk in theater.

For more info on Garcia or her theater company The Krane, visit her web site. Congrats! 

April 09, 2008

Welcome back, Groucho

Remember that mid-'70s television show, Welcome Back, Kotter?  The one that starred Gabe Kaplan as Brooklyn high school teacher Gabe Kotter and a pre-Saturday Night Fever John Travolta as his mouthiest student?  Kaplan has come south to Coral Springs to performed a revamped version of a piece he first did in as an HBO special in 1982, then as a play.  Audiences at the Stage Door Theatre may be coming to see Gabe Kaplan.  But they'll be spending time with a very different guy:  Groucho Marx.

Gabe Written by Marx's son Arthur and Robert Fisher, Groucho (previously titled Groucho: A Life in Revue) played the Coconut Grove Playhouse in 1987, with Lewis J. Stadlen (who knew the late comedian) starring as Groucho.  The version Kaplan is doing at Stage Door looks more deeply into Marx's life, showbiz in the 20th century and what makes comedians tick.

The play will run at least through May 11 -- longer, if the crowds keep coming.  Performances are 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.  Tickets are $38.  Stage Door is at 8036 W. Sample Rd., Coral Springs. Call 954-344-7765 or visit the theater's web site for information.

April 08, 2008

Emotion and mystery at the Carbonells

The 32nd annual Carbonell Awards ceremony is history, so it's time for some morning-after -- well, afternoon-after -- reflections.  Full disclosure:  As the Miami Herald's theater critic, I participate in the process of suggesting whether shows I review may have Carbonell-worthy elements.  If enough of those on the opening-weekend panel agree, then the Carbonell judges have to see the recommended show, which might be anywhere from Coral Gables to Jupiter (the northern Palm Beach County town, not the planet).  I'm not a judge, so I don't vote on Carbonell nominations or on who should win the awards.  Which is a long way of saying that the nominees, winners and omissions came as a surprise to me. And not always a pleasant one, in the case of the omissions.

Tuxedo5374send_2 I don't mean to diss any of last night's winners, a thoroughly deserving bunch of artists.  I was so happy to present (along with Joy Abbott, widow of the late and very great George Abbott) the best actress in a play award to a thrilled and trembling Lela Elam for her work in GableStage's In the Continuum. Elam is working at theaters all over South Florida, and the growth of her craft from role to role is abundantly clear.

I was also glad to hand the Carbonell for best actor in a play to Paul Tei for his intense work in Mosaic Theatre's Talk Radio.  Tei and the Carbonell committee are currently at odds over its lack of appreciation for several shows at Mad Cat Theatre Company, the daring small Miami theater he serves as artistic director.  So it was great (not that it solves anything vis a vis Mad Cat) that Tei got that award, the best supporting actor in a play honor (for Glengarry Glen Ross at Mosaic) and shared in the best ensemble award for that show.  Yes, Tei -- who sported a splotch of pink and yellow in his spiked hair, and who seemed to have fueled his smiling rants with an adult beverage or two -- really is that talented.

Green00_andreas_people_ho Produced by Dan Barnett, the awards show itself was a bit more low key but classier and more efficient than in some years past.  Lots of that class was exuded by the mistress of ceremonies, Broadway star Christine Andreas (that's Christine at right), who was as relaxed and warm in her patter as she was inspired in her exquisite, soaring singing (you haven't really heard On a Clear Day until you've savored Andreas' version).  Gina Kreiezmar trotted out her dead-on Forbidden Broadway Liza Minnelli, and it was probably better than having the real Liza at the Carbonells. Certainly funnier.

Still, on a night full of emotion as South Florida's theater community paid tribute to Carbonell co-founder Jack Zink, the Sun-Sentinel's long-time theater-music critic and the first two-time winner of the George Abbott Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Arts, I couldn't help noticing what was missing.

There were too many empty seats, for one thing. This is South Florida theater's most special night, a time for the community to come together to celebrate the region's growth and artistry.  Yet some companies -- including the standard-setting Florida Stage, which has also fallen victim to the Carbonells' recommendation system this season -- didn't bother to show up at all.  It's understandable that companies with few nominations would be less than thrilled about buying tickets to cheer on their "rivals."  Understandable but, given the way that artists in South Florida tend to work at many theaters, a little tacky.

Winners of three special awards -- New Theatre founder Rafael de Acha, Caldwell Theatre Company artistic director Michael Hall  and Meredith Lasher of the Theatre League of South Florida -- appeared to get a round of applause but weren't given the opportunity to say anything.  That was a mistake, apparently, on the production side.  Stuff does happen even during the most thoroughly rehearsed live show (which this one wasn't). But it came off as awkward and understandably upset the honorees.

One last complaint, and again, it isn't meant to diminish the achievements of any of last night's winners.  If the Carbonell judges are to be believed, only six South Florida theaters -- Actors' Playhouse, GableStage, New Theatre, the Maltz Jupiter Theatre, New Vista Theatre and Mosaic Theatre -- produced award-worthy work in 2007.

I beg to differ.

April 07, 2008

Lunch and a show

Women's Theatre Project has come up with a delicious idea for a fund-raiser:  a gourmet luncheon with Stephanie Alison Walker, author of its next production, Three Fittings.

Walker_photo_2_2 The Los Angeles-based Walker will be in South Florida for the opening of her play, which is set in a bridal boutique and focuses on three very different brides.  The fund-raiser takes place from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Friday, April 25, the day that the show opens.

For $25, which includes the tip, you get everything from appetizer to dessert, with a chicken, lobster or veal entree; for $40, you get lunch and a ticket to the preview performance the night before.  Also on the menu: conversation with the playwright.

The lunch takes place at the McFatter Culinary Bistro at McFatter Technical School, 6500 Nova Dr., Davie.  You need to RSVP by April 20 via E-mail or by calling 954-462-2334; payment is by cash or a check sent to The Women's Theatre Project, 1314 E. Las Olas Blvd., #31, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301.

Three Fittings runs through May 18 at Sixth Star Studios, 505 NW First Ave., Fort Lauderdale. Performances are 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday (additional matinee 2 p.m. May 17).  Tickets are $25 ($10 for students).  Call or visit the Women's Theatre Project web site for information.

April 03, 2008

South Florida theater goes glam

Hey, theater people. Get the tux cleaned, find a dress that not every store in the shopping universe is carrying, and get ready to put your game face on:  On Monday at 7:30 p.m., the 32nd annual Carbonell Awards will be bestowed at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts.

Tuxedo5374send Christine Andreas, that fabulous Broadway diva who played the Southern mom in The Light in the Piazza then returned to the Arsht Center's Carnival Studio Theater with her terrific cabaret show, will host and perform.  University of Miami grad Gina Kreiezmar, who's currently spoofing such divas (though not Andreas) in Forbidden Broadway at the Arsht), is also going to do her hilarious thing.  And, of course, some of the best work in South Florida theater in 2007 is going to be honored.  (That qualifier, "some of," is necessary because nobody in this vast, sometimes contentious theater community would admit that the Carbonell voters get everything right.)

The good news, if you're a slacker when it comes to ticket buying, is that you can still watch the Carbonell drama unfold live.  And you don't have to be someone who works in theater to come.

Tickets are $50 and $75.  If you want to be entertained and see South Florida's, um, strong theater personalities dressed to kill (though hopefully not each other), call 954-462-0222 or visit the Broward Center web site.

(Thanks to George Schiavone for the photo illustration.)

April 02, 2008

Four readings

   Play readings are a quick way to get to know a company, actors, works both new and vintage.  Four readings over the next few weeks offer that opportunity – all at the bargain-basement price of low or no admission, though two are fund-raisers, so don’t flinch if you’re asked to donate something.

   * First up is Vanessa Garcia’s Parked, an original work which will be done in Amsterdam next month after its reading on Saturday, April 5, in Coconut Grove.  Produced by her company The Krane and the New Light Foundation, the staged reading presents a tragicomedy about architect friends hired to design a park in the middle of a slum.  The free reading happens at 8 p.m. at Tesori d’Arte Gallery, 3015 Grand Ave.  Call 305-528-4971 or visit the Krane's web site.

   * Garcia and New Light playwright Wendy White will get readings of Parked and White’s 7 Generations at 8 p.m. April 19 at ArtServe, 1350 E. Sunrise Blvd., Fort Lauderdale.  Both plays will be performed at the Theatre de Cameleon in Amsterdam May 3.  White’s time-traveling piece is about the attempt to heal generations of a family. Tickets to the fund-raising performance are $12. Call 954-786-1080 for reservations.

   * Andie Arthur, executive director of the Theatre League of South Florida, is also a playwright with a new work – the enticingly titled A Girl’s Guide to Saving the Universe – to share.  It’s about a college girl who has to find her missing boyfriend, a guy who is supposed to save a magical country which happens to occupy the space beneath a Chicago elevated train station. The Naked Stage is presenting the free reading of Girl’s Guide at 7:30 p.m. April 21 in the Pelican Theatre at Barry University, 11300 NE Second Ave., Miami Shores.  Call 954-261-1785 or visit Naked Stage's web site.

   * Also on April 21, the three-year-old Ghost Light Series is doing a reading of Shelagh Delaney’s A Taste of Honey.   The British play, about a sexually indiscriminate mother and her teen daughter, gets its free reading at 7:30 p.m. at Collins Community Center, 3900 NE Third Ave., Oakland Park.  For information, call 954-270-0998.

April 01, 2008

Something stinks, but not the Skunk Ape Project

Here's a wee tale about how hard it can be to get a play done in Miami.  Even if you're talking "just" a staged reading. Even if one of the artists you're talking about happens to be one of the hottest young playwrights in the United States.

Tarell Tarell McCraney, Marco Ramirez and Lucas Leyva are all Miami-connected playwrights, all friends.  The three proposed something called the Skunk Ape Project (the name, McCraney says, was Leyva's idea) to the previous management regime at Miami's Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts.  Nothing elaborate, just the three getting staged readings of their work in the Arsht's 200-seat Carnival Studio Theater in early March.

McCraney, who got his master's in play-writing from Yale University last spring, has spent this season flying all over the country (and to London) to watch productions of his plays at numerous top-tier theaters -- Seattle Repertory Theatre, Atlanta's Alliance Theatre, London's Young Vic, Manhattan's Public Theater, to name just four. He planned to do The Brothers Size as his Skunk Ape contribution, bringing in a couple of the actors who had appeared in the Public Theater production that helped ignite such buzz about McCraney's talent.  Then, stuff happened.  Or didn't happen.

Top administrators at the Arsht changed.  There was talk of folding the Skunk Ape Project into Miami Light Project's annual Here & Now Festival -- not as one of the fully produced works in the Carnival Studio Theater, but as readings presented in a classroom or a lobby.  McCraney's schedule got complicated:  He had to be at the Tony Award-winning McCarter Theatre at Princeton for a workshop of his Brother/Sister Plays (In the Red and Brown Water, The Brothers Size and Marcus; or The Secret of Sweet), which the McCarter will world premiere as a trilogy from mid-April to mid-June of 2009.  And he also went to the Olivier Awards ceremony, where The Brothers Size was up for an award. (It lost -- but still.)

Marco Ramirez, who says the three agreed to "...postpone the Arsht/Skunk Ape collaboration indefinitely, which probably means it will never happen," is as frustrated as McCraney and Leyva.  He said that once word of the project got out, 90 people asked about coming to the event in the 200-seat Studio Theater.

"If we've learned anything from this, it's that new play readings happen at regional theaters -- GableStage, New Theatre, Mad Cat -- and not at gigantic performing arts venues," Ramirez wrote in an E-mail.

McCraney, who has been back in Miami lately teaching a spring play-writing course at the New World School of the Arts (his high school alma mater), is plenty frustrated too:  "We had to let go of this dream to begin a new works showcase for playwrights in Miami. For now."

Finally, a couple of questions.  Why is it that audiences in large theaters all over the country are getting to savor the early work of a thrilling writer who seems destined for a major career, yet he can't get a play read in his hometown?  Why aren't Miami theaters fighting to produce his work?  If the Coconut Grove Playhouse was open and operating like a major regional theater should, McCraney should be its hottest "find."

Instead, he'll get the trilogy done at the McCarter, another new play (Wig/Out) done at London's Royal Court Theatre and a New York theater, two of the Brother/Sister Plays done at the Young Vic.  He also may become international writer in residence at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre and have a fellowship at Princeton.  Ramirez and Leyva are both looking at grad schools.  And the Skunk Ape Project has become as mythical as, well, a skunk ape.

That, folks, is really theater of the absurd.