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18 posts from May 2008

May 30, 2008

(Mostly) new theater at New Theatre

As South Florida companies are assembling and announcing their 2008-2009 theater seasons, it is becoming clear that the bad economy and cuts in arts funding are affecting programming decisions.  Certainly, that's the case at Coral Gables' New Theatre, which is coming at the problem in several ways.

Rickymartinez Though the company had planned to present a three-show "Shakespeare and Friends" summer season -- George Bernard Shaw's Heartbreak House, Tennessee Williams' The Glass Menagerie and the bard's As You Like It -- artistic director Ricky J. Martinez (right) has scrapped the Shaw and folded the other two productions into an elongated regular season.

New Theatre's 2008-2009 lineup begins with As You Like It Aug. 14-Sept. 7.  Then come three world premieres: Andrew Case's The Rant, a play about an investigator looking into the fatal shooting of a black teen by a New York police officer, Sept. 25-Oct. 26; Michelle Rosenfarb's The Gates of Choice, about a young Hasidic woman in a forbidden relationship with a soldier, Nov. 13-Dec. 14; and Robert Caisley's Kissing, about the aftermath of an illicit office kiss, Jan. 8-Feb. 8.  Williams' The Glass Menagerie will run Feb. 26-March 29, followed by the regional premiere of Theresa Rebeck's Broadway play Mauritius, about the battle over a rare stamp collection.

What this means is that instead of presenting eight plays, New Theatre is mixing its summertime classics and regular-season new works into a six-show lineup -- something managing director Eileen Suarez calls a "nouveau classic season."

The company is also trying to tackle funding issues with a campaign it calls "Act 10," seeking 1,000 people to donate $10 each.  Need info? Call 305-443-5909 or visit the website.

May 29, 2008

Funny Jewish girls and a moving Jewish woman

A frenetic summer theater season begins this weekend with a pair of festivals: City Theatre's popular Summer Shorts Festival at the Carnival Studio Theater in Miami's Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, and the Lavender Footlights Festival (honoring Tony Award-nominated playwright Douglas Carter Beane) at the Miami Museum of Science.

Girls_on_bagels But if festival-going doesn't float your particular boat, consider checking out two one-time-only performances also happening this weekend.

Nice Jewish Girls Gone Bad (those are the girls, in a sea of bagels, at left) is an out-there, stereotype-bashing comedy cabaret piece happening Saturday at the Alfred I. DuPont Building, 169 E. Flagler St., Miami.  The women, including creator Susannah Perlman (who serves as ringmaster/emcee), start their 21st century vaudeville at 9 p.m.  Tickets are $18, available through www.brownpapertickets.com or by calling 1-800-838-3006. Email The Open Tent for more info.

In a far more serious vein, Rafael de Acha's Theater by the Book company presents its second free Diament staged reading at 11:30 a.m. Sunday.   The piece is The Book of Ruth by Argentine playwright (and longtime Miami resident) Mario Diament (that's Mario at right).  Commissioned by New Theatre and premiered there in 2000, Diament's theatrical version of his Polish mother's flight to Argentina at the start of World War II is "...the finest contemporary play I have ever been privileged to stage," de Acha writes.

The reading has a stellar cast:  Sally Levin, Barbara Sloan, Ramon Gonzalez-Cuevas and Larry Jurrist (all of whom appeared in the world premiere), plus Marta Velasco, Margerie Lowe, Jonathan Angress and Jessica Peterson.  It takes place at the Futternick Family Art Gallery at the Dave and Mary Alper Jewish Community Center, 11155 SW 112th Ave., Miami. Those attending can share a light brunch with the cast at 11 a.m., and also take in the art exhibition Waldsee 1944, the work of more than 80 artists who created postcards symbolic of the ones prisoners at Auschwitz were forced to send to their families.   For information, call 305-271-9000, ext. 268, or visit the Alper JCC web site.

May 28, 2008

Winning new plays

Actors' Playhouse, partnering with the Funding Arts Network, has found two winners in its "From Page to Stage" play-writing competition.

Mckeever Michael McKeever (that's Michael at the piano in the world premiere of his play Suite Surrender at Boca Raton's Caldwell Theatre Company earlier this season) has written a hard-hitting piece called Unreasonable Doubt.  The play explores a man's vengeance after his daughter's murder -- revenge visited upon the killer's attorney.

Also selected for a staged reading is When the Sun Shone Brighter by Christopher Demos-Brown.  That play centers on a political candidate and the Cuban exile bombing campaign of the 1970s and '80s.

Both plays will get staged readings, directed by Actors' Playhouse artistic director David Arisco, on June 7 -- McKeever's at 3 p.m., Demos-Brown's at 7 p.m.  A panel discussion and audience talkback will follow each reading.

The hope, according to the theater, is that the plays will launch a second stage season of new works.  For information, call 305-444-9293 or visit the theater's website.

May 27, 2008

A classic season

Albee_2 Palm Beach Dramaworks has just spilled the details of its 2008-2009 season, and three of the four plays are by theatrical giants.

The company's ninth season begins Oct. 17-Nov. 30 with a production of Nobel Prize winner Eugene O'Neill's A Moon for the Misbegotten, the 1947 play that pairs two lonely souls, the alcoholic James Tyrone and farmer's daughter Josie Hogan.  Next (Dec. 19-Feb. 1) is Eugene Ionesco's absurdist classic The Chairs, a tragic farce about an old man and woman trying to inject meaning into their empty lives.

Connor McPherson's Olivier Award-winning The Weir, a collection of ghost stories told in an Irish tavern, runs Feb. 20-April 5.  Winding up the season is the regional premiere of Pulitzer Prize winner Edward Albee's Peter and Jerry (April 24-June 14, 2009; that's Albee at right).  Staged Off-Broadway in December, the double bill pairs the 80-year-old Albee's first play -- 1958's Zoo Story -- with his 2001 "prequel," Homelife.

Tickets to individual shows at Palm Beach Dramaworks are $38 and $40.  The theater is located at 322 Banyan Blvd. in West Palm Beach. For information, call 561-514-4042 or visit the theater's web site.

May 23, 2008

Daytime drama -- well, dark comedy

27_wagons Looking for something different to do on this long holiday weekend? The Pinecrest Repertory Theatre Company is unveiling its second double bill of short plays:  Tennessee Williams' 27 Wagons Full of Cotton and A.R. Gurney's The Golden Fleece.

The 1946 Williams play is about a cotton gin owner who torches his rival's business, only to have the other man seduce his wife (Ambar Aranaga and Paul Homza, in photo at right, are in that cast).  In Gurney's dark 1966 comedy about hero worship, a couple claims to be in contact with Jason and Medea. Featured in the two plays are actors Laura Alvarado, Daniel Lugo, Chris Perez, Aranaga and Homza.

Pinecrest Rep performs outside in the Banyan Bowl at Pinecrest Gardens, 11000 Red Rd., Pinecrest -- so wear cool clothing!  Performances are at 4:30 every Saturday and Sunday through June 15.  Tickets are $10 for adults, $8 for students, seniors and military personnel.  For information, phone 305-720-0811 or visit the theater web site.

May 22, 2008

Celebrating Hispanic theater

Smi00_sanchez_lgal_hmg The lineup for the 23rd annual International Hispanic Theatre Festival, which runs July 9-27, has just been announced.  The enduring passion of Teatro Avante founder Mario Ernesto Sanchez (right) will feature a dozen productions this year: four from Spain; one each from Argentina, Brazil, Peru and Slovenia; and four from the United States. 

Most performances will be in either the Carnival Studio Theater at Miami's Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts or the Prometeo Theatre at Miami Dade College's Wolfson Campus. There will be performances in Spanish, English, and in Slovene and Spanish with English supertitles.

Spanish playwright Jose Sanchis Sinisterra will get the festival's lifetime achievement award on July 19 following the performance of his play Naque o de piojos y actores at the Carnival Studio Theater.  The Slovenian company, Ljubljana City Theatre, is also doing a Sinisterra play, Ay, Carmela.

For information on the festival or its educational component, phone Teatro Avante at 305-445-8877.

May 21, 2008

Help shape a play

Michelle_rosenfarb_pix One of the stepping stones in the journey from page to stage is the play reading.  Plantation resident Michelle Rosenfarb gets the thrill of hearing her debut work, The Gates of Choice, read at 2 p.m. Sunday (May 25) at the David Posnack Jewish Community Center in Davie.

The event is the first in an intended series called the "Emerging Playwrights' Forum'' at the Posnack JCC.  Ricky J. Martinez, artistic director of the Coral Gables-based New Theatre, will direct the reading, and intends to stage the world premiere of Rosenfarb's play as part of New Theatre' 2008-2009 season.

The piece by the 29-year-old writer details the forbidden relationship of a young Hasidic girl living in an Ultra Orthodox community in Israel and the man she loves, a former soldier.

A talk-back following the reading will let audience members offer feedback and ask questions.  Tickets are $7 for Posnack members, $10 for non-members.  Call 954-434-0499 or visit the community center's web site.

May 20, 2008

New World tackles a Pulitzer winner's early play

Lanford Wilson, who won the Pulitzer Prize for Talley's Folly, wrote The Rimers of Eldritch in 1967. Forty-one years later, the high school theater division at Miami's New World School of the Arts is winding up its mainstage season with a production of this mysterious work.

Rimers Directed by James Randolph and featuring senior Jesse Bookman (right) as small-town resident Skelly Manor, the play is set in a community so small that it's almost a ghost town -- one full of scapegoats, victims and outcasts.

The Rimers of Eldritch will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, 2 p.m. on Sunday.  A reception at the New World Gallery after Friday's performance honors Congreswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

Tickets are $12 (students and seniors pay $5).  Performances are in the Louise O. Gerritts Theatre at New World, 25 NE Second St., Miami.  Call 305-237-3541 or visit New World's web site for more information.

May 19, 2008

A reading here, awards there

Accomp00_gable_wknd_gs_2 If you're not busy tonight, head on over to GableStage for the staged reading of Donald T. Beldock's play Marlowe.  Directed by John Soliday, the reading features several performers from GableStage's current production of The Accomplices -- Jessica K. Peterson, Kevin Reilley and Wayne LeGette (in photo at right), plus Howard Elfman and Gregg Weiner -- as well as Stephen Neal and Ricky Waugh.  Beldock's script stems from the theory that tragedian Christopher Marlowe faked his own death and then resumed writing under another well-known name: William Shakespeare.

The free reading is at 7:30 p.m., and Beldock will be on hand to participate in a discussion afterwards.  GableStage is in the Biltmore Hotel at 1200 Anastasia Ave., Coral Gables.  For more info, call the box office at 305-445-1119 or visit the GableStage web site.


Osage_2 The 53rd annual Drama Desk Awards were handed out in New York on Sunday, and to no one's surprise, Tracy Letts' tumultuous (and darkly funny) Pulitzer Prize-winning August: Osage County was named outstanding play.  Deanna Dunagan, who plays the clan's viper of a matriarch, was chosen best actress, and Anna D. Shapiro got the best director honor for staging Letts' play.  Chances are all three will take home the Tony Award as well.

Other Drama Desk winners likely to repeat at the Tonys are South Pacific as outstanding musical revival and director Bartlett Sher for his staging of it, Paulo Szot (the show's Emile) as outstanding actor in a musical, Patti LuPone as outstanding actress in a musical for Gypsy, and her costars Boyd Gaines and Laura Benanti as outstanding featured actor and actress in a musical.

Passing Strange, an experimental rock-driven musical by writer-performer-composer Stew (just the one name, Stew) and fellow composer Heidi Rodewald, won the Drama Desk honors for outstanding musical, oustanding lyrics and outstanding music.  And while it is very much an award-worthy show, don't expect it to take home the Tonys.  Lin-Manuel Miranda's In the Heights, which was eligible for the Drama Desk Awards last season during its Off-Broadway run, is the new musical to beat at this year's Tonys.

May 16, 2008

Broadway, past and present

You doubtless have heard of Encores!, the musicals-in-concert series at New York City Center that has led to the Broadway revivals of Chicago and the current Tony Award-nominated Gypsy. (Next up, July 5-27, a summer presentation of Damn Yankees starring Will & Grace alum Sean Hayes and Jane Krakowski of 30 Rock.)

Earlier this week, I was in New York, where I sampled another series highlighting vintage Broadway. Broadway by the Year is the brainchild of critic-writer-host Scott Siegel, who puts together Town Hall programs of numbers culled from the musicals of a certain year.  On Monday, 1965 got the Broadway by the Year treatment, and a packed Town Hall thrilled to the results.

Camelot00_marc_wknd_ho The talent lineup featured a number of Tony nominees and award winners: Brian D'Arcy James, who will play the title role in the musical version of Shrek next season; the wry and charming Gregg Edelman, a four-time Tony nominee; actresses Julia Murney and Shannon Lewis; cabaret performers Julie Reyburn and Branton Cutrell; sizzling young dancers Kendrick Jones and Melinda Sullivan; and Plantation's gift to Broadway, booming baritone Marc Kudisch.

Kudisch, who is capable of both leading man bombast and sly comedy, showed the range of his talents throughout the evening, singing a booming Man of La Mancha, Take the Moment from Do I Hear a Waltz? and a comedically self-adoring Look at that Face (with James and Edelman) from The Roar of the Greasepaint. Kudisch is, in many ways, the series star -- and he earns it.

The Broadway by the Year experience is illuminating, entertaining and fun, so if you happen to be in New York when it happens again, go for it.


Intheheights00_one_mdt_2 For a bit of Broadway closer to home, check out the revamped version of Stephen Schwartz's Working, opening tonight (May 16) and running through June 8 at Sarasota's Asolo Repertory Theatre.  Adapted by Schwartz from the best seller by Studs Terkel, the musical bowed on Broadway in 1978 with a 17-actor cast that included Patti LuPone (nominated this week for a Tony as best actress in a musical for her star turn in the revival of Gypsy).

The piece about how folks feel about working has always had numbers by different composers: Schwartz, James Taylor, Micki Grant, Craig Carnelia, Susan Birkenhead.  But the Asolo's production, featuring six actors playing numerous roles in 90 minutes, features the work of an exciting addition to the composer roster.  Lin-Manuel Miranda, the 28-year-old whose current Broadway hit In the Heights was just nominated for 13 Tony Awards, has written two new songs for the production, which is being directed by Gordon Greenberg.  Miranda (that's him in the red shirt and black cap) has created a song about a guy who works at McDonald's and one about immigrants who care for senior citizens.

Tickets to Working at the Asolo are $10-$56.  For information, call 1-800-361-8388 or visit the theater's web site.