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9 posts from August 2008

August 29, 2008

August Wilson, times two

August_wilson_2 If not for North Miami's M Ensemble Company, the work of the late August Wilson would scarcely have been seen in South Florida.  One of the region's oldest theater companies, also one of the nation's most enduring black theater companies, M Ensemble has commited to working its way through Wilson's entire 10-play cycle about black life in each decade of the 20th century.  This season, the company will tackle Wilson's 1986 play Joe Turner's Come and Gone, set in a Pittsburgh boarding house in 1911, from Nov. 13-Dec. 21.

John_archie Even sooner, though, another company is taking on Wilson's penetrating, theatrically dazzling work. Plantation's Mosaic Theatre will kick off its 2008-2009 season with a production of Wilson's final play, Radio Golf.  Also set in Pittsburgh, this time in the late 1990s, the play follows the fortunes of an entrepreneur who is angling to become the city's first black mayor. Artistic director Richard Jay Simon has signed up some of South Florida's best actors -- John Archie (pictured), Lela Elam, W. Paul Bodie, Summer Hill Seven and Robert Strain -- so expect fireworks.  Radio Golf runs Sept. 11-Oct. 5 at Mosaic's space in the American Heritage Center for the Arts, 12200 W. Broward Blvd.  Call 954-577-8243 or visit Mosaic's web site.

A footnote: If you're a fan of Wilson's rich, distinctive writing, you may want to own the beautiful box set of all 10 plays.  Called The August Wilson Century Cycle, the collection features not only special editions of the scripts but forwards by an eclectic group of artists (and critics) -- Laurence Fishburne, Tony Kushner, Toni Morrison, Suzan-Lori Parks, Phylicia Rashad and Frank Rich among them. The price ($200) isn't cheap, but this is the definitive Wilson collection, available through its publisher, the Theatre Communications Group.

August 27, 2008

No Scottish play

Naked18_plays_mds_mcb_2 If you had tickets to Naked Stage's 24-Hour Theatre Project, which was to have happened Monday at Actors' Playhouse, you know the event was cancelled.  Producers Antonio Amadeo, Katherine Amadeo and John Manzelli delayed their popular fundraiser due to the death of Jack Zink, the longtime South Florida Sun-Sentinel theater critic.  A Monday afternoon memorial conflicted with what would have been the frenzied rehearsals for Naked Stage's event, and the company felt that many of the actors, directors and playwrights involved would want to gather at the Parker Playhouse to reminisce about the man who had told their stories for more than three decades.

What you may not know, however, is that the delay of its pre-season benefit (whose proceeds were to have been shared with several other small companies) means that the Naked Stage has had to scrub its opening production. Macbeth was to have run Nov. 6-Dec. 7 in the Pelican Theatre at Barry University; now, it will happen...sometime, after the Naked Stagers can raise some money.  Which makes the cancellation of the 24-Hour Project, for me, all the more touching.

Want info on The Naked Stage? Visit the company's web site.

August 26, 2008

Feel better, Marc

4130088_9to5_06_300 Marc Kudisch, the Florida Atlantic University grad who has become one of Broadway's most popular musical leading men, is in Los Angeles rehearsing for the Ahmanson Theatre out-of-town tryout of 9 to 5: The Musical.  He's playing Franklin M. Hart Jr., the boss from hell, in the Broadway-bound musical version of the 1980 Dolly Parton-Lily Tomlin-Jane Fonda flick.  The musical, with a score by Parton, is being staged by Wicked director Joe Mantello, and West Wing star Allison Janney is one of Kudisch's co-stars.

As you may remember from the movie, ol' Franklin takes a lot of physical abuse from the trio of gals.  Kudisch, according to several posters on Talkin' Broadway's All That Chat, the actor got a preview of some of the bumps and bruises he may be acquiring when he fell through a trap door that had nothing underneath to cushion his landing. He's reportedly OK, so nothing should keep him from the show's opening on Broadway next spring.  Just don't get the ladies too angry.

August 25, 2008

Honoring a musical master

Joe Masteroff doesn't have a big body of work, but two of the musicals for which he wrote very different books remain among Broadway's best: Cabaret and She Loves Me.

Caldwell Boca Raton's Caldwell Theatre Company is producing She Loves Me from Nov. 9 to Dec. 14, and artistic director Michael Hall has chosen Masteroff to receive the theater's annual Spotlight Award.  The playwright is in good company:  Past recipients include Christopher Reeve, Julie Harris, Charles Nelson Reilly and Len Cariou.

Masteroff, who will celebrate his 90th birthday three days after the Dec. 8 Caldwell event, will watch actors read a scene from his play Warm Peninsula, hear songs from She Loves Me and listen as tributes from his fellow theater greats are read.  Cost to attend the fundraiser is $50, and the celebration begins at 8 p.m.

Next up at the Caldwell is David C. Hyer's political comedy Lying in State, opening Sept. 5 and running through Sept. 21.  For info, visit the theater's web site.

August 21, 2008

Seated in a wheelchair, an actor inspires

Art Metrano is a funny, funny man.  If you saw him perform Metrano's Accidental Comedy at the Coconut Grove Playhouse in 2001-- or as Lt. Mauser in the Police Academy movies, or as the goofy "Amazing Metrano" on the Johnny Carson-era Tonight Show -- you already know that Metrano knows his way around a joke.

Art_metrano But as a performer-playwright, Metrano can also make you cry.  He stirs both laughter and tears in his retitled Art Metrano's Jews Don't Belong on Ladders...An Accidental Comedy, a play in which he tells the story of just why he has spent most of his waking hours over the past 19 years in a wheelchair.

In conjunction with the Kennedy Center's Leadership Exchange in Arts and Disability Conference now at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, Metrano is performing his show at the Amaturo Theater tonight through Sunday.  Performances are 8 p.m. tonight-Saturday, 2 p.m. Saturday-Sunday.  Tickets are $25 and $35.  Tonight's opening performance will also be signed, close-captioned and performed with audio description.

For information and tickets, call 954-462-0222 or visit the center's web site.

August 20, 2008

Britain-bound, with help from her friends

Ceci Fernandez is one of Miami's most talented young actors -- and the folks who run the Old Vic Theater School in Bristol, England, agree.  Fernandez, a 2005 New World School of the Arts college grad, is one of a dozen talented performers accepted to the prestigious school's fall session.  But the 23-year-old doesn't have the dough to go.

Cecfern_headshot Fortunately, Fernandez does have theater pals whose belief in her is matched by their creativity.  Playwrights Marco Ramirez and Alex Fumero , working with the not-for-profit Hispanic Events, are spearheading a Tuesday night event at Flavour, 2895 McFarlane Rd. in Coconut Grove.  The fundraising fun begins at 8 p.m., and it features performances by dance music sensation Jose el Rey, the mock-Reggaeton group The Toners, and visual artists doing their thing live.  Deuce Crew mans the turntables, and anyone 21 and older gets free Caldas Mojitos until 10 p.m.

Admission is $10 ($7 for students); you have to be 18 to get in.  Busy Tuesday? You can still help Fernandez by sending a contribution to her at 11401 SW 40th St., Miami, FL 33165.

You may have seen Fernandez onstage at Miami's Mad Cat or in City Theatre's popular Summer Shorts shows.  If you don't know her work, check out the current production of Betrayed at GableStage.  You'll see why so many people want to help Fernandez live her dream.

August 19, 2008

A void in South Florida theater

I was in my hotel room in sunny Rochester, N.H., on Monday when I got a call I had been dreading throughout most of my family's summer vacation:  Jack Zink, the longtime Sun-Sentinel critic and a real force in South Florida theater for more than three decades, had just passed away.

Jack_zink_sunsentinel_photo Along with his myriad friends in the region's theater community, I had been worrying about Jack since he was diagnosed with cancer last fall.  He fought it hard, continued working almost until the end, lost weight and his normal speaking voice and his hair.  But still, he remained optimistic, because that's who he was -- a critic, yes, but one who was never happier than when he could celebrate a great production, an amazing performance, music beautifully played.

Jack and I both graduated from Ohio State University, but he was a few years ahead of me, so I didn't know him there. I got to know him well once we became friendly competitors, each eager to do the best work we could, gleeful when we could be the first to publish a story or a review, united in the satisfaction we got from writing about the evolution -- a major evolution -- of South Florida's theater community during so many years of opening nights.

Jack was, in another way, responsible for the path that my personal life took. In 1986, when I was president of the South Florida Critics' Circle, Jack brought his boss along to that year's Carbonell Awards, the theater awards program he had been instrumental in creating a decade earlier. That arts editor was John Dolen, who became my husband three years later.  Our 17-year-old son Sean probably owes his life, no kidding, to the invitation Jack extended to John that long-ago November.

But everyone who has been a part of South Florida theater for any length of time has a Jack story.  They would tell you about his dedication, his vision, his attention to detail, his devotion to his job and the Carbonells and his wife Cynthia.  If you come to Jack's memorial service at 3 p.m. Monday at Fort Lauderdale's Parker Playhouse, you will no doubt hear many of those stories.

Because of Jack's passing, the second 24-Hour Theatre Project has been postponed.  The event involving playwrights, actors and directors from numerous companies was to have taken place Sunday and Monday at Actors' Playhouse in Coral Gables.  Antonio Amadeo, whose Naked Stage is the company behind the collaboratively creative fundraiser, said Tuesday that the decision to delay was simple:  "This is just a fundraiser...Jack was a friend to the whole South Florida theater community, and his contributions to the growth of our theater family were extraordinary.''

Jack's family is asking that, instead of flowers, those who want to remember him make a contribution to his church -- St. Ambrose Episcopal Church, 2250 SW 31st Ave., Fort Lauderdale, FL 33312 -- or to the Carbonell Awards, P.O. Box 14211, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33302-4211. Ground Up & Rising, one of the many small theater companies that benefitted from Jack's professional attention, is having a special performance of The Last Days of Judas Iscariot on Thursday at 8 p.m. and donating half of ticket sales to the Carbonells in Jack's name.

You can also remember him by coming to Monday's memorial, and listening to the stories about a man who loved his life in the theater -- and who was loved.   

August 12, 2008

Hot topics onstage

GableStage artistic director Joseph Adler has always been drawn to shocking plays, sexy plays, plays that afford terrific actors a chance to display the many facets of their talent.  But what really gets Adler's creative juices flowing are plays built around powerful issues.  And he has chosen a number of them for the company's 2008-2009 season.

Joe_adler Adler kicks off his new lineup with November, David Mamet's bristling election comedy from this past Broadway season, Oct. 18-Nov. 16.  Then, a GableStage rarity:  the musical Adding Machine, based on Elmer Rice's 1923 satire of human-crushing capitalism.  The Off-Broadway hit, which has just been chosen one of the 10 top plays of 2007-2008 by the Best Plays Theater Yearbook, runs Dec. 27-Jan. 25.

John Patrick Shanley's Defiance, which was replaced in the current season with the just-about-to-open Iraq play Betrayed, will run Feb. 21-March 22.  That play, about racial conflict on a Marine Corps base in 1971, will be followed April 18-May 24 by Nilaja Sun's No Child, a multicharacter solo show about life inside a public school.

Adler goes lighter with his first summer 2009 play, Paul Rudnick's scathingly funny The New Century, which will run June 20-July 19.  GableStage will end next season with the world premiere of Lewd and Lascivious by South Florida playwright Michael McKeever.  That play, about a gay scandal involving a college professor in 1960, will run Aug. 15-Sept. 13, 2009.

GableStage, winner of numerous Carbonell Awards for theatrical excellence, is located in the historic Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables. For information, visit the theater's web site or call the box office at 305-445-1119.

August 03, 2008

A curious season

Hey, blog readers....I've been MIA (and will be, pretty much, 'til Aug. 19) because even drama queens need a vacation now and then. I'll post from time to time while I'm away, then be back to serious (and not so serious) blogging mid-August.

Head09_cirque_brow_ekmIn the meantime, just a wee bit of news to tide you over. Miami's Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts will offer a 2008-2009 lineup of touring Broadway shows, but the announcement of just what the Miami crowd will be getting has been late in coming.  Now we know, and it's...well, it's not Jersey Boys.

The season begins with The Wizard of Oz Oct. 28-Nov. 2.  Then comes Annie Dec. 2-7.  A non-subscription return of Cats (me-yawn) happens Dec. 31-Jan. 4.  Then...a big gap.  Cirque Dreams Jungle Fantasy (that's a glimpse at right), now on Broadway, plays May 12-17.  Then the fleeting season ends May 25-31 with the return of Chicago.

Tickets go on sale in September.