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13 posts from December 2008

December 18, 2008

Ailing Piven bails on Mamet's play

SpeedEntourage star Jeremy Piven (shown here with Elisabeth Moss of the TV hit Mad Men) was to have appeared in the hit Broadway revival of David Mamet's Speed-the-Plow opposite Moss and ex-Miamian Raul Esparza through Feb. 22.  Not any more.

After missing two performances earlier this week, Piven abruptly quit the show.  His doctor told the showbiz publication Variety that Piven was extremely fatigued and had been diagnosed with a high level of mercury in his blood.  Mamet's quip to the publication (sans the obscenities that pulse through so much of his work) was this:  "I talked to Jeremy on the phone, and he told me that he discovered that he had a very high level of mercury.  So my understanding is that he is leaving show business to pursue a career as a thermometer."  Ouch.

William_h_macy But out of lemons, if one is lucky or well-connected, can come lemonade.  Understudy Jordan Lage is playing Piven's part through Sunday.  Then Tony Award winner Norbert Leo Butz will take over Dec. 23-Jan. 11, followed by Oscar nominee William H. Macy Jan. 12-Feb. 22 (Macy is shown here in Mamet's Edmond).

Macy is a longtime friend of Mamet.  He has appeared in New York productions of American Buffalo and Oleanna -- he is great at acting Mamet's work. And I'm betting that watching Macy and Esparza tear into that Speed-the-Plow dialogue is something that lots of ticket buyers will want to do.

December 17, 2008

Return of the producers

26sttheaterGary Waldman and Jamison Troutman have produced shows all over South Florida.  The duo's venues have included the Hollywood Playhouse, the Drama Center in Deerfield Beach, the Wilton Playhouse (now the 26th Street Theatre) in Wilton Manors, the Atlantis Playhouse near Lake Worth.

The partners (Waldman handles the creative side, Troutman the business operations), who fared better artistically than financially, left the area to produce in Biloxi, Miss., in 2006. But now they're back in Wilton Manors, and the theater isn't the only thing that will seem familiar to anyone who has seen their shows.

Waldman and Troutman are kicking off their new operation with The Sounds of Simon -- The Music of Paul Simon in Vision and Light.  That's a show, built around the Grammy-winners hits, that Waldman put together at the Atlantis Playhouse in early 2005.  The Simon show will be followed by a February run of the Cy Coleman-Ira Gassman musical The Life, which was a long-running hit at the Atlantis in 2004.

Sounds of Simon previews Dec. 24-28, has two shows New Year's Eve (with a party following the second), then runs Jan. 1-11.  Tickets are $30 for previews; $50 for the early show Dec. 31, $75 for the later one; $35 for the January performances.  The Life previews Feb. 4-8, then runs Feb. 11-22; preview tickets for that show are $35, regular tickets $40.

For information, call 954-727-8551 or check the theater's web site.


Note from Christine: The comments on this post have been deleted by me. My only intention in writing the item above was to let the community know that Mr. Waldman and Mr. Troutman are back in business, and what is written above is the only information I have posted on the subject. 

December 15, 2008

Sol shows naughtiness can be nice

Sol_theatre_the_eight_reindeer_monoIt's not your average Christmas show, but then again, what rings the Sol Theatre Project's sleighbells is rarely typical.

Through Dec. 21, the Fort Lauderdale company is performing Jeff Goode's Eight Reindeer Monologues, in which Santa's antlered crew spills the beans about the Jolly Old Elf.  It's an adults-only twist on Christmas theater, for sure.

In the cast are Daivd Tarryn-Grae, Angel Perez, Jim Gibbons and Julia Clearwood.  Performances are at 8 nightly at Sol, 1140 N. Flagler Dr. Tickets are $20 in advance, $30 (cash or check only) at the door.  Reserve by calling 954-801-9207 or visiting the Sol web site. 

December 11, 2008

"Macbeth" distilled -- and free

Macbeth_herald_adIf you're starting to feel that the holiday hustle-bustle is driving you mad, GableStage has a little gift for you:  an adaptation of Macbeth with most of the great speeches at about a third of the usual running time.

Director Paul Tei, who also runs Miami's Mad Cat Theatre Company, has adapted William Shakespeare's play about the bloodily scheming Macbeth and his Mrs., reworking it so that it can be performed by just three actors.  Erik Fabregat, Deborah Sherman and Margie Eisenberg have been performing the play for school audiences, and now they'll do it for you for free.

Performances are at 8 p.m. Friday, 1 and 3 p.m. Sunday at Florida Memorial College's Lou Rawls Performing Arts Center, 15800 NW 42nd Ave. in Opa Locka; next weekend, the show moves to the Sanctuary at ArtSouth, 250 N. Krome Ave., Homestead, for performances at 8 p.m. Dec. 19 and 7 p.m. Dec. 20.  A post-show discussion will follow each performance. You don't need reservations, but if you want more info, call the GableStage box office at 305-445-1119 or visit the company's web site

December 10, 2008

An early Christmas at Mosaic

Creaghan00_seafarer_mds_ho_2 It's not your average "Christmas" play; in fact, the Mosaic Theatre's production of Conor McPherson's The Seafarer is pretty amazing all the way around. (Check out my review here.)

The funny, touching, beautifully crafted play is heading into its final weekend, and if you commit to tickets before noon on Friday, you can save $5 off each $35 regular ticket.

Performances are 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 3 p.m. Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday.  Mosaic performs at the American Heritage Center for the Arts, 12200 West Broward Blvd., Bldg. 3000, Plantation.  Call 954-577-8243 or visit the theater's web site for more info.

December 09, 2008

Can the Coconut Grove Playhouse come back?

The board of the Coconut Grove Playhouse -- South Florida's largest regional theater, closed since April 2006 and some $4 million in debt -- has just released its plans for bringing the theater back (if all goes well) three to five years from now.  Today's story in the Herald has all the details.

Playhouse The basic idea: Replace the existing 1,100-seat theater with a 300-seat Playhouse (leaving room to build an additional 600-seat theater in the future); develop the surrounding property with revenue-producing shops/restaurants/condos; have the theater run by a partner who would focus on new work, reflect Miami's diversity, employ South Florida artists and develop solid educational programming.

All of which leads to myriad questions.  What about the 1926-vintage building's historic designation?  Who could best produce the kind of theater outlined in the board's plan?  How important is the Coconut Grove Playhouse to the health of theater in South Florida?  Can the theater come back?

We'd like to know what you think.  Please share your ideas, pro, con and in between.  We'll publish a sampling of them on Sunday.

December 08, 2008

A story from Liberty City comes home

Smiles00_april_wknd_jmApril Yvette Thompson grew up in Liberty City as the bright daughter of an activist father and a flower-child/Jehovah's Witness mother.  She was, for a time, the only black student at the prestigious Ransom-Everglades School in Coconut Grove.  That's where she was going to school when the Miami riots -- which followed an all-white jury's not guilty verdict in the trial of four white policemen accused of murdering black insurance salesman Arthur McDuffie -- tore through her neighborhood in May 1980.

The grown-up Thompson, an accomplished actress, turned the history of her family, her neighborhood and her own childhood into a powerful solo show titled Liberty City. Blending fact and imagination, Thompson and coauthor/director Jessica Blank (who earllier cowrote The Exonerated with her husband, Erik Jensen) debuted the piece last March at the New York Theatre Workshop.

Now comes word that Thompson is coming home to perform her piece not too far from the place that inspired it.  Liberty City will play the Carnival Studio Theater at Miami's Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts Feb. 19-March 1.  Thompson's extended family will, no doubt, be there.  And anyone frustrated by not being able to see the work of artists like Thompson or the celebrated young playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney in their hometown will probably want to be there too.

For information on the Arsht, visit the arts center's web site.

December 05, 2008

The Carbonell board listens and responds

Carbonell_2That sigh you hear is South Florida's theater community expressing relief:  This morning, the Carbonell Awards board of directors reversed its decision to suspend the program for 2009.

Friday's vote came three weeks after the board announced, via a press release, that it was putting the 33-year-old awards program into a year-long reassessment limbo. Translated, that meant that some in the theater community had complained about the way shows were being evaluated, and the board felt it didn't have time for a Carbonell makeover before the new judging season begins Jan. 1.

Thus began a frenzied period of debate, work and coming together.  Actors, directors, producers, playwrights, designers, Carbonell nominators and judges began trading E-mails and phone calls.  The Theatre League of South Florida held an open meeting, and the consensus was that if these valuable awards -- the equivalent of the Helen Hayes Awards, the Barrymore Awards, the Joseph Jefferson Awards or any other significant regional awards program you could name -- went away for a year, they might not ever come back.  And despite very real concerns and complaints about how the Carbonells work (something that has been going on throughout the program's existence, trust me), almost no one thought getting rid of them was a good idea.

Meredith Lasher, the League's president and one of those who worked countless hours over the past three weeks to try to save the Carbonells for 2009, said Friday, "Sometimes, it takes thinking you'll lose something entirely before you appreciate it."

There will, no doubt, be countless complaints, discussions, arguments and the like as those who care about the Carbonells try to make them better.  But the point is, South Florida's theater community does care.  The board got that and did the right thing.

New plays get some star power

DukakisThe Orlando Shakespeare Theater's annual PlayFest! (aka the Harriett Lake Festival of New Plays) is always abuzz with packed crowds of theater lovers eager to get a first look at a wide range of new scripts.   The 2009 PlayFest!, which happens from Jan. 23-Feb. 1, is likely to be an even hotter ticket thanks to the presence of a star playwright-performer, Oscar winner Olympia Dukakis.

Dukakis is traveling to Orlando to play Prospera in Another Side of the Island, an adaptation of William Shakespeare's The Tempest.  She is also one of the script's authors, along with Margo Whitcomb and Gregory Hoffman.  The play, say the PlayFest! folks, is a gender-bending fantasy that folds music (including gospel and funk) into the story.

Another Side of the Island will get its staged reading at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 30 and 5:30 p.m. Jan. 31. VIP seating is $25, other seats $10.  Dukakis will also conduct an acting master class from 6 to 9 p.m. Jan. 28.  For a $10 fee, the public can observe Dukakis working with other pros.

PlayFest! happens at the Lowndes Shakespeare Center in Orlando's Loch Haven Park.  For information, visit the theater's web site.

December 04, 2008

Marc Shaiman has his say in song

After California voters passed Proposition 8, restricting marriage to heterosexual couples, Hairspray composer Marc Shaiman did two things.  Shaiman, who wrote the Hairspray lyrics with his longtime partner Scott Wittman, discovered that the artistic director of the Sacramento-based California Musical Theatre, Scott Eckern, had donated $1,000 to the pro-Prop 8 campaign.  Shaiman got the word out in the theater world and promised that the non-profit theater, which had produced Hairspray in August, would never get the rights to do another one of his shows as long as Eckern was at the helm.  After first apologizing and making a donation to a rights group, Eckern eventually resigned.

Now, Shaiman has weighed in with something artistic: Prop 8 -- The Musical.  The short video features two groups, one called "California Gays and The People That Love Them," the other "Proposition 8'ers and The People That Follow Them."

Many famous actors joined Shaiman's cast, including Neil Patrick Harris, John C. Reilly, Allison Janney, Kathy Najimy, Margaret Cho, Maya Rudolph, Rashida Jones, Sarah Chalke, Lake Bell and Rashida Jones.  Jack Black stars as a Jesus who points out several Biblical bans that most folks don't follow.  Enjoy.

See more Jack Black videos at Funny or Die