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16 posts from February 2009

February 10, 2009

Celebrating South Florida playwrights

Two talented, ascendant young playwrights from South Florida keep getting reasons to rejoice -- though not so much here at home.

Marco Ramirez Marco Ramirez, who is in his first year as part of the Juilliard School's graduate play-writing program, recently found out that his short play 3:59 a.m.: a drag race for two actors won the National Ten-Minute Play Contest and a $1,000 prize from the Humana Festival of New American Plays at Actors Theatre of Louisville.  Now comes the news that a play he wrote for the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. -- Mermaids, Monsters and the World Painted Purple -- is one of five new works nominated for the Charles MacArthur Award for Outstanding New Play or Musical at the 25th annual Helen Hayes Awards.  Those awards are Washington's equivalent of South Florida's Carbonell Awards, Philadelphia's Barrymores or Chicago's Joseph Jefferson Awards, and a very big deal indeed.  Ramirez will find out if he's a winner on Monday, April 13, when the Hayes awards are presented at the Warner Theatre.

Tarell South Florida's other hot young playwright, Tarell Alvin McCraney, already has a big spring on tap with the Tony-winning McCarter Theatre of Princeton, N.J., producing all three of his Brother/Sister plays:  In the Red and Brown Water, The Brothers Size and Marcus; or the Secret of Sweet in repertory May 14-June 21.

Chicago's famed Steppenwolf Theatre Company is underscoring McCraney's status as a playwright with major promise by announcing that it, too, will present the three Brother/Sister plays as part of its 2009-2010 season.  Tina Landau, who is directing In the Red and Brown Water at the McCarter, will stage all three plays for Steppenwolf, where she's a company member.

McCraney, who often finds himself on transatlantic flights (the London critics are crazy about his work), has yet to see any of the Brother/Sister plays produced in his hometown of Miami, a place that matters to him so much that he sometimes has "305" snipped into his haircuts.

Ramirez, at least, gets his plays produced in South Florida -- Miami's Mad Cat will world premiere Broadsword! at the end of March. Isn't it time South Florida got to see why so many places in the English speaking theater world are buzzing about McCraney? 

February 09, 2009

On campus, tragedy and hilarity

Two South Florida college theater programs are getting ready to open their winter productions, one a grand Broadway musical about a famous tragedy, the other a pair of shows about a noted cartoon blockhead.

NWSA Titanic The New World School of the Arts launches its production of Maury Yeston and Peter Stone's Titanic on Friday, Feb. 13 (which may be the right day to open a musical about one of the greatest nautical disasters in history).  Theater professor James S. Randolph directs a cast of 37 college students (including Jameson Hammond, Jehane Serralles and Nicholas Duckhardt as the captain), plus a half dozen New World high school students.  The orchestra features students from both the college and high school music divisions. 

Performances are 7:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday through Feb. 22 in the Louise O. Gerrits Theatre, 25 NE Second St., Miami.  Tickets are $12 ($5 for students and seniors).  Call 305-237-3541 or visit the school's web site.

Charlie Brown.jpg ***

At the University of Miami, some clever soul thought to pair the family-friendly musical You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown (featuring Robb Nanus as Linus, Matthew Mickenberg as Charlie Brown and Kate Metroka as Sally) with the decidedly not-for-kids play Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead.

Bert V. Royal's Off-Broadway hit imagines characters very much like the ones in the Peanuts comic strip (the names are changed to guard against copyright infringement, lawsuits, Dogseesgod.jpg etc.) as hormone-addled teens.  The gang (Max Emerson as Matt, Tim Murray as CB and Katie McClellan as CB's sister) deal with little issues like arson, drugs, homophobia and more.

The shows run in repertory at the Jerry Herman Ring Theatre, 1312 Miller Dr., Coral Gables, beginning Feb. 18. Charlie Brown is performed at 8 p.m. Feb. 18, Feb. 20, Feb. 26, Feb. 28 and March 4-7; 2 p.m. Feb. 21, March 1 and March 7.  Dog Sees God has performances at 8 p.m. Feb. 19, Feb. 21, Feb. 25 and Feb. 27; 2 p.m. Feb. 22 and Feb. 28.  Do NOT, whatever you do, make a mistake and take the kiddies to the wrong show.  Lifelong trauma is made of this.

Ticket prices for Charlie Brown are $18-$22 ($16-$18 for faculty, staff and alumni, $8-$10 for students).  Dog Sees God tickets are $16-$18 ($14-$16 for faculty, staff and alumni, $6-$8 for students).  Call 305-284-3355 or visit the Ring Theatre web site.

February 06, 2009

Another spooky story from McPherson

Conor McPherson's The Seafarer was a major hit for Plantation's Mosaic Theatre, and it won't be terribly surprising if some nods go to the show when nominations for South Florida's Carbonell Awards are announced Feb. 16 (I'm not a voter/judge, however, so who knows?).

Converse300 Palm Beach Dramaworks, which just closed its own major hit production (of Eugene Ionesco's The Chairs), is also delving into McPherson's catalog for its next show.  The Olivier Award-winning The Weir, which was done five years ago by New Theatre in Coral Gables, takes place in a rural Irish tavern, where the men try to impress w pretty woman new to the area by swapping ghost stories.  The Dramaworks production will feature Broadway veteran Frank Converse, who also played George to Elizabeth Ashley's Martha in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? at the Coconut Grove Playhouse, back when it was in business.  Dennis Creaghan, who was part of Mosaic's Seafarer cast, is also in The Weir, along with Karl Hanover, Lena Kaminsky and Declan Mooney.

The Weir previews Feb. 18-19 and opens Feb.20 for a run through April 5.  Palm Beach Dramaworks is at 322 Banyan Blvd. in downtown West Palm Beach.  Tickets are $42 for evening shows, $40 for matinees, and there are performances at 8 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, 7 p.m. most Sundays, 2 p.m. Saturday-Sunday.  This one looks worth the road trip.  Call 561-514-4042 or visit the web site.

February 05, 2009

A Broadway diva sings; long-lost love returns

BernadettePeters credit Tim WhiteThe ageless, inimitable Bernadette Peters comes back to South Florida next week, dipping into the Broadway songbook under the musical direction of Marin Laird.  Though she has lately become a children's book author (Broadway Barks is hers), she is a celebrated singer-actress whose talents have won her two Tony Awards, and whose credits include Gypsy, The Goodbye Girl, Annie Get Your Gun, Mack and Mabel, On the Town, Sunday in the Park With George, Song and Dance -- well, it's a long list.

Peters performs at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 11, at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, 201 SW Fifth Ave., Fort Lauderdale.  Tickets are $39.50-$99.50 -- Broadway divas don't come cheap.

Want to go? Call the Broward Center at 954-462-0222 or visit the web site.

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Que cuarenta años no es nada 022 Spanish-speaking audiences in Miami are getting more and more theatrical options of late (Defendiendo al cavernicola at the Arsht Center, Se quieren at TeatroAreaStage, Enema at Teatro en Miami Studio).  Friday brings another:  Que cuarenta años no es nada at Teatro 8 in Little Havana.  The Argentinian comedy by Alicia Muñoz stars Marcos Casanova as a guy reunited with the woman (played by Martha Picanes) he has loved for 40 years.  Will he get the courage to confess his feelings this time?

The Hispanic Theatre Guild production is at 8:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays through March 14 at Teatro 8, 2101 SW Eighth St.  Tickets are $25 (students and seniors get discounts).  Call 305-541-4941 or visit the web site.

February 03, 2009

Attend the tale of a theater god

Furth and Sondheim Stephen Sondheim (shown in the photo with the late George Furth, his collaborator on Company and Merrily We Roll Along) is as close to a musical theater god as it gets.  Just ask the legion of younger composers who followed him, were influenced by him but rarely topped him as either composer or lyricist.

Sondheim makes a rare personal appearance in these parts (iif West Palm Beach qualifies as "these parts" for you) at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 4.  He'll sit with Sean Flahaven, formerly of  The Sondheim Review, to discuss his prolific career, specific shows -- well, who knows what might come up?  Singer Kate Baldwin will break up the conversation with musical "illustrations" from the man who gave us Sweeney Todd, Assassins, Pacific Overtures, A Little Night Music and so much more.

A Conversation With Stephen Sondheim ihappens at the Alexander W.Dreyfoos Concert Hall at the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts, 701 Okeechobee Blvd., West Palm Beach.  Tickets range from $20 in the rear balcony (expect a very tiny Sondheim from that vantage point) to $110 for close-up premium seats.  Call 1-800-572-8471 or visit the Kravis Center web site.

February 02, 2009

Money to make arts dreams come true

Knight arts challeng Folks in the arts have no problem with creativity.  That's as vital to what they do as a musical instrument, toe shoes, paint on canvas, words in a script.  What is often more difficult  is finding funding to help turn creative ideas into new art.

The Miami-based John S. and James L. Knight Foundation has just begun taking applications for its second Knight Arts Challenge.  Last year's inaugural Challenge saw $8 million awarded to 31 South Florida groups and individuals -- everything from artist residencies to a network of children's choirs.  Spending $40 million over a five-year period, the foundation wants to help bring a diverse South Florida together through funding arts ideas.

The process is simple, though a requirement to raise matching funds requires effort.  The only other rules are that the idea or project must be about the arts, and that it takes place in or benefits South Florida.

Thus far, music and visual arts ideas have dominated the foundation's attention and funding. But surely innovative practitioners of that bridge-building art form known as theater have dreams that could benefit from a partnership with the Knight Foundation.

The deadline for applications is a month from today. (9 a.m. on March 2, to be precise).  Winners are notified in June and have 'til November to raise matching funds.  For info, visit the Knight Arts Challenge web site.