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10 posts from July 2009

July 17, 2009

Mucho teatro en español

The 24th International Hispanic Theatre Festival continues through July 26, bringing with it many fine Spanish-language theater experiences.  But if you're looking for even more theater en español, you're in luck.

Though Area Stage'sproduction of Gustavo Ott's Tu ternura Molotov (Your Molotov Kisses) winds up its extended run in Coral Gables on Sunday, the Hispanic Theatre Guild's production of Alicia Muñoz's La pipa de paz (The Peace Pipe) continues its run at Teatro 8 in Little Havana through Aug. 16.

Celador-2 Joining those shows this weekend is Ernesto Garcia's El celador del desierto (The Guardian of the Desert), a 1996 play being produced to mark the second anniversary of Teatro en Miami Studio.

Sandra Garcia is the Keeper of  Secrets, Anniamary Martinez a young woman whose meeting with the Keeper leads to her destiny in this metaphoric play about humans living 2000 years after a nuclear holocaust.  The play is performed in Spanish but, as with Tu ternura Molotov, the dialog is accompanied by English subtitles.

El celador del desierto runs through Aug. 22 at Teatro en Miami Studio, 2500 SW Eighth St. (second floor), Miami.  Tickets are $20.  For information, call 305-551-7473 or visit the company's web site.


Hasta luego:  I'm off on vacation until August 5, so Drama Queen will return when I do.

July 16, 2009

Interview leads to a play

Terrance Olear When Matt May was taking a college journalism course, he got an assignment to interview someone.  He chose his friend Terrance Olear, a then-overweight actor from a strict Catholic family, and hit pay dirt.  Olear (in the first photo) talked about his gay brother's death from AIDS and their mother's death from cancer only six months later; years later, at May's suggestion, Olear would write a series of funny, tragic, complicated stories about his life.

After 14 years, those stories have been woven by May into an inspired-by-life play, Still Untitled.  The play gets a short run next week at Fort Lauderdale's Rising Action Theatre, with May directing and Olear playing the main character.

Matt May That character is Tristan O'Brien, an actor preparing to make his Broadway debut. As he gets ready to go on, O'Brien muses about love, life and going on after the deaths of two people so important in his life.

"I know we all have sad stories inside.  We all have questions about the paths we take," says Olear.  "I am just so glad that a friend has taken a chance on me, and that my stories have inspired him to write a wonderful piece of theater."

May (in second photo) put the production together as his master's thesis project for Nova Southeastern University's Interdisciplinary Arts Program.  Performances are 8 p.m. July 22-25, 2 p.m. July 25, 3 p.m. July 26 at Rising Action, 840 E. Oakland Park Blvd.  Tickets are $30 ($20 for students and seniors 55 and up), and a portion of sales will benefit Care Resource, a nonprofit AIDS organization.  Visit Verve Central Productions' web site to order.

July 15, 2009

Crisp Coward on a summer's night

Hand300 Though plenty of South Florida theaters opt for the escapist pleasures of musicals and revues in summer, Palm Beach Dramaworks has something a bit pithier in store. Noel Coward's Private Lives is the tart treat; in it, Caroline Strong and Wynn Harmon play battling, still-in-love former spouses who happen to choose the very same hotel (and side-by-side suites) for honeymoons with their subsequent mates.

Besides Strong and Harmon, Katherine Tanner and Cliff Burgess appear as the not-so-fortunate second spouses.  J. Barry Lewis directs it all.

Palm Beach Dramaworks is at 322 Banyan Blvd. in West Palm Beach.  The play begins previews tonight at 8 p.m., opens on Friday and runs through Aug. 16.  Performances are at 8 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, 3 p.m. Wednesday, 2 p.m. Saturday-Sunday.  Tickets are $42 evenings, $40 for matinees.  Call 561-514-4042 or visit the Dramaworks web site.

July 14, 2009

Just for laughs

Nuke-fam5 Just the Funny, the comedy-theater troupe with its own home in Coral Gables, plays host to The Nuclear Family this weekend when the New York-based company headlines the 2009 Miami Improv Festival.  John Gregorio, Stephen Guarino and Jimmy Ray Bennett (pictured here) improvise musicals about a not-so-normal family, and Gregorio will teach master classes on how to build on improvisational skills to create rich characters and stories from 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

The festival begins Friday, July 17, at 8 p.m. with a performance by Model Citizens, followed by The Nuclear Family at 9 p.m. and Just the Funny at 10 p.m.  Master class students perform at 7 p.m. Saturday, followed by Impromedy at 8 p.m., The Nuclear Family at 9 p.m. and A Pair of Nuts at 10 p.m.  Master class students also perform at 7 p.m. Sunday.

Tickets to Nuclear Family performances are $15, with all other shows $10 each.  The workshop cost is $150.  Just the Funny's theater is at 3119 Coral Way in Coral Gables.  For information, call 305-951-1875 or visit the festival web site.

July 13, 2009

Getting mellow, flying high

Two trippy pieces of theater aimed at twentysomethings -- Reefer Madness: The Musical and the return of Toners in Time -- arrive in late July to offer alternative versions of getting high on art.

_wsb_540x397_POSTCARDFRONTweb The Alternative Theatre Summer Festival at Florida International University is presenting Reefer Madness: The Musical, the inspired-by-the-movie stage spoof by Kevin Murphy and Dan Studney.  The hilariously awful 1936 movie, originally titled Tell Your Children, was aimed at warning the young about the dangers of marijuana.  Turned into an exploitation film and retitled Reefer Madness, it became a cult classic during the toking '70s, and now a campy musical featuring adult humor, religious parody and scenes suggesting drug use, violence and sex. What's not to like?

Reefer Madness: The Musical previews July 21, opens July 22 and runs through Aug. 9 in  DM 150 on the FIU campus at 11200 SW Eighth St. in Miami. Tickets are a wallet-friendly $10 (just $5 for the preview), and performances are 8 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, 5 p.m. Sunday.  Visit the festival web site for info.

Tones00_foryoucansee_wknd_h Also returning for one more trip through time is Toners in Time, featuring the misadventure of reggaeton superstar-wannabes Tito and Che-Frio.  The Foryoucansee Theater production sold out (and then some) when it debuted last month at New Theatre, so the Foryoucansee guys (Alex Fumero, Lucas Leyva and Marco Ramirez) are bringing it back July 24-26.  The show is crazy funny, costs just $10 to see, and the free Caldas rum and Jupiña cocktails before the show probably make it even funnier.

Catch it at 8 p.m. July 24-25, 7 p.m. July 26 at New Theatre, 4120 Laguna St. in Coral Gables.  Get tickets via the Foryoucansee web site

July 09, 2009

Meltzer out as City's Shorts streamlines

City team Stuart Meltzer just wrapped up his second season as the artistic director of City Theatre, the company that presents the popular annual Summer Shorts festival at Miami's Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts and the Broward Center.  As he found out after he went to work on Wednesday, that second season will be his last:  He was let go by Stephanie Norman (City's executive director and one of the company's three founders) and Alan Fein (board chairman and spouse of Susan Westfall, another City founder who also sits on the board).

Norman (she's in the middle in the photo, with Meltzer to the left and general manager Kerry Shiller to the right) explains that the company has a $50,000 deficit, a burden made worse by shortfalls in projected ticket sales in both Miami-Dade and Broward.  Worst hit during the recently ended 14th annual Shorts Fest was the Shorts 4 Kids program, which drew 76 percent of capacity last summer but fell below 30 percent this year -- probably, Norman guesses, because recession-related cutbacks brought far fewer school and camp groups to the theater.

Looking at the deficit, disappointing ticket sales and fundraising challenges, and anticipating a loss of $15,000 to $20,000 in grant money for next season, Norman, Fein and the board weighed numerous options and made the choice to go back to a seasonal festival coordinator rather than a year-round artistic director.

"The reviews and response from the audience were strong [this year],'' Norman says, "but we didn't hit our numbers."

So one major savings, it seems, will be Meltzer's salary.  The South Florida native, former head of theater at Gulliver Prep and a former full-time faculty member at the New World School of the Arts, was shaken by the news of his sudden unemployment but has chosen to take the high road.

"The board hired a young, energetic, creative person who was going to shake things up, and I tried to do that.  City Theatre has a terrific board in both Miami-Dade and Broward -- they care a lot,"  he says.  It's just bad luck that the economy is what it is."

Fein says that founders Norman, Westfall and Elena Wohl "did a great job taking the organization to the next level and the next.  After the 10th year, we asked whether we should just declare victory and wrap it up."  Because of support from the Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs, Carnival Cruise Lines, the Arsht Center and numerous other companies, foundations, individual donors and government grants -- and because of the festival's popularity -- it stuck around and kept growing until the economy shriveled. Fein says that he's determined to make sure the 15th Summer Shorts starts $50,000 in the black and is hoping the company's artistic process "gets more collaborative again."

Norman says of Meltzer, "He's a charming, bright, articulate, wonderfully creative soul.  Working with him has been a pleasure.  I like him very much personally...Do we agree on everything?  No. When you put on art, disagreement is just human nature.  This model didn't work.  For better or worse, it has to change."

July 08, 2009

Fresh theater at a bargain price

New Theatre hosted Foryoucansee Theater's debut production of Toners in Time the  last weekend in June, and a raucous time was had by all for just $10 a ticket.

NEW ONES photo Since the company isn't putting up its own production 'til The Taming of the Shrew opens Aug. 27, artistic director Ricky J. Martinez and managing director Eileen Suarez are opening their theater to another group of young artists.  Lili Bita's Women of Fire and Blood runs Friday-Sunday, July 10-12, followed by The New Ones Festival July 17-19.  Both productions are the work of recent New World School of the Arts alumni, and again, you can see either show for just $10 a ticket.

Betsy Graver, Ashley Olberding, Ann Marie Olson, Jackie Rivera and Gladys Ramirez are in Women, described as "edgy, raw and erotic poetry, as seen through the eyes of 'the other women' in Greek mythology."  Anne Chamberlain (in Road to Crazy Town, pictured here), Mark Della Ventura (Small Membership), Justin McLendon (I Wish), Olberding (For as Long as We Both Shall Live) and Ramirez (The Blushing Bride) are the "New Ones," actor-playwrights performing one-person shows.

The shows go on at 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 5 p.m. Sunday.  New Theatre is at 4120 Laguna St. in Coral Gables.  Call the box office at 305-443-5909 or visit the theater's web site for more info.

July 06, 2009

Opening night happy hour(s)

Eric00_collins_wknd_KJOn Friday evening, I drove up to Manalapan (a ritzy oceanside community south of Lake Worth in Palm Beach County) for the world premiere of Some Kind of Wonderful! at Florida Stage.  It was opening night, and (as with Actors' Playhouse in Coral Gables) the Florida Stage folks like to make sure that special audience (which includes subscribers, board members, donors, theater staffers, actors' family members and, yes, critics) walks into the theater happy. 

So there's food before (at Actors' it's after), dessert after the show and, most importantly, free wine and/or special cocktails right up to showtime.  Now, if you've ever been a guest at an event, a wedding or a party with an open bar, you know that for many people, restraint isn't part of the experience. "Free" seems to be an irresistible magic word.

Now, I enjoyed Some Kind of Wonderful! -- just check out my review.  But if you were part of that opening night audience and listened to the crowd's reaction, you might have thought you were watching Phantom of the Opera, Mamma Mia! and Wicked, all rolled into one.  They hooted! They hollered!  They gave it their best woo-woo!  And many of them were at least partially plastered, or on the way there.

I don't begrudge anyone a good time.  But alcohol does tend to make inhibitions (not to mention sober reflection) melt away.  Hence the bellowing glee from some theater staffers and friends of the cast (and band) who were seated in the audience.

How do I know that some of the mad cheering wasn't coming from regular ticket buyers?  One example: Several people seated near the back of the theater to the right were giving loud props to the bass player -- by name -- and that's not something that your average audience member does.  Too hard to look up the name in the program in the dark.

Another example:  The staging for The Lion Sleeps Tonight involved inflatable palm trees, flashlights and a small toy lion.  Cheesy in the extreme.  But from the reaction -- the far-from-sober reaction -- you might think you were watching Elphaba levitate as she sings Defying Gravity.

Turning opening night into one long party isn't unusual.  Florida Stage does it, Actors' Playhouse does, so does Miami's Mad Cat.  But if you've ever wondered why reviews of an opening night show aren't always as wildly enthusiastic as the partisan, partying crowd reaction would lead you to expect, now you know. 

July 02, 2009

Acting in Spanish

Shakes00_hispanic_wknd_SMThe 24th edition of Miami's International Hispanic Theatre Festival gets under way on Wednesday, July 8, bringing with it the opportunity to savor lots of Spanish-language plays over a short time period.  Though some of the festival's plays will have English supertitles to help not-so-fluent theatergoers follow along, and one (Oliver Mayer's Dias y flores, by the Los Angeles-based Company of Angels Theatre) will be performed in English, most shows will demonstrate the art of acting in Spanish.

For a number of the actors in Prometeo Theatre's Otelo -- Raquel Carrió's adaptation of William Shakespeare's Othello-- their festival performances July 9-12 mark a milestone.  The 11 students in the first class to complete Prometeo's one-of-a-kind, two-year professional conservatory program have completed their coursework and are ready to enter the larger world -- of theater, television and movies -- of Spanish-language arts and entertainment.

The official festival performances of Oteloare at 8:30 p.m. July 9-10, with additional performances at 8:30 p.m. July 11 and 5 p.m.July 12  at Prometeo's theater on the Wolfson Campus of Miami Dade College, 300 NE Second Ave., Miami.  Tickets are $25, with discounts for students, seniors and disabled theatergoers.  Call 305-237-3262 or visit Prometeo's web site.

With those 11 actors moving on, Prometeo's director Joann Maria Yarrow is looking to fill five remaining slots for the new group of students entering the program in the fall.  The last round of auditions is July 20.  Information and application forms are on the Prometeo web site.

July 01, 2009

World premieres and a marriage musical

Further putting the lie to the idea that summer is a dead zone for South Florida theater, the next two weeks bring a pair of world premieres, plus a peppy musical revue about the pleasures and travails of marriage.

MarriedaliveIn Coral Gables, Actors' Playhouse is offering a bit of resonant escapism in its upstairs Balcony Theatre. Married Alive!, which previews July 8-9 and opens July 10 for a run through Aug. 16, follows a pair of newlyweds and a long-married couple as they deal with the stresses and joys of life, including little ones who then grow up and fly away. Carbonell Award winner Gary Marachek, Marcia McClain, Julie Kleiner and Jason Parrish are the show's stars.   Performances are 8 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday (Thursday-Saturday beginning July 30), 2 p.m. Sunday (additional matinees 2 p.m. July 15 and July 22).   Tickets are $48 Friday-Saturday, $40 other shows, $35 for previews (student and senior discounts except Saturday-Sunday). The theater is at 280 Miracle Mile in Coral Gables. Call 305-444-9293 or visit the Actors' web site.

Broward Stage Door Theatre had planned to begin a long run of Tony Finstrom's world premiere comedy Knish Alley!on July 10, but a cast change has now pushed back the opening to July 17.  The play follows the journey of a troupe of poor Yiddish actors traveling from England to the United States at the turn of the 20th century, as the performers do menial jobs by day and put on operettas at night.  Steven Chambers, Todd Bruno, Miki Edelman, David Hemphill, Kally Khourshid, Jaime Libbert and Kevin Reilly star in a play Finstrom describes as "...a fond look back at the way things were...and might have been, on board a ship bound for a new land, a new language and the promise of a new beginning."  Performances of Knish Alley!, which runs through Aug. 30, are at 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Wednesday and Saturday-Sunday.  Tickets are $33.25. The theater is at 8036 W. Sample Rd., Coral Springs. Call 954-344-7765 or visit the Stage Door's web site.

Vices 0037 Clive Cholerton begins his run as the second-ever artistic director at Boca Raton's Caldwell Theatre Company with the world premiere of Vices: A Love Story.  Created by Ilene Reid, Michael Heitzman, Everett Bradley and Susan Draus, the musical explores relationships through song and dance (and, apparently, not too many costumes).  A.C. Ciulla, who got a Tony Award nomination for his work on Footloose, is doing the choreography.  Cholerton's comment on the show:  "The story is contemporary and involves individuals in their 20s and 30s.  The music is sophisticated while remaining accessible.  Above all, the show manipulates a fine line between heartfelt human emotion and outlandish comedy."  Vices previews July 8-9, opens July 10 and runs through Aug. 2.  Performances are 8 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Wednesday and Saturday-Sunday.  Tickets are $38-$47.50.  The Caldwell is at 7901 N. Federal Hwy. in Boca Raton.  Call 1-877-245-7432 or visit the theater's web site.