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16 posts from November 2009

November 30, 2009

Musical theaters

No, we're not talking theaters that do musicals, though both of these in-the-news companies do.  On the same day -- how weird is that? -- we learn that two of South Florida's most honored companies, GableStage and Florida Stage, are moving

GableStage, you already know if you read my story in Tuesday's Miami Herald, has been chosen as the new "theater operator" at the long-shuttered Coconut Grove Playhouse  What that means is that Joseph Adler and company will be leaving Coral Gables for the Grove, but not 'til 2012 at the earliest  But it's a big step for South Florida's theater godfather (which we mean in the very nicest way) and his theater, which will double its seating capacity from 150 to 300.  So congrats!

And just because we're obsessive-compulsive, when we checked our e-mail late tonight, we learned that Florida Stage will move from Manalapan to the Marshall E. Rinker Sr. Playhouse at the Raymond F. Kravis Center for the Performing Arts in West Palm Beach in July.  It will remain an autonomous company, but the facilities at the Kravis (not to mention the nearby eateries at City Place) should be a cool enhancement for Florida Stage's avid audience.  Just thought you'd want to know.  More tomorrow.

November 25, 2009

Black Friday theater sale

Taking a cue from the way retailers drive business on the day after Thanksgiving, two South Florida theaters are offering special discounted tickets.

TorturePlantation's Mosaic Theatre is doing so well with its production of Christopher Durang's satirical Why Torture Is Wrong, and the People Who Love Them that it has added late Sunday shows at 7 p.m. Nov. 29 and Dec. 6; regular performances are at 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 3 p.m. Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, and the show runs through Dec. 13.  You can get $5 off the usual ticket price -- which is $37 for adults, 31 for seniors 65 and up, $15 for students -- if you order from now through midnight Friday.  Call the box office at 954-577-8243 or visit the Mosaic web site and use the promo code Black Friday. The show, a contemplation of America's love affair with violence, is chock-full of sly performances, particularly from Barbara Bradshaw, Dave Corey and Erik Fabregat.  Mosaic performs in the American Heritage School's Center for the Performing Arts, 12200 W. Broward Blvd., Bldg. 3000.

Irene00_xmas_mds_ho Actors' Playhousein Coral Gables hasn't yet opened its production of Sean Grennan and Leah Okimoto's two-character musical Another Night Before Christmas.  But the theater is offering $20 tickets to some performances of the show if you buy them on Black Friday.  Carbonell Award winners Irene Adjan and Ken Clement star in the show about a lonely social worker and a Santa-like homeless guy. 

The show begins previews Dec. 2, opens Dec. 4 and runs through Dec. 27 in the Balcony Theatre in the Miracle Theatre, 280 Miracle Mile, Coral Gables. Regular performances are 8 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, with an additional matinee Dec. 9 and no show on Christmas Eve. Call 305-444-9293 or visit the box office Friday to get the discounted tickets. 

November 24, 2009

Two readings, many plays

The week after Thanksgiving brings not just holiday shows but a pair of play-reading events showcasing the work of new and veteran playwrights.

Mark Della VenturaActor-playwrights Mark Della Ventura (in photo) and David Sirois have written a collection of short plays and monologues on topics ranging from baseball to funerals to the Miami-Dade County Police Department.  They'll be presented at a free reading at 8 p.m. Dec. 4-5 at the Women's Theatre Project, 505 NW First Ave., Fort Lauderdale.

Joining the two for An Evening of Free Staged Readings are fellow actors Lela Elam, Manny Garay, Katie Gemignani, David Hemphill, Ashley Olberding and Gladys Ramirez.  The performance space is small, so if you're interested, get there early.

Also next week, Conundrum Stages is doing its third free reading of Horton Foote's The Trip to Bountiful. Dorothy Morrison, Andre Gainey, Carey Hart, Kenyatta Browne, Gary Simpson, Justin Mellender and Edward Max are in the cast, with Paula Sackett directing the play about an elderly woman who sets out to revisit her childhood home.

The event takes place at the Galt Ocean Mile Reading Center, 3403 Galt Ocean Dr., Fort Lauderdale. Call 954-537-2877 for information.

November 23, 2009

Beyond "The Nutcracker"

Though there's nothing wrong, nothing at all, with the ubiquitous holiday ballet The Nutcracker (particularly Miami City Ballet's beautiful production), South Florida theater fans young and old have several non-dance options for their post-Thanksgiving entertainment.

Another Night Before Xmas The most intriguing looks to be the two-character musical Another Night Before Christmasat Actors' Playhouse in Coral Gables.  Written by Sean Grennan and Leah Okimoto, whose Married Alive!was a summer hit at Actors', the show stars Carbonell Award winners Irene Adjan and Ken Clement -- she plays a lonely social worker, he's a homeless guy who may or not be Santa Claus.

Another Night Before Christmas plays in the upstairs Balcony Theatre at Actors', 280 Miracle Mile in Coral Gables, from Dec. 2-27. Performances are 8 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday (extra matinee on Dec. 9, no show on Christmas Eve.  Tickets are $48 Friday-Saturday, $40 other shows (10 percent senior discount, $15 student rush tickets Wednesday-Friday).  Call 305-444-9293 or visit the theater's web site for more info.

* Also at Actors', the musical Madeline's Christmas is running in the large downstairs theater on Saturdays through Dec. 26.  The family show has performances at 2 p.m. each Saturday, with extra public performances at 5 p.m. Dec. 20 and Dec. 24.  Tickets are $15.

ChristmasCarol *  Another family-friendly show, a musical adaptation of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, plays the Amaturo Theater at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, 201 SW Fifth Ave., Fort Lauderdale, Dec. 1-6.  The classic tale about a miser changed by visions of Christmases past, present and future has performances at 10 and 11:30 a.m. Tuesday-Wednesday, 7:30 p.m. Thursday-Friday, 2:30 and 5:30 p.m. Saturday-Sunday (with an extra show at 11 a.m. Saturday).  Tickets are $17.50 (but on Dec. 1-2, they're just $7).  Call 954-462-0222 or visit the Broward Center web site for info.

*  If you can't wait to kick off Christmas and have a slightly more adult/askew sensibility, remember that Scrooge in Rouge starring Ricky Graham, Varla Jean Merman and Yvette Hargis will be performed live at Cinema Paradiso, 503 SE Sixth St., Fort Lauderdale, Friday-Sunday at 8 p.m., Saturday-Sunday at 2 p.m.  Tickets are $40 ($30 for members of the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival. Call 954-525-3456 or visit the film fest site.

*  If you're a procrastinator, here's the show for you. The Radio City Christmas Spectacular is coming to the BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise -- afterChristmas.  The spectacle-filled holiday extravaganza runs Dec. 29-30 at the center, 2555 NW 136th Ave. (Panther Parkway), Sunrise.  The Rockettes will get their kicks in at 7 p.m. Dec. 29-30, with additional shows at 1 and 4 p.m. Dec. 30. Tickets are $45.25-$99 for adults, $39.25-$49.25 for kids.  Visit the BankAtlantic web site for more info.

November 18, 2009

McCraney's plays inspire a rave

McCraney Miami's Tarell Alvin McCraney wrote most of his reputation-making trilogy -- The Brother/Sister Plays -- while he was still a graduate student at the Yale School of Drama.just over two years ago.  Since then, he has gathered awards, acclaim and admiration both in the United States and Great Britain.  And the trilogy -- In the Red and Brown Water, The Brothers Size and Marcus; or the Secret of Sweet -- has kept his ascendant career soaring.

Produced last spring at the Tony Award-winning McCarter Theatre, the trilogy has just opened at New York's Public Theater, where the plays are running through Dec. 20.  Though some critics had mixed reactions to the three plays, the all-important New York Times review was an out-and-out rave.

Ben Brantley began his review this way:  "Spinning stories becomes a blessed biological process in Tarell Alvin McCraney's Brother/Sister Plays, as natural and necessary as breathing.  It is said of one character in this gorgeous trilogy,..that she 'breathes like the wind.'  So do Mr. McCraney's plays, which are pumped full of a senses-heightening oxygen that leaves you tingling."

Brothers Size But that's not all.  A few paragraphs later, Brantley writes:  "Watching them, you experience the excited wonder that comes from witnessing something rare in the theater:  a new, authentically original vision.  It's what people must have felt during productions of the early works of Eugene O'Neill in the 1920s or of Sam Shepard in the 1960s."

Heady stuff.  But that's the kind of praise that helps make a career and win even more awards.

If you're heading to New York and want to see what the fuss is about, call 1-212-967-7555 or visit the Public's web site.  Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre is also planning new productions of the Brother/Sister Plays, this time all staged by Tina Landau (she directed In the Red and Brown Water at the McCarter and the Public; Robert O'Hara staged the other two).  The plays will run in rep Jan. 21-May 23, 2010.

Yet even though at least two South Florida artistic directors have tried (so far unsuccessfully) to get the rights to The Brothers Size, McCraney's work still hasn't been produced in the place that helped shape him.

November 17, 2009

Hear a play, listen to a story

Resized_Sun_Shone_Brighter_web Christopher Demos-Brown is an attorney and a playwright.  The latter career seems to be heating up, with the world premiere of his play When the Sun Shone Brighter -- about a Cuban-American Miami mayor undone by ambition, lies and sex -- scheduled at Manalapan's Florida Stage May 12-June 20, 2010. 

Christopher Demos-Brown He's got another new play, Tropical Depression, in the works, and here's a reminder that you can experience it much sooner.  GableStage is doing a free staged reading of the script at 7:30 p.m. Monday. Stuart Meltzer directs a topnotch cast -- Barbara Bradshaw, Todd Allen Durkin, Amy McKenna, Bill Schwartz, Deborah Sherman, David Sirois and Ivette Viñas -- in the dark comedy about a family trapped by a hurricane.  GableStage, if you don't know, is in the Biltmore Hotel, 1200 Anastasia Ave., Coral Gables. Call 305-445-1119 or visit the company's web site for more information.


Florida Atlantic University and Boca Raton's Caldwell Theatre Company are collaborating again on an adult storytelling series, this time with more featured artists.  Singers and Zingers: A Musical-Comedic Storytelling Series kicks off Nov. 30 with Charlotte Blake Alston telling stories and sharing music from West Africa.  Bil Lepp, Nancy Donoval, Grammy winner Bill Harley and guitarist Heather Forest are also on the series.

All performances are at 2 and 7 p.m. Mondays at the Caldwell, 7901 N. Federal Hwy., Boca Raton. Tickets are $20 and-$25 for one show, $60 and $80 for the series.  Call 1-877-245-7432 or visit the Caldwell's web site for details.

November 16, 2009

Crazy Christmas fare, an honor and the Humana Fest lineup

VARLA HARGIS GRAHAMIf you're fond of gents in dresses and unorthodox takes on Christmas classics, Cinema Paradiso has a live pre-holiday treat for you.

New Orleans-based performers Varla Jean Merman (a.k.a. Jeffery T. Roberson), Yvette Hargis and Ricky Graham are doing a wee tour of Scrooge in Rouge: A British Music Hall Christmas Carol, and they're bringing it to Cinema Paradiso Nov. 27-29.  The three tackle more than 20 characters and provide a Christmas Carol unlike any that have come before it.

Performances are at 8 p.m. Friday-Sunday, 2 p.m. Saturday-Sunday at Cinema Paradiso, 503 SE Sixth St., Fort Lauderdale.  Tickets are $45 ($30 for Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival members).  Visit the FLIFF web site for info.


Mario ErnestoCongrats to Mario Ernesto Sánchez and the International Hispanic Theatre Festival (IHTF), which was honored Oct. 30 with the FIT de Cádiz-Atahualpa del Cioppo Award.  The award recognizes the festival, which will turn 25 in July, for its championing of "the values of Ibero-American theater."

Sánchez, founder of Miami's Teatro Avante and the IHTF's longtime artistic director, picked up and award in Cadiz and remarked, "Despite the difficult time the world's economy is going through, all our sponsors, volunteers, artists, technicians, researchers, academics, programmers and audiences enable us to keep our commitment to the survival, continuity and development of our Hispanic cultural heritage, which contributes so much to everyone's quality of life."


Humana The playwrights and works that will be showcased at the 34th annual Humana Festival of New American Plays -- the country's best-known new play fest -- have just been announced. 

No South Florida playwrights made this year's cut, but Deborah Zoe Laufer, whose plays End Days, The Last Schwartz and The Gulf of Westchesterall premiered at Manalapan's Florida Stage, got one of the slots with her new play Sirens(which was also to have been featured at Florida Stage this season, 'til it got pulled for further "rewrites").  It's described in the Humana Fest materials this way:  "Enchanting music, memories of passionate youth and Facebook Scrabble conspire against drifting empty-nesters Sam and Rose in this captivating comedy.  Will a 25th anniversary cruise to the magical and mythical Greek Isles rekindle their relationship?  Rose hopes so, but Sam has other ideas."

Also on the bill at this year's festival Feb. 21-March 28, 2010, are Fissures (lost and found) by Steve Epp, Cory Hinkle, Dominic Orlando, Dominique Serrand, Deborah Stein and Victoria Stewart; Ground by Lisa Dillman; Phoenix by Scott Organ; The Method Gun by Kirk Lynn and the Rude Mechs; The Cherry Sisters Revisited by Dan O'Brien (music by Michael Friedman); and Heist! by Sean Daniels and Deborah Stein.

The 34th Humana Festival takes place at Actors Theatre of Louisville in Kentucky, with single ticket prices ranging from $30 to $56.  Special ticket packages for theater professionals, new play lovers, educators and students are available starting Friday.  For information, call 1-800-428-5849 or visit the Actors' Theatre web site.

(Humana Festival poster by Richard Wilkinson)

November 13, 2009

The devil's due in Coral Springs

Screwtape If you're looking for something theatrical to do this weekend, one option is to watch as a sly devil explains precisely how to undermine the faith of a new convert to Christianity.

The Screwtape Letters, an adaptation of the epistolary novel by Chronicles of Narnia author C.S. Lewis' novel, is doing its entertaining, intellectually stimulating dirty work for three performances at Broward's Coral Springs Center for the Arts, 2855 Coral Springs Dr.  Actor Max McLean, who wrote the script with director Jeffrey Fiske, plays the exuberant senior devil, Screwtape.  From his comfortable office in Hell (where else?), he dictates his game plan to his secretary, Toadpipe (Karen Eleanor Wight),

Performances are at 4 and 8 p.m. Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday.  Tickets are $29 to $49.  Call 954-344-5990 or visit the Coral Springs Center's web site for information.

November 12, 2009

A comic (book) sensibility hits the stage

MC Promo ArtMarco Ramirez, who's in his second year at the Juilliard School's prestigious play-writing program, is an award-winning South Florida playwright who has always loved the fantastic worlds to be found in comic books.  His newest full-length work -- Macon City: A Comic Book Play -- is rooted in that tradition, with a plot that sounds as if it could just have easily have been created as a comic book or graphic novel.

Opening Friday the 13th in a Naked Stage production at Barry University, Macon City is set in a decaying metropolis where residents are struggling to survive, their city having been abandoned by its crime-fighting superheroes.  John Manzelli is directing and doing the lighting. Antonio Amadeo has created the set, Leslye Menshouse the costumes, and Matt Corey the sound design.

Macon City In this first full production of the new work are David Hemphill, Hugh Murphy, Scott Genn, Alyn Darnay, Jasmine Fluker, Naja Corbett, Jason DeWitt and Giordan Diaz.

The play has a short run, just through Nov. 29, at the Pelican Theatre on Barry's campus, 11300 NE Second Ave., Miami Shores. Performances are at 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 2 and 7 p.m.Sunday (no show on Thanksgiving).  Tickets are $25 ($18 for seniors 60 and older, $12 for students).  If you want to be among the first audiences to experience Macon City, call 1-866-811-4111 or visit Naked Stage's web site.

November 11, 2009

Theater shorts

Front-of-Flyer-Web No, this isn't a post about a festival of short plays.  It's a collection of brief items about theater -- an edgy play, a benefit raffle, a rock musical premiere, enhanced Broadway touring performances -- from around South Florida.

*  Unhinged Theatre, a company of Florida International University theater grads and students, is putting on a brief run of Stephen Adly Guirgis' Den of Thieves.  Jose Grau directs Ashley Alvarez, Zunyer Garcia, Yesenia Iglesias, Michael Leon, Matthew Mur, Paul Perez and Ryan Rodriguez in a play about people who plot to steal $750,000 in drug money, only to find themselves in a life-and-death battle.

The show goes on for two weekends, at 8 p.m. this Saturday-Sunday and Nov. 21-22, at the Alper Jewish Community Center's Robert Russell Theater, 11155 SW 112th Ave., Miami.  Tickets are $15 (students $10).  Call 305-785-7377 or go to the Unhinged web site for more info.

* This Friday, Plantation's Mosaic Theatre is partnering with its host institution, The American Heritage School, to raise funds for the ongoing medical treatment of teen burn victim Michael Brewer.  The theater and school are selling raffle tickets at $2 each or three for $5, and the prizes are 45 "gently used" eMac computers and 45 tickets to Mosaic shows.  Send a check made out to American Heritage School, with "Michael Brewer" on the memo line, to Mosaic Theatre, 12200 W. Broward Blvd., Suite 3121, Plantation, FL 33325 -- but remember, the drawing is this Friday.

*  In Broward Center news, 100 Years of Broadway composer Neil Berg is world premiering a new piece called The 12 on April 1, 2010, in the center's Au-Rene Theater.  Berg's rock-style score, set to a story by Pulitzer Prize winner Robert Schenkkan (The Kentucky Cycle), will be performed by Broadway/rock performers including Rob Evan, Danny Zolli, Lawrence Clayton and Patti Russo.  The show is described as "the musical that begins where Jesus Christ Superstar left off."  Tickets are $25-$55 and are on sale at the box office (954-462-0222) and on the Broward Center's web site (but you have to search for it by typing in The Twelve -- it doesn't show up if you try The 12 or Berg's name).

* Also at the Broward Center, the center has joined with Broadway Across America to offer both signed and open-captioned/audio-described performances of this season's touring Broadway shows.  Signed performances communicate dialogue, lyrics and sound effects to those who understand American Sign Language.  Audio-described narration allows visually impaired theatergoers to listen to descriptions of a show's visual elements on special head sets. Open captioning provides a text displayof dialogue and lyrics to the side of the stage.

The center's current show, Legally Blonde the Musical, will ahve a signed performance at 8 p.m. Nov. 20 and an open-captioned/audio-described performance at 2 p.m. Nov. 21.  Similar performances will take place during the runs of The Phantom of the Opera, The 39 Steps (at the Parker Playhouse), In the Heights and The Color Purple.  Get tickets to the special performances by calling the box office at 954-462-0222 or calling via TTY at 954-468-3283.