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11 posts from October 2010

October 28, 2010

Stage Door negotiating Miami Beach home

Joey_Zangardi_-_Tyler_Fish_-_John_Ramsey[1] Derelle Bunn and David Torres, co-producers and founders of the busy Broward Stage Door Theatre in Coral Springs, may soon have much more on their professional plates.  At its Wednesday meeting, the Miami Beach City Commission voted to enter into negotiations with Stage Door to operate the Byron Carlyle Theatre at 500 71st St.  Bunn and Torres, who have been working on the southward expansion of their operations since April, are thrilled.

"We would do the same kinds of things we do here," says Bunn, whose theater is opening the musical On the Town this weekend, complementing the ongoing production of Steel Magnolias.  "It would be predominantly musicals.  We'd run year-round, with a couple of dark weeks between shows."

Bunn says she and Torres will meet with Miami Beach reps Nov. 10 to negotiate a lease, hoping that the terms will be approved at the commission's end-of-November meeting.  She wants to start presenting theater on Miami Beach in January or February, working around some shows already booked into the Byron Carlyle in January.

This isn't the first time that Bunn and Torres, who launched Stage Door in 1994, would be operating a theater away from their two-theater Coral Springs base; the two ran the 26th Street Theatre in Wilton Manors for seven years.  The deal that the two are negotiating calls for Stage Door to run the Byron Carlyle for five years, with an option to renew for another five.

The expansion is, obviously, a risk.  The not-for-profit theater's current $1.5 million budget will have to grow, as will its staff.  But Bunn says she and Torres are up for the challenge.

"We're really excited," she says.  "It's a great opportunity in a beautiful area that the city is trying to revitalize, one with a great audience base."

For info on the Stage Door Theatre, call the box office at 954-344-7765 or visit the company's web site.

October 27, 2010

'Spacey' gets a name change

KillingKevinSpacey The Broward Center is presenting the United States premiere of an award-winning Canadian fringe festival comedy this weekend.  But if you were planning on seeing Killing Kevin Spacey by Elan Wolf Fabiarz and Cory Terry, you should know that now you'll be seeing Channeling Kevin Spacey.  Seems the Oscar winner wasn't thrilled with the original title, and who can blame him?  Haven't these guys seen The Fan?

In any case, the play isn't about what its original title implied (really, don't pay any attention to the photo).  The comedy is about a movie fanatic who thinks his dull life is a little too much like the characters Spacey plays in movies, so he decides to inject a little Al Pacino into his day-to-day, with crazy results.

Scott Douglas Wilson, Monica Mercedes Garcia and Arick Fudall appear in the show, which has performances at 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday in the Amaturo Theater at the center, 201 SW Fifth Ave., Fort Lauderdale. Tickets are $35.  For info, call the box office at 954-462-0222 or visit the Broward Center web site.


October 26, 2010

UM's Joshua Henry is a rising star

Henry 285 Joshua Henry hasn't been out of the University of Miami all that long -- he graduated in 2006 -- but the 26-year-old actor is forging an ascendant career.  He played the boyfriend of Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson in the first Sex and the City Movie, was part of the ensemble (and understudied the leading role of Benny) in the Tony Award-winning musical In the Heights, and got the showy role of the buff military recruiter in American Idiot

But on Sunday at Broadway's Lyceum Theatre, Henry's life in the theater jumps to a whole new level with the opening of The Scottsboro Boys, the final musical by the team that wrote the edgy scores for Cabaret and Chicago, John Kander and Fred Ebb.

Henry stars as Haywood Patterson, one of nine young black men falsely accused of raping two white women aboard a train in 1931.  The case of the "Scottsboro Boys," as the nine were called (Scottsboro was the Alabama town in which they were first tried, in front of an all-white jury after being held incommunicado), became both infamous and precedent-setting, reaching the U.S. Supreme Court.  Nonetheless, despite the fact that one of the defendants' two accusers recanted and said the rapes hadn't happened. Patterson was convicted in four separate trials, sentenced to death after each of the first three.

That's plenty of real-life drama, but Kander and Ebb (plus playwright David Thompson) take The Scottsboro Boys into another realm by styling the story as a minstrel show.  Tony Award winner Susan Stroman is the director and choreographer of a piece that composer Kander saw through to completion the 2004 death of his longtime lyricist-collaborator Ebb.

 Henry's grand opening night begins at 6:30 p.m. Sunday.  If you're New York-bound, you should know the show goes on at 8 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, 3 and 8 p.m. Saturday-Sunday at the Lyceum, 149 W. 45th St.  Tickets are $39.50-$131.50.  Call 1-800-432-7250 or visit the Telecharge web site to order.  For more on the musical, visit the Scottsboro Boys site.



October 22, 2010

Free theater

Savoring the arts doesn't have to be a costly experience; sometimes, you can see a play absolutely free.

This weekend, Barry University students are presenting Lanford Wilson's The Rimers of Eldritch. Hugh Murphy directs a cast of 17 students in the play, a murder mystery set in a dying midwest town.  Performances are 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday in Broad Auditorium on the campus at 11300 NE Second Ave., Miami Shores.  Visit the Barry theater web page for details.

On Saturday, Conundrum Stages presents a free reading of Edgar Allan Poe's The Fall of the House of Usheras part of a Poe celebration in conjunction with the "Big Read" program.  The reading is at 2 p.m. at the Broward County South Regional Library, 7300 Pines Blvd., Pembroke Pines.  Call 954-201-8849 or email conundrumstages@yahoo.com for more information.

October 21, 2010

Putting the 'fun' in fundraiser

GableStage, which has often turned over its Biltmore Hotel space to other companies for readings, fundraisers and productions, has a couple of those events coming up -- capped off by its own Nov. 13 fundraiser, which will not be at the Biltmore.

Tic2_wkend07_dave_barryPulitzer Prize winning humor columnist and author Dave Barry will headline the event at Ransom Everglades School, 3575 Main Hwy. in Coconut Grove.  The location, as you may know, is on the other side of the street from the long-closed Coconut Grove Playhouse, which will (if everything goes as planned) become the new home to GableStage once a 300-seat theater is built on the site.

The event begins with a cocktail reception at 7 p.m., followed by Barry and others -- including Adolfo Henriques, Gwen Margolis, Michael Putney, Glenna Milberg, Claudia Potamkin and Jennifer Getz -- reading from his work at 8 p.m.  Also on the program are selections from GableStage's current touring production of Romeo and Juliet(adapted for school audiences by Arturo Fernandez, artistic director of the Ground Up & Rising company) and presentation of GableStage's first Outstanding Commitment to the Arts Award to outgoing Miami-Dade County commissioner Katy Sorenson.

The money from the fundraiser -- $150 per person for general admission, $250 for special seating -- goes to fund GableStage's educational programming.  For info, call 305-445-1119 or visit GableStage's web site.

As for the on-site events at GableStage, which is located in the Biltmore at 1200 Anastasia Ave. in Coral Gables, the first is a staged-reading benefit for Family Counseling Services of Greater Miami at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.  The South Florida Writers Association (SFWA) will present readings of three short plays:  Dorothy Danaher White's The Planets Speak, Margaret McLaughlin's The Strangers and Anne Dichele's Debbie Squared.  Suggested admission is $15.  Email terebend@yahoo.comor visit the SFWA web site for reservations.

On Nov. 8, the Alliance Theatre Lab takes over the GableStage space for a staged reading of Mark Della Ventura's Small Membership, a piece about male insecurity (which comes with a strong language/adult content warning).  Suggested admission to the Alliance fundraiser is $10 (students $5).  Email thealliancelab@aol.com or phone 305-259-0418 for info.

October 19, 2010

'Tis the season

Hurricane-_(110) Though the arts have been a year-round thing in Florida for a long, long time -- don't call us snowbirds -- it's easy to tell that the Season (with a capital "S") has begun once the calendar has flipped from September to October.  I know this because (in addition to working more than a month without an entire day off) I had an extraordinary three days last week, days and evenings full of moving arts experiences that made me love my job even more. If that's possible.

First I zipped across Alligator Alley to Sarasota to take in several performances at the second Ringling International Arts Festival.  If you've not been to the Ringling Museum of Art (and if not, whynot?), you've missed a Florida treasure on 66 acres by Sarasota Bay.  In addition to the museum, with its collection of rare Old Master paintings (plus modern and contemporary art), you'll find Ca d'Zan (the former home of circus magnate John Ringling and his wife Mable), the Circus Museum, the historic Asolo Theater (a gorgeous restored 18th century Italian theater inside the museum's Visitors' Center) and the FSU Center for the Performing Arts (home to the Asolo Repertory Theatre, where the new musical Bonnie & Clyde  will kick off the season Nov. 16-Dec. 19).

BaryshnikovOn the festival's kickoff Night of Premieres -- violinist Tim Fain playing a new piece by Philip Glass, the Czech Forman Brothers doing a snazzy operatic puppet show, the debut of Pulitzer Prize winner Nilo Cruz's newest play Hurricane, and the night's hottest ticket, solo pieces danced by Mikhail Baryshnikov and David Neumann -- I chose the Cruz's Hurricane, a still-evolving piece about a Caribbean family in crisis after a storm.  It is always a thrill to be part of a first audience, even more so if the man responsible for it all happens to be a Miamian and the first Latino winner of the drama Pulitzer.  And if you can talk to him before and after, which is one of the bonuses of hanging out at a festival.

The next afternoon, I saw Baryshnikov (whose Manhattan-based Baryshnikov Arts Center copresents the festival with the Ringling) and Neumann (a witty, intriguing dancer-choreographer) dance their solos program.  I had seen the younger Baryshnikov (that's him in the photo) dance at Jackie Gleason Theater almost 30 years ago, when his then-girlfriend Jessica Lange was pregnant with their daughter Aleksandra (I remember because Lange and I both visited the ladies' room at intermission).  But to see one of the world's great dancers, now 62, perform again was so moving that I nearly got teary -- particularly as he danced the program's final solo, Benjamin Millepied's Years Later.  Dancing on a bare stage as black-and-white film of a 16-year-old, Baryshnikov dazzled behind him, the mature dancer still thrilled.  He remains a superb actor-dancer capable of communicating emotion -- resignation, acceptance, inspiration -- with the smallest movements and experience-honed technique.   And (thanks to that special festival mixing-and-mingling thing) Baryshnikov and I were part of the same audience for the Forman Brothers' Opera Baroque.

Tarell London On Friday, it was back across Alligator Alley and down to Miami to catch playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney's birthday gift to his high school alma mater, the New World School of the Arts.  About to turn 30 (which he did last Sunday), McCraney decided to throw a fundraiser to help graduating seniors travel to the auditions required for college and acting-program admissions.  The result was both a financial success (the event raised $5,380) and one of the most dramatically potent play readings I've ever attended.

Reading scenes from all three of his breakthrough Brother/Sister Plays -- In the Red and Brown Water, The Brothers Size and Marcus; or the Secret of Sweet-- McCraney and actors Glenn Davis (whose theater credits include productions at Canada's Stratford Festival, Chicago's Steppenwolf and Los Angeles' Mark Taper Forum) and Sterling Brown (a theater, movie and TV veteran currently playing Dr. Roland Burton on the series Army Wives) brought the excerpts to vivid life.  McCraney, a fine actor (though he's way too busy as a playwright to perform any more), was so intense and tormented during a Brothers Size speech that he brought the audience -- and himself -- to tears.  The taste of his talent made his listeners impatient for next summer, when GableStage will present the South Florida debut of The Brothers Size, with McCraney directing.

 The season marches on with opening after opening: Dreamgirls tonight at the Adrienne Arsht Center, A Behanding in Spokane Saturday at GableStage, the world premiere of Cane at Florida Stage Oct. 29, a rare production of No Exit by The Naked Stage, also Oct. 29.  And after last week's extraordinary collection of performances, I can't wait.


October 13, 2010

Tarell McCraney gives back

Tarell London Tarell Alvin McCraney, one of the most talked-about and celebrated young American playwrights, is going to turn 30 on Sunday.  The Miamian, who grew up in Liberty City, is still in the beginning phase of a career that has already earned him affiliations with Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre Company and Great Britain's Royal Shakespeare Company.  Still, entering a new decade is special.  But instead of partying or expecting gifts, McCraney is giving his own gift to his high school alma mater, the New World School of the Arts.

This Friday at 6 p.m., McCraney will do a VIP meet-and-greet, signing copies of his Brother/Sister Plays trilogy -- In the Red and Brown Water, The Brothers Size (which McCraney will direct at GableStage next summer) and Marcus; or the Secret of Sweet.  Then at 7:30 p.m., he and two actor friends -- Glenn Davis and fellow Steppenwolf member Jon Michael Hill -- will read scenes from McCraney's various plays (without regard to gender, he says with a smile).  The purpose is to raise money so that New World's graduating high school seniors can travel for all-important auditions for colleges and acting programs.  McCraney got that kind of help from people who believed in him when he went on to Chicago's DePaul University and then to the play-writing master's degree program at Yale University, so he figures now it's his turn to give back.

But Friday's event, he said recently, is just step one in his grander plan to make a difference in his hometown.

"I want to start a free outdoor Shakespeare festival, ala Canada's Stratford Festival or what the Public Theater does in Central Park,"  McCraney says.  "I want to do three shows every winter here, for free, and to create a company that has four or five playwrights writing for it.  Then I want to start a youth company in Overtown for 30 to 40 kids, from eighth grade through the senior year in high school.  I want to help them get the same kind of education I got at Yale and at the Royal Shakespeare company.  And I want to come home."

Currently, McCraney is always on the move, traveling to England where he works with the Royal Shakespeare Company, to Chicago for Steppenwolf, to the theaters all over the United States that are doing his work.  But he has dug in to pull off this New World birthday benefit, in part to demonstrate that he has what it takes to become the artistic director of his future Miami company.

McCraney knows it will take big, big bucks to make his long-range dreams for Miami a reality.  He applied for a Knight Foundation grant for the free outdoor Shakespeare festival a couple of years ago and didn't get it, not that he was surprised:  "You can't give a kid $2.5 million...But I wanted to show that I had an idea for the arts, and then get the community to buy into it."

McCraney has been picking the brains of artistic directors at the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Public, getting advice on how best to build his hometown company.  Though it will require him to be "a lot more political and out there than I want to be," the goal is worth it.

And personally, he adds, "I want to come home. I understand this place better than anywhere else I've been."

So temporarily, anyway, McCraney is back and making a difference. Friday's VIP event at new world costs $100 and happens at New World's eighth-floor Louise O. Gerrits Theater, 25 NE Second St. in Miami (call Rafael Maldonado at 305-237-3753 for info).  The 7:30 p.m. staged reading costs $30 and takes place in New World's Dance Studio, also on the eighth floor.  For info or tickets, call 305-237-3541 or visit New World's web site.

 (Photo by George Osodi/Aleim Magazine)

October 05, 2010

24-Hour Project delivers again

NAKED18_plays_MDS_MCBThe fourth edition of Naked Stage's 24-Hour Theatre Project is history, having played to a sizable audience of people who were appreciative, giddy and/or exhausted on Monday at the home of Boca Raton's Caldwell Theatre Company.

Katherine Amadeo, now Naked Stage's artistic director (seen in this photo from the first 24-Hour event with company co-founders Antonio Amadeo, left, and John Manzelli), ran the complex creative benefit with finesse.  Nobody got hurt, though actor Patti Gardner almost did when a park bench threatened to roll out from under her.  The eight short written-overnight plays were decent to delicious, their sleepless authors in varying states of near collapse.  As always, the quality of the work that South Florida's acting and directing talent pulled off in a mere 12 hours felt close to miraculous.

My favorites were the three funniest plays. Tony Finstrom's program-launching Henry VIII's Mail Order Bride featured Stephen G. Anthony as a disabled former TV star reading opposite two young actresses (the equally hilarious Lindsey Forgey and Julie Kleiner) auditioning for a play about Henry and fourth wife Anne of Cleves.  With great work from Amy McKenna as a lust-filled playwright-director and a cheating (but funny) cameo from director Avi Hoffman as her kvetching elderly hubby, Finstrom's bubbly play got the evening off to a wacky start.

The second half of the program got off to a similarly buoyant start with Andrew Rosendorf's Dinner With Dracula, in which the crooning Count (Christopher A. Kent) lures a Facebook innocent (Andrea Conte) to his castle for a "bite," much to the dismay of his smitten housekeeper (Laura Hodos).  "Dinner" turns out to be a very much alive out-of-work actress, Lela Elam, who offers a wildly funny, profane and truth-filled rant about what it's like to be...Lela Elam.  Under Barbara Bradshaw's direction, Dinner was a stitch.

Unsurprisingly, the most artfully hilarious piece came from one of the region's most successful playwrights, Michael McKeever.  OMG...ROTFLMAO featured an ebullient Karen Stephens speaking that IM shorthand to share news of her engagement with her uncomprehending (and deadpan funny) best pal (Nancy Barnett); her friend's almost-grown kids  (Adam Simpson and Carrie Santana) also figured into the Internet shenanigans.  McKeever, whose sizable collection of funny short plays has helped raised start-up money for the new Zoetic Stage (he's one of its founders), is a real master of the form, here layering abundant laughs atop a cautionary tale. Director Adalberto Acevedo and a cast that nailed the prolific playwright's latest took a happy audience to a place just shy of ROTFLMAO.

The other plays of 24 -- Andie Arthur's A Rebel's Guide to (Utter) Compliance, David Michael Sirois' Amputease, Lucas Leyva's Fardel's Bear, Christopher Demos-Brown's A Storybook Funeral and Juan C. Sanchez's Armed & Hammered -- risked more stylistically and thematically but didn't quite fly.  Even so, the kind of pressure-cooker creativity that Naked Stage's most theatrical of benefits brings out remains an impressive delight. Can't wait for next time.

October 04, 2010

24-Hour Theatre is cooking

Naked StagePlaywrights, directors, actors and titles got matched last night when The Naked Stage's annual 24-Hour Theatre Project kicked off the frenzied process for its annual fund raiser, this year at the home of the Caldwell Theatre Company in Boca Raton.

If you go to tonight's one-and-only performance of eight brand-new short plays -- and you should, because 24-Hour is one of the most enjoyable and impressive examples of just how much talent calls South Florida home -- here's what (and whom) you'll see.

Andie Arthur's play A Rebel's Guide to (Utter) Compliance, directed by Hugh Murphy, features Andy Quiroga, Patti Gardner, Lisa Manuli and David Dearstyne.  OMG...ROTFLMAO by Michael McKeever, directed by Adalberto Acevedo, features Adam Simpson, Carrie Santanna, Karen Stephens and Nancy Barnett.

Naked tongueDavid Sirois' play Amputease, directed by Des Gallant, features Amy Miller Brennan, Shane Tanner, Mark Della Ventura and Sally Bondi.  Christopher Demos-Brown's play A Storybook Funeral, directed by Michael Leeds, features Tracey Barrow-Schoenblatt, Terry Hardcastle, Lorenzo Gutierrez and Matthew William Chizever.

Amy London is directing Juan C. Sanchez's Armed & Hammered, which features Dave Corey, Jeffrey Bruce, Jackie Rivera and Clive Cholerton.  In Lucas Leyva's Fardle's Bear, directed by Shari Upbin, are Ken Clement, Elizabeth Dimon, Irene Adjan and Ryan Didato.

Andrew Rosendorf's Dinner With Dracula, directed by Barbara Bradshaw, features Lela Elam, Christopher A. Kent, Laura Hodos and Andrea Conte.  And Tony Finstrom's Henry VIII's Mail Order Bride, directed by Avi Hoffman, features Julie Kleiner, Lindsey Forgey, Stephen G. Anthony and Amy McKenna.

The performance begins tonight at 8 at the Caldwell, 7901 N. Federal Hwy., Boca Raton.  VIP tickets are $50, with just plain folks tickets priced at $25.  The proceeds will help fund Naked Stage's upcoming production of No Exit Oct. 29-Nov. 1 at its home Pelican Theatre on the Barry University campus, 11300 NE Second Ave., Miami Shores.  For tickets, call 1-866-811-4111 or visit the Naked Stage web site.

October 02, 2010

A rich glimpse at 'Follies'

While I feel uneasy about reviewing a staged reading or a concert version of anything -- the rehearsal time is too short, the actors aren't off book, etc. -- I do want to share a few quick impressions of the first performance of Follies from the Caldwell Theatre Company's Broadway Concert Series this weekend (just two performances left, so if you're a Stephen Sondheim fanatic, get in your car and head to Boca Raton for the presentation tonight at 8 or Sunday at 2 p.m.

Director Clive Cholerton, with a mighty assist from musical director Eric Alsford and lighting designer Dustin Hamilton (whose effects and projections add a vintage look to an otherwise barren stage), draws strong vocal work from a first-rate cast. Especially memorable are Stephen G. Anthony as the emotionally deadened Ben, Laura Hodos as a brittle Phyllis, Melissa Minyard as the never-got-over-Ben Sally and a way intense Wayne LeGette as Buddy.  (Side note:  When LeGette was delivering his big dark comic solo, Buddy's Blues, castmates John Debokowski [who plays young Ben] and Nicole Niefeld [Young Phyllis] were sitting behind him laughing and talking through much of the number. Not cool, kids.)

Certain numbers (I'm Still Here) lack the bite that more rehearsal could have infused into them, but for the most part, another glorious Sondheim score is strongly served; just try not to get teary when Minyard sings Losing My Mind.

Tickets are $25 and $35; the Caldwell is at 7901 N. Federal Hwy., Boca Raton. Call 1-877-245-7432 or visit the web site.  But hurry.

A final side note: The Caldwell just got the rights to its fourth and final show for the 2010-2011 season -- Yasmina Reza's London/Broadway hit God of Carnage.  I'll bet a few people in Follies will be auditioning.  And they should.