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10 posts from January 2011

January 27, 2011

Taking the plunge

High Dive B If you've ever dreamed of being in a play but haven't quite mustered up the courage to try theater, has Barbara Sloan got a deal for you!

Appearing in Leslie Ayvazian's "solo" show High Dive at New Theatre, Sloan seeks out 34 "volunteers" before each performance, asking the chosen ones to read a line or two at precise moments in the play.  This isn't something Sloan thought up:  Ayvazian did it too when she performed High Dive nine years ago for City Theatre on Miami Beach.

The play about a woman looking back on her life and facing her fears as she's about to turn 50 may feel especially resonant to audience members with performance anxiety. Given New Theatre's size, there's a one-in-three chance Sloan will pick you.

But never fear.  You don't leave your seat, and the humor in the play -- and the actress -- puts everyone at ease.  Sort of a we're-all-jumping-together vibe.

High Dive is at New Theatre, 4120 Laguna St., Coral Gables, through Feb. 13.  Performances are at 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 1 and 5:30 p.m. Sunday (no late show this Sunday).  Tickets are $40 ($35 on Thursday and Sunday evening; $15 student rush tickets based on availability).  Call 305-443-5909 or visit New Theatre's web site for info.


January 24, 2011

Jai Rodriguez to headline Summer Shorts

Jai-event Miami's City Theatre celebrated its 15th anniversary last summer with the world premiere of the full-length family-friendly musical Camp Kappawannaby Lisa Loeb.  So how to top that for the Sweet Sixteen summer of 2011?  Bring in Jai Rodriguez, actor and TV personality, to lend some extra buzz to the Summer Shorts acting company.

Rodriguez, one of the stars of Bravo's Queer Eye for the Straight Guy (he also scored Broadway replacement gigs in Rent and The Producers), will headline this summer's company.  His fellow actors, according to festival artistic director John Manzelli, are Gregg Weiner, Finnerty Steeves, Ceci Fernandez and Steve Trovillion, a.k.a. "Mr. Summer Shorts." The summer's directors will be Manzelli, Trovillion, Barry Steinman, Gail Garrisan and Margaret Ledford.

Manzelli adds that the festival, which will be in the Carnival Studio Theater at Miami's Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts June 3-26 (and at the Broward Center June 30-July 3), will include three late-night performances of Rodriguez' solo show Dirty Little Secrets, presented in partnership with Out in the Tropics.  The regular Summer Shorts lineup will feature nine pieces.

As a fund-raising kickoff, Rodriguez is coming to Miami Feb. 10 for a reception and sneak preview of the summer fare.  Manzelli says the actor will sing, others will read from a few plays that will be done at the festival, and there will be drinks and food.

The fund-raising event is at 6 p.m. Feb. 10  on the 30th floor of Sabadell United Bank, 1111 Brickell Ave., Miami.  Admission is $60 per person.  RSVP by Feb. 1 to City Theatre executive director Barry Steinman by calling 305-755-9401, ext. 15, or emailing barry@citytheatre.com.

January 21, 2011

Reading benefits Alliance Lab

149671_173886905956129_100000044629433_584743_2369996_n GableStage is turning over its space yet again for a benefit reading of Mark Della Ventura's Small Membership. New World School of the Arts grad Della Ventura wrote and performs the one-person piece, described as a play about "a big boy with a small problem." Hmm.

The event will raise funds for the Miami Lakes-based Alliance Theatre Lab and its upcoming world premiere of David Michael Sirois' Brothers Beckett March 17-April 3.  Sirois is directing Della Ventura's reading and says they plan to share a bit of Brothers Beckett with the audience as well.

Small Membership gets read at 7:30 p.m. Monday, and organizers are suggesting a donation of $10 per person.  GableStage is located in the Biltmore Hotel, 1200 Anastasia Ave., Coral Gables.  For info, call 305-259-0418 or email thealliancelab@aol.com

January 18, 2011

Mad Cat headed for South Beach comedy fest in Tei play

Miami's Mad Cat Theatre Company, which revived its show Shepherd's Pie at last year's South Beach Comedy Festival, is returning to the 2011 festival with a new play by company founder Paul Tei. Tei, winner of multiple Carbonell Awards and an actor with recurring roles on two TV series (USA's Burn Notice and Disney's Zeke & Luther), will draw on two other talents for Mad Cat's comedy fest show, writing and directing The Preservation Society.

The comedy focuses on Polly Chekhov, a California comedy writer who comes home to Hollywood, Fla., for her grandma's wake.  Strange distractions, however, keep her from making progress on a eulogy.

In the cast are Melissa Almaguer, Sofia Citarella, Tiffany Hanan Madera, Betsy Graver, Troy Davidson, Margaret Prusner, Ricky Waugh and Tei's parents, Anne and Pio.

The Preservation Society will get two performances, at 7 and 9:30 p.m. March 4 at Backstage at the Fillmore, 1700 Washington Ave., Miami Beach.  Tickets are $31 ($67 for VIP tickets).  For info, visit the Mad Cat or South Beach Comedy Festival web sites.

January 17, 2011

Celebs, civilians flock to Gless play

RHW Image 6Hot stuff indeed. Jane Prowse's A Round-Heeled Woman, the GableStage production starring Burn Noticeregular Sharon Gless as a woman on a journey of sexual rediscovery, has been selling out the theater's 150-seat space again and again.  The show is such a hot ticket that, after adding four performances to the play's regular run, artistic director Joseph Adler has just announced a week-long extension with seven added shows.  The play, which was to have ended Jan. 30, will now run through Feb. 6, with final-week performances at 8 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, 7 p.m. Sunday and 2 p.m. Saturday-Sunday.

Regular theatergoers aren't the only folks warming to Gless' glowing performance as Jane Juska, the retired teacher who decided to end three decades of celibacy at 66 by placing a frank personals in the New York Review of Books.  Adler says Rosie O'Donnell has already been to see her friend in the play.  And on Friday, with the real Jane Juska in attendance, famed actress-director Liv Ullmann came to see it.

"I introduced her after the play ended, and I wish I had a picture of Sharon's face," Adler said Monday.

Because Gless has to return to shooting Burn Notice and many of her five fellow cast members have other commitments, A Round-Heeled Woman will definitely close Feb. 6.  But its South Florida success has undoubtedly strengthened the play's future prospects.

GableStage is located in the Biltmore Hotel, 1200 Anastasia Ave., Coral Gables. For info on the added week, call the box office at 305-445-1119 or visit the theater's web site.

(Photo of Sharon Gless with Howard Elfman, Antonio Amadeo and Stephen G. Anthony by George Schiavone.)

January 13, 2011

A star tops M Ensemble's 'Crowns'

Crowns Cast Don Seward, Yaya Browne, Lela Elam,Christina Alexander,Paulette Dozier, Chiquila Brown, Melba Moore photo by Deborah Gray Mitchell M Ensemble is between homes, having left its North Miami theater at the end of last season and awaiting its move into the Miami Light Project's new Wynwood space; there the black theater troupe, South Florida's oldest still-operating professional company, will be one of MLP's anchor arts groups.  But in the meantime comes news of a high-profile production of Regina Taylor's gospel musical Crowns:  M Ensemble will present a short run of the show Feb. 2-6 as a coproduction with Miami's Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts.   Anchoring the cast of South Florida performers is a Tony Award-winning star, singer-actress Melba Moore.

Inspired by Michael Cunningham and Craig Marberry's book Crowns, Portraits of Black Women in Church Hats, Taylor's musical tells the story of a young Brooklyn woman sent to live with her grandmother in South Carolina after her brother's murder.  Surrounded by her churchgoing grandmother and four aunts -- all of whom wear elaborate hats, or "crowns," to church -- the tough-talking city girl has a slow but real spiritual awakening, aided by the poetry and stylistically varied songs her relatives share.

Joining Moore in the cast are Lela Elam, Yaya Browne, Christina Alexander, Paulette Dozier, Chiquila Brown and Don Seward.  John Pryor, a frequent M Ensemble director, is staging the production, with musical direction by jazz percussionist Howard Moss and choreography by Joshua Eason.

Tickets to Crowns, which plays in the Arsht's Carnival Studio Theater, are $34.  Performances are 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday. Call (305) 949-6722 or visit the Arsht web site for information.

January 12, 2011

Broadway music, 'Lansky' come to Aventura

Lawrence Toppall's Mazel Musicals and the Broward Center for the Performing Arts are pairing for two series at the new Aventura Arts & Cultural Center this season.  The first, which begins at 8 tonight, is dubbed the Melodies and Memories Series.  Directed and conceived by Barry Levitt, who was once the man behind the 92nd Street Y's Lyrics and Lyricists Series in New York, the Aventura series focuses mainly on three great Broadway composers, with some movie music at its end.

First up, from tonight through Sunday, is Say it With Music: The Songs of Irving Berlin featuring Judy Scott.  Also on the series are Time After Time: The Songs of Jule Styne (Feb. 9-13), A Grand Tour: The Songs of Jerry Herman (March 9-13) and The Night Is Filled with Music: The Music of the RKO Pictures Era (April 13-17).  Performances are 8 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, 7 p.m. Sunday, 2 p.m. Saturday-Sunday.  Admission to each show is $32.


Next week brings the Double Chai Theatrical Series, kicking off with Mike Burstyn in Lansky, as in mob financier Meyer Lansky. Burstyn earned an Outer Critics Circle Award nomination for playing the notorious mobster Off-Broadway in 2009. The solo show, by Richard Krevolin and Joseph Bologna, is set in Lansky's Miami Beach home.

Also on the Double Chai series are Zero Hour (Feb. 16-27), Circumcise Me (March 16-27) and Meshuggah-Nuns (April 27-May 8).

Tickets to Lansky , which runs Jan. 19-30, are $36. Performances are 8 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, 7 p.m. Sunday, 2 p.m. Saturday-Sunday.  For tickets to either series, call the Broward Center's box office at 954-462-0222 or visit the Aventura Center's web site.  The center is located at 3385 NE 188th St. in Aventura.


January 11, 2011

Tony winners coming

Two Tony Award-winning actresses are headed to South Florida next month, one for a play festival, the other to perform her solo show and conduct a master class.

0102156118Arriving first is Frances Sternhagen, who returns to Florida Stage, where she starred in The Exact Center of the Universe in 2001.  Sternhagen's will be the marquee name during the company's fifth annual 1st Stage New Works Festival Feb. 3-6.  She'll participate in a reading of Israel Horovitz's new play Beverley(about a love triangle involving folks over 70) at 8 p.m. Feb. 5, and she'll also be interviewed about her career by artistic director Louis Tyrrell at 7 p.m. Feb. 4.

Tickets to the festival range from $25 for a day pass to $100 for all festival events, which includes seven play readings, two panels, the Sternhagen interview and a party.  Florida Stage is in the Kravis Center, 701 Okeechobee Blvd., West Palm Beach.  For info, call 1-800-514-3837 or visit the theater's web site.

_BPS2066Also headed to South Florida is Tony winner Donna McKechnie, the dynamic actress and dancer who originated the star part of Cassie in A Chorus Line.  McKechnie will do three performances of her solo show, My Musical Comedy Life, at the PlayGround Theatre Feb. 12-13.  She'll also conduct a master class for students 15 and older at the theater from 4 to 7 p.m. Feb. 7.  Participation is limited, and there's a $35 fee.  McKechnie's director, part-time South Florida resident Richard Jay-Alexander, will also offer a pair of student workshops on Feb. 19 -- one from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. for students 7-13, the other from 2 to 5 p.m. for students 14-17.  The fee for those sessions is $30.

McKechnie will perform her show at 8 p.m. Feb. 12, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Feb. 13 at the PlayGround, 9806 NE Second Ave., Miami Shores.  Tickets are $50 and $100 for opening night (the higher price is for premium seating and an after party), $30 for the matinee, $45 for the Sunday night show.  For information, call 305-751-9550 or visit the PlayGround web site or Ticketmaster.

January 05, 2011

A split personality benefit

15231855_bxj0 Shira Abergel, like all of the drama majors in the college program at Miami's New World School of the Arts, had to create and perform a solo show before graduating in 2009.  On Monday, Abergel gives her show -- Nictor/Nictoria -- its professional debut in a one-night-only performance at GableStage.  It's a showcase for her talent and creativity, for sure, but she's doing it to benefit a group of her classmates, the New World grads involved in the year-old State Theatre Project.

Led by artistic director David Hemphill, the company has presented two editions of the Living Newspaper (modeled on a similar topical roundup done during the Depression by the Federal Theatre Project) and presented the original short-play collection Beer & Cigarettes in a Coconut Grove bar.

In a week, on Jan. 13, the company opens its first full-length production:  Michael Vukadinovich's Billboard, a darkly funny, observant play about an in-debt college grad who sees salvation in getting a corporate logo tattooed on his forehead.  Billboard will run at 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday from Jan. 13-22 in the Pelican Theatre on the Barry University campus, 11300 NE Second Ave., Miami Shores.  And proceeds from Abergel's show will help get the larger play on.

Nictor/Nictoria goes up at 8 p.m. Monday at GableStage in the Biltmore Hotel, 1200 Anastasia Ave., Coral Gables. Admission is a suggested $20 ($10 for students, cash or check only).  For info on either show, call 1-706-284-5819 or visit the State Theatre Project's web site.

January 04, 2011

A many-layered musical benefit

1234 The Miami-based Roxy Theatre Group is a company dedicated to teaching and showcasing talented young actors, usually in lavish large-cast musicals.  But this weekend, four Roxy teachers take the stage in a much smaller piece, a musical about creating a musical.  That would be [title of show], a musical that began in 2004 when composer-lyricist Jeff Bowen and playwright Hunter Bell decided to create something for the New York Musical Theatre Festival -- and eventually wound up on Broadway.

Featured in the short Roxy run are Andrew Rodriguez-Triana as Jeff, Nicole Quintana as Susan, Charles A. Sothers as Hunter and Monica Grimaldi as Heidi.  They'll be accompanied by pianist Douglas McCall.

Performances are 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday at the Roxy Performing Arts Center, 1645 SW 107th Ave., Miami.  Tickets are just $12 ($10 for students, though the show is recommended for ages 17 and up), and proceeds benefit the Roxy Theatre Group's Teachers' Scholarship Fund.

For info, call 305-226-0030, email SusannePinedo@gmail.com or visit the Roxy web site