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8 posts from November 2011

November 30, 2011

Kids do 'Avenue Q'

IMG_2963Area Stage's conservatory students regularly wow audiences of all ages with their ability to tackle -- and handle -- challenging musical theater.  They'll try it again, with puppets no less, when Area's production of the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical Avenue Q opens Friday for a run through Dec. 18.

David Harrison, Evelyn Cardenas, Lourdes Maria Artiz, Kristina Cibran, Tito Sanchez, Frankie Gonzalez, Ale Mesa, Giancarlo Rodaz and Anamari Mesa comprise the human part of the cast, operating the puppets and singing the score by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx.  Area's artistic director, John Rodaz, is staging the show about twentysomethings trying to make it in New York as they figure out their identities and purpose in life.  Though Avenue Q is something of a homage to Sesame Street, its decidedly grown-up content makes it inappropriate for younger kids (Area suggests that, if Avenue Q were a movie, it would be rated PG-13).

You can see Avenue Q in Area's theater at 1560 S. Dixie Hwy., Coral Gables. Performances are 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 7 p.m. Sunday, with tickets priced from $10 to $25. For info, call 305-666-2078 or visit the theater's web site.


November 25, 2011

'Red,' 'Prisoner' extended

RED Image 2In the middle of Black Friday madness, two theaters are feeling confident enough in their current productions (and their patrons' devotion to culture) to extend the shows' runs.

At GableStage in Coral Gables' Biltmore Hotel, John Logan's Red has proven a hit with both regular audiences and weekday morning high school crowds.  So Gregg Weiner will get an extra week of playing painter Mark Rothko, with Ryan Didato as the intense artist's assistant Ken.  The play now runs through Dec. 11, with performances at 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 2 and 7 p.m. Sunday.  Tickets are $37.50-$50, and the theater is located in the hotel at 1200 Anastasia Ave., Coral Gables.  Call 305-445-1119 or visit the theater's web site for info.

Also extended through Dec. 11 is the Miami Beach Stage Door Theatre production of Neil Simon's 1971 comedyThe Prisoner of Second Avenue.  The show, featuring Derelle Bunn and Dan Kelley, goes on at the Byron Carlyle Theater, 500 71st Ave., Miami Beach, at 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday.  Tickets are $42 ($38 on Friday).  You have to call 305-397-8977 to order.


November 21, 2011

New Theatre has its new home

NT RTG Press PhotoWhen the building that housed New Theatre on Laguna Street in Coral Gables was sold, the troupe was left scrambling. Having to vacate its home for the past 10 years by Dec. 15, the company couldn't open its world premiere production of Chambers Stevens' Twain and Shaw Do Lunch (set for Dec. 2-18) in the space where Nilo Cruz's Pulitzer Prize-winning Anna in the Tropics premiered in 2002.  So New Theatre has been on the hunt for a place where the rest of its season can play out.

Monday, the company announced an agreement with the Roxy Performing Arts Center, which is located across from Florida International University's main campus in Miami.

"The theater community has been incredibly generous in offering us different kinds of support," says Ricky J. Martinez, New Theatre's artistic director.  "But the day we went to Roxy, they said, 'We want you here, now.'  We felt the choice to go to Roxy was synchronized with our vision, and our shows fit into their schedule."

The Roxy Performing Arts Center, entering its 10th season in 2012, offers arts classes for children ages 3 to 17, and it stages large-scale, large-cast musicals featuring performers from 10 to 22.  Spokesperson Susanne Pinedo says, "I'm just beyond excited.  Both organizations highly value education, and we feel it will be an extraordinary partnership."

Martinez says the rest of New Theatre's 2011-2012 season will be presented at Roxy, with all subscriptions honored.  After Twain and Shaw Do Lunch, the company will present the world premieres of Robert Caisley's Winter and Juan C. Sanchez's Property Line, plus one more show to be announced. Though some dates may shift slightly due to the relocation, all shows announced for the season will be presented.

Roxy has two theater spaces, one with 125 seats, the other with nearly 200; both are larger than New Theatre's 100-seat Coral Gables theater.  Martinez says that at the end of the season, both organizations will assess how well the temporary partnership has worked, and he is excited about the possibilities.  More affordable rent will allow New Theatre enhanced production values, including the creation of two-story sets.

"We both have mutual long-term goals," he says.  "This is New Theatre's fourth move, and we're excited to look ahead to this new phase of its life.  We're hoping to host the National New Play Network's conference next year -- hopefully in our new space."

The Roxy Peforming Arts Center is located at 1645 SW 107th Ave., Miami.  For information on New Theatre and its move, call the box office at 305-443-5909 or visit the theater's web site.

 (Nora Oñate photo shows, left to right, New Theatre artistic director Ricky J. Martinez and managing director Eileen Suarez; Roxy theater arts director Charles A. Sothers and artistic director Jorgina Fernandez.)

November 17, 2011

See stars at Mosaic, GableStage

_DCS9134Plantation's Mosaic Theatre and GableStage in Coral Gables both have hit shows at the moment:  Eric Simonson's Lombardi, about legendary Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi, at Mosaic, and Red, about abstract expressionist Mark Rothko, at GableStage.  Both plays are running through Dec. 4, with some performances sold out or nearly so, so if you're interested in going and have been procrastinating, call or click for tickets. 

Mosaic artistic director Richard Jay Simon is helping drive his show's solid box office with a series of celebrity talk-backs after certain performances.  This weekend original Broadway Lombardi star Dan Lauria and the coach's daughter, Susan Lombardi, will chat with the audience after the 7 p.m. Sunday performance.  Columnist Dave Hyde and ex-Dolphins player Jim "Crash" Jensen are to talk after tonight's 8 p.m. show.  Columnist Ethan Skolnick is seeing the show at 8 p.m. this Saturday.

Other special guests who have confirmed are CBS4's Jim Berry (8 p.m. Nov. 25), the Herald's Greg Cote (3 p.m. Nov. 26), Local 10's Will Manso (2 p.m. Nov. 27) and Local 10's Andrea Brody (8 p.m. Dec. 2).

DanLauriaWith Lauria in town this weekend, Simon has engineered a fundraiser for both his theater and GableStage.  The actor, who played the dad on the popular TV series The Wonder Years, has written a dark comedy called Dinner With the Boys. He, Mosaic's Lombardistar Ray Abruzzo and actor Richard Zavaglia will do two benefit staged readings of the play.

The first is Monday, Nov. 21, at 7 p.m. at GableStage in the Biltmore Hotel, 1200 Anastasia Ave., Coral Gables.  Admission is $25 for subscribers, $30 for others.  Wine and light refreshments come with the cost of the ticket.  For GableStage info, call 305-445-1119 or visit the theater's web site.

Mosaic's reading is at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 22, in its theater at the American Heritage Center for the Arts, 12200 W. Broward Blvd., Bldg. 3000, Plantation.  Again, subscribers pay $25, others $30, and you get wine and munchies.  Call 954-577-8243 or visit the Mosaic web site.

Go to either, and you're seeing stars while helping a not-for-profit theater company fund its work.

(Photo of Ray Abruzzo as Vince Lombardi by George Schiavone)

November 12, 2011

Sculptor Manuel Carbonell has died

0112031928Manuel Carbonell, last of the Cuban master sculptors and the man for whom South Florida theater's Carbonell Awards are named, died Thursday in Miami.  He had celebrated his 93rd birthday Oct. 25, was still working in his studio at the age of 92.

Of Spanish descent, Carbonell was born in Sancti Spiritus, Cuba, where he began drawing and sculpting clay figures as a boy.  He studied at the Escuela Nacional de Bellas Artes in Havana, as did fellow sculptors Wifredo Lam and Agustin Cardenas.  From 1945 to 1959, he began receiving critical acclaim for his life-sized sculptures and carvings, as well as hosting a weekly television show on art and creating furniture for the interior design firm he had launched.

9761050033Leaving Cuba for New York in 1959, Carbonell moved from classical and religious sculpture to his modernist style, working in hammered metal and bronze as he created large-scale, sensuous work that was more abstract.  He relocated to Miami in 1964, reuniting with the extended Cuban family (including sisters Angela and Josefina) that was by his side throughout his life.  His nephew Ricardo Gonzalez III eventually became director of Carbonell's Miami-based Beaux Arts Gallery, launched in 1988.

In 1992, Carbonell won a competition to create a sculpture at Miami's Brickell Avenue bridge.  The bronze monument, titled "The Pillar of History," features a 36-foot-tall bas-relief column with 158 figures depicting the story of the Tequesta Indians, Miami's first inhabitants.  Atop the pillar is a 17-foot-high sculpture of a Tequesta warrior, his wife and child.  In niches at the supporting piers are 4-by-8-foot bas reliefs honoring Miami pioneers Julia Tuttle, Henry Flagler, Marjorie Stoneman Douglas, and William and Mary Brickell.

Carbonell's large-scale sculptures are found all over the world -- in a Shanghai park, at the Gerald R. Ford presidential museum in Michigan, at the San Carlos Institute in Key West and in numerous Florida cities.

A Brickell Key condominium building was named for him, but his more artistically important namesake is the 36-year-old Carbonell Awards.  In 1976, the artist created the egg-shaped bronze sculpture on a marble base given annually to South Florida's actors, directors, designers, musical directors and choreographers to recognize the best work in the region's far-flung theater community.  In recognition of what would become a three-decades-plus contribution as the program's grand benefactor, the awards were rechristened in Carbonell's honor.

A mass and celebration of the sculptor's life will be held at 6 p.m. Friday in the chapel of Belen Preparatory School, 500 SW 127th Ave., Miami.






November 10, 2011

Big buzz on campus

Tommy Tune, Broadway superstar, has been working away quietly at the University of Miami, applying the talent and vision that helped win him nine Tony Awards to a new show about the heyday of Studio 54 .  IMG_Tommy_Tune.JPG_2_1_UP2KORPIWorking with playwright Mark Saltzman, the soft-spoken Tune has channeled personal memories and impressions of his one-time hangout into Fifty*Four*Forever, a disco-driven snapshot of the late-'70s club that was, for a time, the hottest see-and-be-seen place on the planet.

Tune, Saltzman and their collaborators workshopped the piece last January at UM's Department of Theatre Arts, where chairman Henry Fonte has busily forged alliances between the worlds of professional and educational theater since assuming his post last year.  Now, Fifty*Four*Forever has reached its second phase, as a fully produced musical at the Jerry Herman Ring Theatre.  Running for only 10 days,the piece is both a buzz-generating university event and (because Tune has invited theater pals to come south to see it) a flashy version of a backers' audition for a potential New York production.

54 Forever_4The UM show features an all-student cast, young actors who roamed the Ring before Wednesday's opening performance, chatting happily with audience members and saying just how much they have loved working with Tune.   In addition to what they've learned from their famous director and playwright Saltzman, they've watched as the production's other seasoned theater pros, including set designer Roger Hanna, costume designer Dona Granata, choreographer David Warren Gibson, musical director Greg Brown and lighting designer Eric Haugen, resurrected a place, a style and an era.

Undoubtedly, if Fifty*Four*Forever has a future life, it will continue to evolve.  The UM version runs just 70 minutes.  And as good as many of the students are, experienced professional actors would bring their own magic to the musical.  (Note that we don't review student performers unless, as in the recent Arsht Center-UM collaboration on The House of Bernarda Alba, they're being paid for their work.)

54 Forever_1The opening-night audience didn't just like the musical: They adored it. Lots of the Ring patrons, including smiling seniors (that's senior citizens, not college seniors), looked a little let down when the show ended.  The sexy musical's disco-song mix (including Hustle, Funkytown, Love to Love You Baby, YMCA) got them moving and grooving, and they didn't want to stop.

So what about a future for Fifty*Four*Forever?  Again, because this isn't a professional out-of-town tryout, we'll pass on a review.  But as the creative team goes forward, a few thoughts:  Saltzman has chosen to write Rubell's rise-and-fall story in verse, which presented a challenge for the young actors and led occasionally to awkward/clunky rhymes. Sticking with straightforward dialogue would work just fine.

The show's one original song, Lament for Three Jersey Girls (by composer Jeffrey Saver and lyricist Stephen Cole), is terrific, theatrical and funny. More like that, please.

Tune's inspired touch is all over the show.  I'm thinking particularly of the duet between the undercover FBI agent and his sexy blond boss, the two taking athletically seductive twirls around a pole as they sing.  Muy, muy caliente.

Fifty*Four*Forever is at the Ring, 1312 Miller Dr. on the UM campus, through Nov. 19. Remaining performances are 8 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Saturday-Sunday.  Tickets are $25 Friday-Saturday evening, $22 for other shows (discounts for UM faculty, staff, alumni and students).  For info, call 305-284-3355 or visit the Ring web site.

(Miami Herald photo of Tommy Tune and Mark Saltzman by Arkasha Stevenson; Fifty*Four*Forever photos by Kent Lantaff.)






November 08, 2011

Silver Palms revealed

Stage wkend15 Bridge Tunnel Rose AimeeThe Silver Palm Awards, South Florida's "other" theater awards, will be given next month to 16 theater professionals and the ensemble cast of Mosaic Theatre's The Irish Curse.  Founded four years ago by playwright Tony Finstrom, TV host and actress Iris Acker, and critic Ron Levitt, the Silver Palms (unlike the region's 36-year-old Carbonell Awards) vary in number and category each year.  Critics (including me) make suggestions of award-worthy work to the founders, who make the selections.

Actors to be honored this year are Karen Stephens (pictured) for her work in Bridge & Tunnel and Eclipsed at Women's Theatre Project (WTP), and Clybourne Park at the Caldwell Theatre Company; Deborah L. Sherman for Goldie, Max & Milk at Florida Stage, No Exit at Naked Stage and Three Days of Rain at The Promethean Theatre; Marckenson Charles for Superior Donuts and A Behanding in Spokane at GableStage, and Stuff at the Caldwell; and Dennis Creaghan for A Behanding in Spokane at GableStage, Freud's Last Session at Palm Beach Dramaworks and August: Osage County at Actors' Playhouse. 

Honored in the outstanding new talent category are Renata Eastlick for Kiss of the Spiderwoman at Slow Burn Theatre and Eclipsed at WTP; Elvire Emanuelle for Eclipsed at WTP, and Clay Cartland for Song of the Living Dead at Promethean.

IMG__Stuff__clutter_3_1_MO2V11L4This year's Silver Palm-winning playwrights are Michael McKeever for Stuff at the Caldwell and South Beach Babylon at Zoetic Stage, and David Michael Sirois for Brothers Beckett at Alliance Theatre Lab.

Jeffrey D. Holmes has won a Silver Palm for his direction of The Pillowman for Infinite Abyss, and Michael Leeds for his staging of The Light in the Piazza at Broward Stage Door Theatre. Winning set designers are Sean McClelland for August: Osage County at Actors' Playhouse and Tim Bennett for Stuff at the Caldwell.

Other Silver Palms go to Slow Burn Theatre Company as outstanding emerging company; Paul Homza for his Superior Donuts fight choreography at GableStage; David Cohen for his Stage Door musical tracks; and Mosaic's Irish Curse acting ensemble (Ken Clement, Ryan Didato, Todd Allen Durkin, Shane R. Tanner and Barry Tarallo).

The awards will be presented during the Theatre League's holiday party Dec. 5 from 7:30 to 10 p.m. at Bimini Boatyard, 1555 SE 17th St., Fort Lauderdale.  League members attend free, others pay $25.  Call League executive director Andie Arthur for reservations at 954-557-0778.

(Photo of Stuff shows Silver Palm-winning playwright Michael McKeever, seated, with actor Nick Richberg on winner Tim Bennett's artfully cluttered set.)


November 04, 2011

'Standing on Ceremony' -- but not here

Get-involvedIn one of those what-the-heck moments (I have those sometimes when I check my email), I note that Monday is the first Off-Broadway preview of Standing on Ceremony: The Gay Marriage Plays.  Eight short plays on the subject of marriage equality make up the evening.  Those plays are Jordan Harrison's The Revision, Joe Keenan's This Marriage Is Saved, Wendy MacLeod's This Flight Tonight, Doug Wright's On Facebook, Neil LaBute's Strange Fruit, Paul Rudnick's The Gay Agenda, Moisés Kaufman's London Mosquitoes and José Rivera's Pablo and Andrew at the Altar of Words.  The cast, a terrific one, includes Craig Bierko, Mark Consuelos, Polly Draper, Harriet Harris, Beth Leavel and Richard Thomas.

I'm not planning a trip to New York soon, but I wish I could be there Monday, when a special 8 p.m. performance at the Minetta Lane Theatre will be at the heart of a national event.  Evan Wolfson, the founder and president of Freedom to Marry, will speak before the show.  Playwrights Rivera, Rudnick, Wright and Kaufman will participate in a post-performance Q&A moderated by New York Times writer Patrick Healy.

Here's what is making Monday really special, though. At more than 40 professional and college theaters throughout the United States, actors and others will read the Standing on Ceremony script, bringing the art and the message to their local communities.  The New York introduction and post-show discussion will be live streamed, and theatergoers can ask the playwright panel questions via Twitter at #asksoc.

In Florida, just two theaters are participating: Mad Cow in Orlando and American Stage in St. Petersburg.  Which leads back to my what-the-heck moment. 

I know many gay and lesbian couples who would marry, if only it were legal in their state -- Florida included.  I know many happy, long-time gay and lesbian couples who work in theater in South Florida, artists who are unhappy that the right to marry is denied them.  And yet this event, which could shine a bright spotlight on the issue, isn't happening here. 

The hectic start to South Florida's theater season is under way, so maybe the theaters or artists who would have participated just felt too swamped.  I don't mean gay theaters specifically, or gay and lesbian artists specifically.  This is art tackling an issue that should matter to everyone who cares about equality. 

Find out more about the play (which opens Nov. 13) and the national event here.  What a shame that we can't gather here to share this experience.