March 21, 2012

Carbonells honor Harris; justice and satire on campus

Catching up with some varied news from South Florida's always-busy theater scene.

JayHarris-NoCreditProducer Jay H. Harris has been named the 2012 recipient of the George Abbott Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Arts, an honor to be presented at the Carbonell Awards ceremony on Monday, April 2.  The Carbonells are, of course, South Florida's top theater award.  And the Abbott award, named for legendary producer-director-playwright George Abbott, is the Carbonells' most prestigious honor.  Harris has a huge theater resume, having supported productions at numerous South Florida theaters (including New Theatre's world premiere of Nilo Cruz's Anna in the Tropics, which won the Pulitzer Prize and which Harris then produced in London).  He has also produced shows in numerous other American cities and in New York, where his production of Say Goodnight Gracie was nominated for a Tony Award.  Harris also played a major role in the evolution of the Carbonell Awards program, serving on its board from 2001 to 2008 and helping devise the current voting structure.

Harris will be honored, as will a host of Carbonell nominees and winners, during a show and ceremony beginning at 7:30 p.m. April 2 in the Amaturo Theater at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, 201 SW Fifth Ave., Fort Lauderdale.  Tickets are $25 in advance, $35 at the door, and the public is invited.  Numbers from each of this year's nominated musicals are part of the show, and admission to an after-party at the Green Room, 109 SW Second Ave., is free with a Carbonell ticket.  For information, call the Broward Center box office at 954-462-0222, email, or visit the Broward Center's web site.


IMG_helen03.jpg_2_1_8U3PHKNGSister Helen Prejean, the author of Dead Man Walking, is coming to speak about capital punishment at the Florida International University campus April 13, in a free presentation running from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the campus' Graham Center student union. In honor of her appearance the FIU Theater Department and Honors College are joining forces to present readings and a performance of three justice-themed plays.  On Thursday, students from the Honors College will do a reading of Erik Jensen and Jessica Blank's The Exonerated. David Mamet's Oleanna gets a reading by theater students on March 29. Then Phillip M. Church directs theater students in a reading of Tim Robbins' adaptation of Dead Man Walking April 5.

All performances take place at 7 p.m. in the FIU Black Box Theater at the Wertheim Performing Arts Center, 11200 SW Eighth St., Miami. Admission is free, and talk-backs follow each event.  For information, call 305-348-3394.


UTown-7Though you won't have long to go (sorry), if you've managed to miss Urinetown during its earlier South Florida stagings at Actors' Playhouse, Slow Burn Theatre and so on, you have another chance to see it this Thursday-Sunday. John Manzelli directs students from Barry University's Department of Fine Arts in the Tony Award-winning musical about the strict regulation of bathroom privileges during a drought.  Ranging stylistically from the stinging social satire in the manner of Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht to spoofs of other Broadway musicals, Urinetown is provocative, funny and not for the kiddies.

Performances are at the Broad Center for the Performing Arts, 11300 NE Second Ave., Miami Shores.  And get this: Admission is free.  Performances are at 7 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, with no reservations required.  Need info? Call 305-899-3291.

January 19, 2012

Barry on Broadway, Lowery at Sundance

IMG_Dave_headshot_2009.j_2_1_DG3QUKP6Pulitzer Prize-winning Miami Herald columnist Dave Barry, the prolific author and occasional Rock Bottom Remainders rocker, has more than promoting his new comic novel Lunatics (co-written with former Saturday Night Live writer Alan Zweibel) on the horizon.  The news from New York today is that Peter and the Starcatcher, a play-with-music based on Peter and the Starcatchers by Barry and Ridley Pearson, will begin previews at Broadway's Brooks Atkinson Theatre March 28.  Tickets for the show, which has its official opening April 15, go on sale Feb. 13 via Ticketmaster.

Adapted for the stage by Jersey Boys co-author Rick Elice, the play features a dozen actors playing 50 characters in the "prequel" to Peter Pan.  Twice extended during its spring 2011 run at Off-Broadway's New York Theatre Workshop, the show won the 2011 Obie Award for its two directors, Alex Timbers (Tony Award nominated for Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson) and Roger Rees (Tony winner for his leading performance in The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby).  The two will team again to stage the show on Broadway, but the cast hasn't been announced yet.


Sc000106e0Barbara Lowery, a much-admired actress, director and long-time drama teacher, got a wonderful surprise last week when she learned just how much she still means to actor Rob Morrow, who was her student at Miami Sunset High School from 1978 to 1980.

Morrow, the film and television actor who was a regular on Northern Exposure and Numb3rs, nominated Lowery for the non-profit Creative Coalition's 2012 Teachers Making a Difference award.  She'll receive it on Monday at a program and luncheon in Park City, Utah, during the Sundance Film Festival.

This is a big deal for the woman who followed her five years at Sunset with 19 at Miami Dade College's North Campus.  She's one of only two teachers being honored.  The other is Sister Marionette Gibson, who taught actress Alfre Woodard.  Actor Wilmer Valderrama is serving as moderator, conducting a conversation with each teacher-actor pair, and Morrow will present Lowery with her award.

Lowery, who earned her master's degree from the University of Miami, studied at both Stella Adler and the H.B. Studio in New York. She is a Carbonell Award-winning director who has staged professional productions for the now-defunct Acme Acting Company, City Theatre's Summer Shorts, New Theatre and the Coconut Grove Playhouse.

She says of the honor, "Excited, shocked and touched are the words that come to mind.  Rob was not only obviously talented as a teenager, he was extraordinarily pursuing his dream."

How great that a now-famous student's long memory has led to celebrating the work of a superb teacher who really did make a difference in his life.


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 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.)


April 18, 2011

'Clybourne Park' wins drama Pulitzer

IMG_Clybourne_Park_1.JPG_6_1_O223GROS And the winner of the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for drama is....Clybourne Park by Bruce Norris.  Sound familiar?  If you happened to catch the Caldwell Theatre Company's dazzling January production of the play in Boca Raton, it sure does.

Seeing a Pulitzer-honored play in South Florida beforeit wins drama's top prize is, it goes without saying, an uncommon experience. Yes, that happened in 2002 when Coral Gables' New Theatre premiered a Nilo Cruz play it had commissioned -- Anna in the Tropics -- and the play went on to win the 2003 drama Pulitzer, altering the Cuban-born, Miami-raised playwright's life.  But it's usually the other way around:  a play wins the Pulitzer, then South Florida theaters start competing for the rights.

So a big bravo to Caldwell artistic director Clive Cholerton for recognizing a great, provocative play about the tenaciousness of racism from the time of A Raisin in the Sun to today.  Cholerton and a strong cast put together a memorable, unsettling interpretation of Norris' challenging script, a play that uses both drama and deliberately disturbing comedy to make its points.  As I wrote in my Miami Herald review, Clybourne Park is "the kind of play that challenge-hungry director, actors and audiences adore." Add the Pulitzer jury to that list.

Norris, who has a long history as an actor and playwright with Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre Company (much like fellow Pulitzer winner Tracy Letts), now lives in New York, where Clybourne Park had its January 2010 world premiere at Playwrights Horizons.  He has already won several major drama awards, but the Pulitzer opens the floodgate of opportunities like no other prize.  This smart, youthful-looking provocateur turns 51 next month.  He's seasoned, edgy and outspoken. Inevitably, movie and TV producers will come calling. But I'm not really worried that Norris will abandon writing plays.  As he said in a New York Magazine piece during the New York run of Clybourne Park, "...I wouldn’t want someone to just wipe their ass with the script I’ve written.”

 Steppenwolf, Norris' former theatrical "home," had already announced plans to begin its 2001-2012 season with Clybourne Park. With the added cachet of the Pulitzer (not to mention the play's Chicago setting), that production should be a big draw. But South Florida theater fans can, for a change, feel a little smug. Thanks to the Caldwell, we got it first.

(Gregg Weiner, Karen Stephens and Brian D. Coats pictured in Clybourne Park at the Caldwell Theatre Company)   

April 01, 2011

Bailey wins Abbott Award

Patrice Though the results of voting for the 35th annual Carbonell Awards are secret until Monday''s ceremony at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, special awards are traditionally announced in advance.  This year, the George Abbott Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Arts -- the highest honor given at the Carbonells -- goes to Patrice Bailey, dean of theater at Miami's New World School of the Arts.

The drama division's top administrator since 2002 is an accomplished director and teacher, and under her leadership, New World has had an ever greater impact on South Florida's theater community.  New World grads are acting at theaters all over the region (and around the country), directing, writing plays and making a life in the theater for themselves, a life built upon the fundamentals they acquired at New World. 

Also getting a special honor at this year's ceremony is the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, which will receive the Ruth Foreman Award in recognition of its contributions to theater, artist and audience development throughout its 20-year history.

The Carbonell ceremony, which honors the best work in South Florida theater during 2010, begins at 7:30 p.m. in the Broward Center's Amaturo Theater, 201 SW Fifth Ave., Fort Lauderdale.  Tickets are $25.  Call the box office  site at 954-462-0222 or visit the center's web site for details.

March 18, 2011

'Theater prom' tickets on sale

CARBONELL (35th) POSTER South Florida's theater community has taken to calling the annual Carbonell Awards "theater prom."  Oh, they recognize that the region's top theater honors, which inevitably seem to be both exciting and controversial, are plenty meaningful to both nominees and winners.  But when the 35th annual Carbonells get rolling at 7:30 p.m. April 4 in the Broward Center's Amaturo Theatre, the crowd of actors, directors, designers, critics and theater fans will be dressed to kill and ready to party.

This year's ticket price is $25 for individuals, $20 each for groups of 10 or more.  They're available by calling the Broward Center's box office at 954-462-0222 or visiting the web site.  The Broward Center is at 201 SW Fifth Ave., Fort Lauderdale.

After the ceremony, which is being hosted by actor-playwright (and double Carbonell nominee) Michael McKeever and directed by Zoetic Stage artistic director Stuart Meltzer, there's more theater prom fun courtesy of the South Florida Theatre League.  The League is hosting the Carbonell after-party from 10 p.m. to midnight at the Green Room, 109 SW Second Ave., just a few blocks from the Broward Center.  Admission is free with a Carbonell ticket stub, and with that comes a free welcome drink, a ticket for a second drink, a buffet and a cash bar.  And who knows what kind of post-prom drama?

February 15, 2011

Carbonell nominations share the love

BLASTED_Image_2 Nominations for the 35th annual Carbonell Awards -- our region's version of the Tonys, the Helen Hayes Awards, the Joseph Jefferson Awards and so on -- have just been announced, and the results are a little more equitable than they have been for the past few years.  (That is, unless you're associated with the Caldwell Theatre Company, New Theatre, The Naked Stage, The Promethean Theatre or the Women's Theatre Project, which got a single nomination apiece.)

Still, people from 13 different companies have reason to go to the ceremony at the Broward Center's Amaturo Theatre on April 4.  Miami-Dade and Palm Beach County theaters collected 36 nominations each, while Broward theaters came back strong with 27.  Top nominated musical? Miss Saigon at Actors' Playhouse, with 11. Top play? Blasted at GableStage, with 7.

For all the details and a complete list of nominees, check out my story at

September 21, 2010

Silver Palms announced

The Off Broadway-style Silver Palm Awards, a three-year-old honor given out at the closing party of the yearly South Florida Theatre Festival, will honor actors both experienced and young, a pair of theater companies, a director, a playwright, a choreographer, a musical director, a set designer and a pair of artists who made a comedy horror musical look special.

Laura & AviMarried actors Laura Turnbull and Avi Hoffman will get Silver Palms for their separate achievements -- she for her work in Mosaic's Rock 'n' Roll, New Theatre's Equus, the Caldwell Theatre Company's Distracted and City Theatre's Summer Shorts/undershorts; he for Florida Stage's Two Jews Walk Into a War and GableStage's The Quarrel.

Also receiving Silver Palms for performance are Erin Joy Schmidt (for GableStage's Reasons To Be Pretty and Fifty Words, Mosaic's Dying City and Summer Shorts/undershorts), Nick Duckart (for GableStage's Farragut North, Mosaic's Why Torture Is Wrong, Florida Stage's Dr. Radio, Caldwell's Secret Orderand Broward Stage Door's The Glass Menagerie), David Hemphill (for New Theatre's Equus, Stage Door's Glass Menagerie, Naked Stage's Macon City, Farragut North and Summer Shorts/undershorts), Dan Kelley (for starring in and directing Stage Door's The Drowsy Chaperone) and Jackie Rivera (outstanding new talent for GableStage's Speech & Debate).

Other Silver Palm honorees are the Caldwell (for its concert versions of Stephen Sondheim's Into the Woods and Sunday in the Park with George), New Theatre (for 25 years of new play production), J. Barry Lewis (for directing Palm Beach Dramaworks' Three Tall Women and Copenhagen), Christopher Demos-Brown (for his play When the Sun Shone Brighter at Florida Stage), Chrissi Ardito (for her Stage Door choreography of Bubbling Brown Sugar, The Drowsy Chaperone and Mack & Mabel, and for the Promethean Theatre's Evil Dead: The Musical), Eric Alsford (for his musical direction of Actors' Playhouse's Miss Saigon), Tim Connelly (for his Blasted set at GableStage), Taso Stavrakis (for his Evil Dead special effects at Promethean) and Tyler Smith (Evil Dead props).

The recipients will party and take home their awards on Monday, Oct. 25, from 7 to 11 p.m. at the Green Room behind Fort Lauderdale's Revolution Live, 100 SW Third Ave., Fort Lauderdale.  Admission is $25, but members of the Theatre League of South Florida get in free. Call League executive director Andie Arthur at 954-557-0778 to make a reservation.

April 26, 2010

PlayGround gets a grant

Orangeshomepage The Miami Shores-based PlayGround Theatre has just snagged a National Endowment for the Arts grant under the NEA's Access to Artistic Excellence program.  The $15,000 grant will help artistic director Stephanie Ansin and All Children Together inclusion specialist Lee Morgenstern continue their partnership withVSA Arts of Florida to enhance the experiences of disabled kids and adults who attend PlayGround shows.  The grant will help the theater expand its use of live audio description, sign language interpreters, open captioning, wheelchair-accessible transportation and touch tours of the theater.

One of two Florida companies receiving the NEA grant (Teatro Avante is the other), PlayGround will present two "shadow-interpreted" performance of its current show, The Love of Three Oranges , May 20-21.  American Sign Language interpreters will shadow the speaking actors during the performance, mirroring their actions and communicating the dialogue.

PlayGround is at 9806 NE Second Ave., Miami Shores.  For information, phone 305-751-9550 or visit the company's web site.