April 13, 2010

One more theater 'prom' is history

Lesmiz06_hat_wknd_ARSo the 34th annual Carbonell Awards happened last night, with not too many surprises except for everyone singing Happy Birthday to Oscar Cheda (visiting for the evening from his road gig with In the Heights) and a late-in-the-show tribute to Carbonell-winning sound designer Steve Shapiro, who's leaving South Florida for a prestigious teaching job.  But of course the winners were surprised -- some more so than others. 

John Manzelli, for instance, who now teaches at Barry University and is a Naked Stage founder, won best lighting design for his work on Marco Ramirez's Macon City: A Comic Book Play.  Manzelli, as he admitted in accepting the award, isn't reallya lighting designer.  But he's a multi-talented guy -- actor, director, teacher and, yeah, now lighting designer -- who figured out how to make Macon City look way cool. And now he's got a Carbonell to show for it.

The night's dominant theaters (check out my Miami Herald story for full results) were two Coral Gables companies with a gazillion Carbonells between them, Actors' Playhouse and GableStage.  Their wins -- six to Actors' for its great production of Les Misérables, five to GableStage (for Speed-the-Plow and Farragut North, plus the special Bill Von Maurer Award for the company's contributions to South Florida theater) -- were certainly deserved.  But if I were running a theater in Broward or Palm Beach County, I might be questioning (to put it mildly) the voting process today.  (For the record, I'm not among the folks who select Carbonell nominees or vote on winners.)

The awards show itself, staged for the second year by newly appointed Carbonells executive director Amy London, was solidly entertaining but a little more low-key -- somehow simpler -- than last year's bash.

The opening year-in-theater number, though ably sung to the tune of The Twelve Days of Christmas by the Carbonell "Choir" (Steve Anthony, Irene Adjan, Barry Tarallo, Christopher Kent, Lisa Manuli, Julie Kleiner, Sally Bondi and the very bearded Avi Hoffman, in rehearsal for GableStage's The Quarrel), wasn't as clever as last year's opener.  The numbers from the nominated musicals were terrific, particularly Nathaniel Braga's head-over-heels Bigger Isn't Better from the Maltz Jupiter Theatre's Barnum, Everett Bradley's sexy a capella Some Like It from Caldwell Theatre's Vices: A Love Story, and the night's showstopper, David Michael Felty's glorious Bring Him Home from Actors' Les Miz.

Winners and presenters were on their best behavior (though presenter Ken Clement tried to get some faux bad blood going with the Women's Theatre Project).  GableStage's Joseph Adler, when not onstage accepting awards, got thanked a lot. Gregg Weiner, named best supporting actor in a play for Farragut North, said, "There's not a show that goes by that Joe doesn't bust my ass," something that always pushes him to get better.  Mad Cat Theatre founder Paul Tei, who had spent the day shooting Burn Notice, won best actor in a play for GableStage's Speed-the-Plow, and he happily detailed his career-long love of the play, his great recent experience with it (castmate Amy Elane Anderson is now his girlfriend) and his gratitude toward Adler, whom he called a "mentor and my second father."

All in all, it was a pleasant, inside-South-Florida-theater event, without the dramatic highs or lows that have marked past ceremonies.  Now that London is in charge of the Carbonell organization, it will be interesting to see how the always-delicate relationship between the theater community and those who carry out the Carbonell process evolves.

April 04, 2010

On Sondheim, a season and the Carbonells

People_Stephen_Sondheim_NYET614Stephen Sondheim celebrated his 80th birthday on March 22, and because theaters like to celebrate significant birthdays of great artists, lots of Sondheim-centric productions, readings and events are happening this season.

Already in New York, the new revue Sondheim on Sondheim (starring Barbara Cook, Vanessa Williams and Tom Wopat) has opened at Studio 54, where it runs through June 13.  Catherine Zeta-Jones and Angela Lansbury are at Broadway's Walter Kerr Theatre starring in A Little Night Musicby Sonheim and Hugh Wheeler.  And on Thursday at Manhattan's City Center, an Encores! presentation of the Sondheim-Arthur Laurents musical Anyone Can Whistle(starring Miami's Raúl Esparza, Sutton Foster and Donna Murphy) starts performances through April 11.

South Florida isn't a place where Sondheim's work gets done often, but two Palm Beach County theaters are jumping on the birthday bandwagon.

A production of the Sondheim-John Weidman musical Assassins by the new Slow Burn Theatre Company will run April 29-May 5 at the West Boca Performing Arts Theatre (the place where New Vista Theatre performed before its economy-related demise).  Larry Buzzeo, James Carrey, Clay Cartland, Elijah Davis, Christina Groom, Matthew Korinko, Zachary Schwartz, Stephanie Simon and Rick Pena have key roles in the brilliant piece about presidential assassins.  Performances are April 29 and May 6 at 7:30 p.m., April 30-May 1 and May 7-8 at 8 p.m., May 2 and May 9 at 2 p.m., with tickets priced at $25 ($20 for seniors, $15 for students). The show goes on in the performing space at West Boca High, 12811 W. Glades Rd. Call 954-323-7884 or visit Slow Burn's web site for info.

Boca Raton's Caldwell Theatre Company, meanwhile, has just put out a casting call for its Broadway Concert Series presentation of Into the Woods, Sondheim and James Lapine's musical about the darker side of fairy-tales. Some major roles have already been cast, with Margery Lowe, Wayne LeGette, Elizabeth Dimon, Jim Ballard and Laura Hodos set to participate.  Equity auditions by appointment happen April 26, and the show will be performed May 21-23.  The Caldwell, where Lisa Loomer's Distracted opens in two weeks, is at 7901 N. Federal Hwy.


Palm Beach Dramaworkshas just revealed its 11th season lineup, a nicely balanced selection of challenging, entertaining plays.  The 2010-2011 season begins with George Bernard Shaw's Candida Oct. 6-Nov. 21.  Then comes Mark St. Germain's Freud's Last Session(Dec. 15-Feb. 6), about a contentious meeting between Sigmund Freud and C.S. Lewis on the day England enters World War II.  Donald Margulies' Pulitzer Prize-winning Dinner With Friendswill run Feb. 23-April 17.  The season winds up with Martin McDonagh's funny, horrific The Beauty Queen of Leenane May 4-June 19, 2011. Palm Beach Dramaworks is at 322 Banyan Blvd., West Palm Beach.  Call 561-514-4042 or visit the web site for info.


Just a little over a week to go until the 34th annual Carbonell Awards ceremony takes place in the Amaturo Theater at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, 201 SW Fifth Ave., Fort Lauderdale.  South Florida theater's biggest night begins at 7:30 p.m. Monday, April 12, with tickets priced at $25.  It will be followed by an after-party at Revolution Live, 200 W. Broward Blvd., from about 10 p.m. to midnight.  Anyone who goes to the Carbonells gets into the party free with an awards show ticket stub. Call the Broward Centerbox office at 965-462-0222 for tickets, or get more info at the Carbonell Awards site.

This year's ceremony will again be directed by Amy London, who was just elected president of the Carbonell board and hired as the organization's executive director and fund-raiser, thanks to a grant from producer Jay Harris. Harris and public relations executive Savannah Whaley, who played major roles in keeping the awards program going after the death of Sun-Sentinel critic/Carbonell executive director Jack Zink, will step down after this year's event.

March 11, 2010

News about Cruz, Heuer and Whitehead

It's the thick of the season, and though this weekend brings a little lull in the recent frenzy of openings, there's still plenty of arts news to share.

NiloThe lineup for the 2010 Ringling International Arts Festival has just been announced, and among the four premieres that will kick off the festival at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 13, is Capricho, a brand-new commissioned work by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Nilo Cruz.

Cruz is writing and directing the piece, which will premiere in the historic Asolo Theater at Sarasota's Ringling Museum.  It will be a busy time for him: The world premiere of another Cruz play, The Color of Desire, is slated to kick off the 2010-2011 season at Actors' Playhouse in Coral Gables Oct. 6-Nov. 11.

Premiering at the Ringling Fest at the same time as Cruz's play are world premiere dance solos featuring Mikhail Baryshnikov and David Neumann; Tim Fain premiering a violin piece by Philip Glass; and Czech circus "nomads" the Forman Brothers performing the music-puppetry piece Obludarium.

Also part of the next festival are Moscow's Theater Art Studio performing The Boys (based on The Brothers Karamazov) in Russian, and British performer Andrew Dawson in Space Panorama; cabaret performers Sanda Weigl and The Takeishis in Gypsy in a Tree, and jazz performer Kate Davis; and dance performances from Les Slovaks Dance Collective, Rubberbandance Group and the John Jasperse Company.  The festival, a collaboration of the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art and New York's Baryshnikov Arts Center, happens Oct. 13-17 at the bay-side Ringling complex in Sarasota.  Package tickets are on sale now, with tickets to individual events going on sale May 15.  Call 941-360-7399 or visit the festival web site for more information.


Translate21_Heuer_TROP_EKMRobert Heuer, the General Director of the Florida Grand Opera, was honored last month with a spectacular concert celebrating his 25 years of leading the company.  Now comes word that next month, Heuer will collect another honor for his South Florida arts leadership.

Heuer has just been chosen the 2010 recipient of the George Abbott Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Arts in recognition of his work with Florida Grand Opera and the key role he played in getting Miami's Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts built. The Abbott, which recognizes achievement in any facet of the arts, is the major award presented at the annual Carbonell Awards (which, of course, honor the best work in South Florida theater during the previous year).

This year's ceremony takes place at 7:30 p.m. April 12 in the Amaturo Theater at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, 201 SW Fifth Ave., Fort Lauderdale.  Tickets are $25.  Call the Broward Center box office at 954-462-0222 or visit the center's web site for more information.


Reggie2And speaking of Carbonell winners, Miami's own Reggie Whitehead has been touring in a production of Porgy and Bess, winning raves for his performance as the charismatic Sportin' Life -- check out a sample on You Tube.  The tour of this George Gershwin-Ira Gershwin-DuBose Heyward masterpiece brings Whitehead back home, quite briefly, for a performance at 3 p.m. Sunday at the Miami-Dade County Auditorium, 2901 W. Flagler St., Miami.

Orchestra Miami performs the glorious score, and the cast features soprano Kishna Davis as Bess, bass-baritone Patrick Blackwell as Porgy.  Charles Randolph-Wright staged the production.

Tickets cost $25 to $65.  For information, call 305-547-5414 or get tickets via the Orchestra Miami site or via Ticketmaster.  And a special note, if you happen to be older than 12 but younger than 23:  Culture Shock Miami is offering tickets to Porgy and Bess for just $5 each.

February 25, 2010

Take up the challenge

Banner-kac-633 The Miami-based John S. and James L. Knight Foundation has done all kinds of good both at home and around the nation.  The foundation has awarded millions in grant money to support innovative journalism and community programs -- and, here in South Florida, to support arts groups, institutions and individuals with creative ideas that can benefit those who live here.

Precious little of the grant money in the first two years of the Knight Arts Challenge, however, has gone to funding theater-related programs.  Teatro Avante was among the 2009 winners, getting a grant to add a Latin American theater conference to the 25th annual International Hispanic Theatre Festival coming up in July.  And other than a 2008 grant to Miami Light Project for its annual Here & Now Festival, that's about it, theater-wise.

So if you work in theater and have a great idea, now would be the time to put a proposal  together and submit it. The 2010 Knight Arts Challenge has a March 15 deadline, and on March 9, there's an information session at the LIttle Haiti Cultural Complex, 260 NE 59th Terrace, Miami.

As the Challenge promotional materials note, the requirements are simple: 1. Your idea has to be about the arts; 2.  The project has to take place in or benefit South Florida; 3.  You have to raise matching funds.

How about it, theater folks?  For more info, visit the Knight Arts Challenge web site.

February 16, 2010

Carbonell nominations revealed

Two17_speed_pepl_ho This morning brought news of the nominations for the 34th annual Carbonell Awards, South Florida's version of the Tonys or the Joseph Jefferson Awards or the Helen Hayes Awards or however you want to look at them -- though I think by now the Carbonells are as well-known nationally.  I say "news" because I'm not on the nominating/judging panel, so the long list of names was just as much of a surprise to me as to anyone who wasn't in the secret room last night where the tough decisions got made.

For a full list of those honored with nominations, check out my online story.

I'm posting a photo of Paul Tei and Gregg Weiner (and Amy Elane Anderson) in GableStage's Speed-the-Plow, because both guys have reason to smile today. Tei got nominated as best director for Broadsword at his own company, Mad Cat, and for his leading performance in Speed-the-Plow.  Weiner did even better: a best actor nod for Dumb Show at Promethean, two best supporting nominations for A Doll's Houseat Palm Beach Dramaworks and Farragut Northat GableStage, and a chance to share in a best ensemble win for Farragut North or Broadsword.  Wonder if Weiner, who played the devil in Broadsword, really does have magical powers....Just kidding, but I'm thinking he'll be buying a lot of drinks for his friends come April 12, which is when the winners will be revealed.

All in all, it's a pretty solid list of nominations, though I would have paid more attention to Rock 'n' Roll and Dead Man's Cell Phone at Mosaic, and might have pushed for The Glass Menagerie or Mauritiusat New Theatre. 

Amy London will again direct the Carbonell Awards show, which happens at 7:30 p.m. April 12 in the Amaturo Theater at the Broward Center.  Tickets go on sale Friday and cost $25 ($20 each for groups of 10 or more).  Check it out (on Friday) at the Broward Center's site. 

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)

October 26, 2009

Another way to honor South Florida theater

The annual Carbonell Awards, coveted and often controversial, have honored South Florida's theater artists for more than three decades.  But tonight during the closing party of the South Florida Theatre Festival, the much younger Silver Palm Awards will recognize a variety of outstanding work done in the region between Sept. 1, 2008, and Aug. 31, 2009.

Angie00_radosh_wknd_ES Receiving Silver Palms for performance are Angie Radosh(pictured, as Amanda Wingfield, with Cliff Burgess as Tom), for Speaking Elephantat the Women's Theatre Project and The Glass Menagerie at New Theatre; Israel Garcia, for Mauritius and The Taming of the Shrew, both at New Theatre; Barbara Bradshaw, for The Chairsat Palm Beach Dramaworks and Dead Man's Cell Phoneat Mosaic Theatre; John Archie, forRadio Golf at Mosaic and The Whipping Manat the Caldwell Theatre Company; Gregg Weiner, for Speed-the-Plowat GableStage, The Seafarer at Mosaic and Dumb Showat The Promethean Theatre Company.

Matthew William Chizever wins the Silver Palm as outstanding new talent for his work in Cannibal the Musical at Promethean and La Cage aux Folles at Broward Stage Door Theatre.  Barbara Stein is being honored for her producing work on 1776 and Les Miserables at Actors' Playhouse.  Clive Cholerton gets a Silver Palm for his direction of Vices: A Love Story and The Whipping Man at the Caldwell; Margaret Ledford for Cannibal the Musical, Dumb Show and The Banality of Love at Promethean; and Bill Castellino for Cagney and Some Kind of Wonderful at Florida Stage.  Castellino's collaborator, Christopher McGovern, is being honored for his outstanding musical direction of both shows.

The Silver Palms are also honoring GableStage artistic director Joseph Adler for his support of the theater community and his consistently outstanding work; stage manager Lara Kinzeland her crew for their work on Palm Beach Dramaworks' Private Lives; and both Becon Television and Florida Media News for their support of theater in the region.

Also at tonight's bash, Barry Steinman and Antonio Amadeo will receive the Theatre League's annual Remy Awards for their service to the league.

League members get in free, but anyone is welcome to attend the party at Revolution Live, 200 W. Broward Blvd., Fort Lauderdale.  Admission is $20, and the fun begins at 7:30 p.m.  E-mail andie@southfloridatheatre.com to make a reservation.

October 22, 2009

Alex Weisman wins a Jeff

HistoryBoys_14Alex Weisman is 22, finishing up his senior year in the theater program at Northwestern University outside Chicago. When he got cast in Alan Bennett's The History Boysat the TimeLine Theatre Company, he juggled performing with classwork -- for a much-extended, 25-week run, as it turns out.

On Monday, the multitasking paid off in an unexpected way for the actor who intends to stay in Chicago after he graduates.  He received the prestigious Joseph Jefferson Equity Award as best actor in a supporting role/play  for his performance as Posner. TimeLine's History Boyswon five Jeffs, more than any other production in theater-rich Chicago.

Weisman's mom Betsy, who works as accounting manager of the Broward Center's Broward Performing Arts foundation and who serves as a Carbonell Awards panelist here in South Florida, was in the audience with hubby David on Monday. On Wednesday, she was still bubbling and giddy as she noted that Alex will soon play the Ghost of Christmas Past in A Christmas Carol at Chicago's famed Goodman Theatre.  Since  graduating from the University School at Nova Southeastern University, she says, her son has been in 20 shows -- and counting.


(Photo of Donald Brearley as Hector and Alex Weisman as Posner by Lara Goetsch.)

September 17, 2009

McCraney wins again

TarellMcCraney_IMG_9761Tarell Alvin McCraney, the Miamian whose young play-writing career has been widely celebrated on both sides of the Atlantic, has just become one of three inaugural recipients of the Steinberg Playwright Awards.  The international writer in residence at the Royal Shakespeare Company, he's being honored as a playwright whose works show great promise, something also recognized by the New York Times when it named McCraney winner of its first Outstanding Playwright Award last spring.

The Steinberg Award, which also goes to playwrights David Adjmi and Bruce Norris, bestows total cash prizes of $100,000.  McCraney and Adjmi will receive $25,000 each, with the rest going to Norris.  The awards to early-career playwrights will alternate every year with the $250,000 Steinberg Distinguished Playwright Award, which last year went to Angels in Americaauthor Tony Kushner, who announced this years winners today.

McCraney and his fellow winners will receive their prizes and the "Mimi," a statue designed by Tony-nominated set designer David Rockwell, on Oct. 26 at Lincoln Center's Vivian Beaumont Theatre.  The ceremony comes during the Oct. 21-Dec. 13 run of McCraney's Brother/Sister Plays -- In the Red and Brown Water, The Brothers Size and Marcus; or the Secret of Sweet -- at New York's Public Theater.

Congrats -- again -- to a writer whose increasingly famous work has yet to be seen in his hometown.

May 21, 2009

McCraney's still soaring

Tarell McCraney (Large)Tarell Alvin McCraney, whose grittily poetic plays are being produced on both sides of the Atlantic (though still not in his hometown of Miami), will receive yet another honor next week, adding to the many he has received since graduating from the Yale School of Drama in 2007.

On Wednesday, May 27, McCraney will receive the first New York Times Outstanding Playwright Award in a ceremony at the newspaper's Manhattan headquarters.  Honoring an American playwright who has made a recent professional debut in New York (McCraney was chosen for The Brothers Size at the Public Theater), the award was determined by a committee of three Times arts editors, Times contributor Sylviane Gold and four impressive playwrights: Edward Albee, Richard Greenberg, James Lapine and brand-new Pulitzer Prize winner Lynn Nottage.

It has been a good spring for the 28-year-old McCraney.  He's back from his part-time job as RSC/Warwick International Playwright in Residence for the Royal Shakespeare Company, was just profiled as part of the Advocate's Forty Under 40 rising stars in various fields, and his trilogy of "Brother/Sister" plays is running at the Tony Award-winning McCarter Theatre in Princeton, N.J., through June 21.

Now, if he could just catch a break in Miami.