June 18, 2014

UM's Ring Theatre cooks up a hot 2014-2015 season

IMG_Henry_Fonte_2_1_0165UEKVThe University of Miami's Jerry Herman Ring Theatre has put together an intriguing, musical-dominated season for 2014-2015, including a pair of productions likely to draw South Florida's most passionate theater lovers.

We already know about the one off-campus show, the southeastern premiere of the Tony Award-winning Peter and the Starcatcher.  The Peter Pan prequel, based on the Dave Barry-Ridley Pearson novel for young readers, is part of next season's Theater Up Close programming at Miami's Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts.  Henry Fonte, producing artistic director of the Ring, will stage the show, which is a collaboration with the Arsht running Oct. 9-26 at the center's Carnival Studio Theater.

0101084853The season's other big news is a brand-new Carmen, an in-development musical with book and lyrics by Moisés Kaufman, the Tectonic Theater Project artistic director who oversaw creation of The Laramie Project.  Co-produced by the Ring and Tectonic, the piece is set in Cuba in 1958, with Georges Bizet's classic music given an Afro-Cuban makeover by Arturo O'Farrill.  The fresh take on Carmen runs Nov. 12-23.

Also part of the Ring's five-show season are the William Finn-Rachel Sheinkin musical The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (Sept. 24-Oct. 4), Clare Boothe Luce's tart comedy The Women (Feb. 18-28) and the lavish season-ending musical Oklahoma! (April 15-26).

Season memberships are now on sale at $100, a savings of 20 percent.  Individual tickets, which go on sale Sept. 2, are $25 ($22 for seniors, $10 for students).  The Ring is located at 1312 Miller Dr. on the University of Miami campus in Coral Gables.  For more information, call 305-284-3355 from noon to 5 p.m. Tuesday-Friday or visit the Ring web site.

(Photos show Henry Fonte, above, and Moisés Kaufman)

February 27, 2014

New World steps 'Into the Woods'

Into the woods1South Florida's Zoetic Stage just enjoyed a long, successful run of Stephen Sondheim's Assassins, and now the New World School of the Arts college music theater program is getting into its own Sondheim groove with Into the Woods, directed by faculty member James Randolph.  Inspired by Grimm's Fairy Tales, the 1986 musical by Sondheim and James Lapine incorporates familiar characters -- Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, Jack (of Jack and the Beanstalk) -- and imagines what happens after the happily ever after.

An all-star movie version will be released next Christmas, but you can check out New World's stage version this weekend at the Colony Theater, 1040 Lincoln Rd., Miami Beach.  Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday.  Tickets are $20 ($15 for students and seniors).  For info, call 305-237-3135 or visit New World's web site.

(Cast photo by Juan E. Cabrera)

April 12, 2013

New World debuts new voices

Two college students and six high school students at the New World School of the Arts have written short plays that will debut at this weekend's 2013 New Playwrights Festival.

Directed by faculty members David Kwiat, LaVonne Canfield, Andy Quiroga and Scott Douglas Wilson, the plays explore topics including love, marital relationships, family, suicide and more.  On the program are Making the Cut by Freddy Valle, Rubbing Alcohol by Luna Rodriguez, Like Moths to Flames by Lauren DeLion, Poor, Poor Eleanor by Armando Santana, American Hotdog by Marie Becnel, Corners by Emily Wilson, One Week of April by Ciara Alyse Harris and Superboy by Jennie Coutrier.

Performances are Friday (that's today) at 4:30 and 7:30 p.m., and Saturday at 2 and 7:30 p.m. For info, call 305-586-9148 or 305-237-3541.  New World is at 25 NE Second St., Miami.

March 12, 2013

'Rising Stars' celebrates tomorrow's artists

NWSA Rising Stars_Theater_Cabaret OpeningMiami's New World School of the Arts has immeasurably enriched the theater, music, visual arts and dance communities in South Florida and around the country.  On Friday, you can experience the next wave of students poised to make an artistic impact when New World presents its annual Rising Stars Showcase at the Gusman Center for the Performing Arts.

The celebration begins from 5 to 7:30 p.m. with a free visual arts exhibition in the New World Gallery at 25 NE Second St., Miami.  A pre-performance VIP reception, priced from $125-$250, happens at the Gusman Center, 174 E. Flagler St., Miami, from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m.  Call 305-237-3753 or email rmaldona@mdc.edu for information.

NWSA Rising Stars_Music_Luna RamosThe performance begins at 8 p.m. with a number from the Tony Award-winning musical Cabaret, directed by theater dean Patrice Bailey, and high school musical theater students will perform a segment from Wonderful Town.  Dance students will perform the Gerard Ebitz-choreographed Tuxedo Park (Excerpt) and Peter London's reconstruction of Martha Graham's 1974 Adorations.  Alfred Gershfeld will lead the New World Symphony Orchestra in an excerpt from Dvorak's Symphony No. 8in G, and Jim Gasior leads the New World Jazz Band in Duke Ellington's Second Line.

Also during the performance, painter and 2005 New World grad Michael Vasquez will receive this year's Rising Stars Alumnus Award from his former dean, Maggy Cuesta. 

Tickets to Rising Stars are $20-$50.  For information, visit the New World web site or Gusman site.

(Photo of Cabaret features Cristian Vandepas and Alexis Adler; violinist Luna Ramos is featured in the symphony photo)

February 14, 2013

A UM play inspired by Aristophanes debuts at sunset

Story_closeup_SarmientoThe University of Miami's ongoing celebration of the humanities and arts continues on Friday with a day-into-evening event titled A Walk in the CLOUDS: Celebrating the Classics at UM.  All events (except for parking) are free, and the day includes a classics symposium with multiple speakers, a keynote address about Aristophanes' play The Clouds, Edith Freni's world premiere play A Work of Pure Fiction and a post-performance reception at the Lowe Art Museum.

The day begins with a 10 a.m.to 12:30 p.m. session featuring speakers from the department of classics and department of theater arts. The lineup:  Stephen Di Benedetto on "Playing Aristophanes,"  Scott Farrington on "The Tragicomic Dionysus," Jennifer Ferriss-Hill on "Tragedy in Comedy:  The Comic Afterlife of Mysian Telephus," Wilson Shearin on "Loquacity and Sickening Nonsense: Plutarch's Reception of Aristophanes," Han Tran on "Cannibals Can't Sing: A Cyclops Struggles in the Land of Bacchus," and T. George Hendren on "Blood and Wine: The Sinister Side of Bacchic Revelry."  The symposium takes place in the College of Arts and Sciences Gallery at the Wesley Foundation building, 1210 Stanford Dr., Coral Gables.

Keynote speaker Kenneth J. Reckford, the Keenan Professor of Classics Emeritus at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, delivers his address from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m., also in the Arts and Sciences Gallery.  The title:  "[Why] Did Aristophanes' Clouds Fail?."

A Work of Pure Fiction, a piece inspired by Aristophanes' Clouds, will debut at 5 p.m. on the lawn next to the Lowe Art Museum, 1301 Stanford Dr.  The performance by UM theater students is deliberately timed to take advantage of the setting sun.

A reception in the Lowe's Tobin Gallery, highlighted by a viewing of the museum's Greek calyx-krater (a painted ancient vessel used to mix water and wine), ends the celebration.

For more information about A Walk in the CLOUDS, call 305-284-5500.  For parking information, visit the university's web site.

(Photo of Danny Mendendez and Mary Hadsell in A Work of Pure Fiction by Laura Sofia Sarmiento)



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 carbexec@aol.com, 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 26, 2012

'In the Next Room'....and other theater news

Publicity pictures 203Sarah Ruhl's In the Next Room (or the vibrator play) got its professional South Florida debut in May at GableStage.  Now the play about Victorian women, their sexual repression and expression, gets a university production directed by the imaginative, daring Jesús Quintero.

In the Next Room, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, runs this weekend at Florida International University's Wertheim Performing Arts Center, 10910 SW 17th St., Miami, with performances at 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday.  The show resumes Feb. 8-12, with those performances at 8 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday.

Tickets are $15 ($12 for seniors and FIU faculty or staff, $10 for FIU students and alumni association members).  Because of the adult content and language, those involved with the production recommend it for audiences 16 and older.

Two free special events are connected with the play.  A 45-minute panel discussion about the ideas expressed in In the Next Room will follow this Sunday's matinee.  And at 7 p.m. Feb. 8, a half-hour look at how the production was put together, featuring input from cast members and the production team, will precede the performance.

For info, call 305-348-0496 or visit the FIU theater web site.


In recognition of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, the Sue and Leonard Miller Center for Contemporary Judaic Studies at the University of Miami, in association with the Holocaust Memorial of the Greater Miami Jewish Federation, will present two concert performances of Ghetto Tango.  Performed by Yiddish artists Zalmen Mlotek, Daniella Rabbani and Avram Mlotek, the concert features edgy, sad and sardonic songs that were sung in underground cabarets in Europe's Jewish ghettos during World War II.

The performances are 8 p.m. Monday and Tuesday at GableStage in the Biltmore Hotel, 1200 Anastasia Ave., Coral Gables.  Tickets are $36 (students pay $10).  For info, call 305-284-6882 or email Maxine Schwartz at mschwartz@miami.edu.


The Miami Lakes-based Alliance Theatre Lab is betting on young play-writing talent for its 2012 season. 

The lineup kicks off with the world premiere of David Sirois' Off Center of Nowhere March 16-April 8. New World School of the Arts grad Sirois, a best new work Carbonell Award nominee for last year's Brothers Beckett at Alliance, this time focuses on a high school student whose revelation of a secret leads to confessions that might destroy her family.

Sirois' friend and fellow New World grad, Mark Della Ventura, is up next with an expanded version of his solo show Small Membership.  Running June 1-24, the play focuses on an insecure young man as he grapples with issues of love, heartbreak and more.  Della Ventura also has another play, roomies, set to close out the Alliance season Nov. 9-Dec. 2.  That one is about five acting conservatory grads living together as one tries to write a play about them.

Alliance performs at the Main Street Playhouse, 6766 Main St., Miami Lakes, and its shows are presented at 8 p.m. Thursday-Friday, 5 p.m. Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday.  Tickets are $25 ($15 seniors, $10 students).  For info, call 305-259-0418 or visit the company's web site.


Times are tough, but the Maltz Jupiter Theatre has some happy news to share.  The company has received a three-to-one challenge grant that will likely result in the company having a $10 million endowment.  The Maltz Family Foundation will give the theater $7 million if the company, which already has $500,000 in its endowment, raises $2.5 million by June 30.  The theater has already raised more than $1.62 million of its share.  For info, visit the theater's web site or email managing director Tricia Trimble at ttrimble@jupitertheatre.org.

(Photo of Michelle Antelo in FIU's In the Next Room by Marilyn Skow)

December 10, 2011

New World showcases its stars of the future

ChangThe college theater program at Miami's New World School of the Arts expects plenty of its students as they prepare to jump into their careers.  The rigorous training culminates in an event that is both a challenge and a gift for graduating seniors:  Under the guidance of theater division professor David Kwiat, the students write, produce and act in one-person shows.  The pieces not only showcase their talents in a tailor-made way, but they also give the young professionals a play they can do again and again as they're building a body of work.

Fourteen seniors will present their solo pieces in this year's collection of One-Person Shows, running Thursday to Dec. 17 in the Louise O. Gerrits Theater on the eighth floor of the New World building at 25 NE Second St., Miami.  Best of all, you can catch all these new shows and fresh talent for free.

The shows are grouped into three programs.  Bill A features Elaine Flores in Pandamonium, O'Neil Delapenha in The Adventures of Kidney Man, Devon Dassaw in Oo, Mr. Corey, You Bad, Lyndsay McLaren in The King's Daughter and Alma Rose Hoyos in Home Is Where the Corazon Is.

TepperOn Bill B are Ashley Chang's Mary Sunshine, Christian Vandepas' Until Then, Heslens Estevez's Do I?, Ryan Jacobs' Boy of Wonder and Luis Restrepo's The Magical Journey of Abraham and the Moon.  Bill C features Gerardo Pelati's Hey Shorty, Armando Diaz's Cockroach Confessions, Lauren Tepper's Love Spell and Jose Elosequi's Who Are YOU?.

Catch Program A at 5 p.m. Thursday and 8 p.m. Friday, Program B at 8 p.m. Thursday and 2 p.m. Saturday, Program C at 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

Need more info?  Call 305-237-3541 or visit the New World web site.


(Photos of Ashley Chang, top, and Lauren Tepper by Juan E. Cabrera)


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.)






September 23, 2011

A conference, a deal, a reading and a college show

Going into the weekend, here's a brief roundup of theater news and events:

Arnold mittelman brow CPY*  Arnold Mittelman, the long-time producing artistic director of the (still) closed Coconut Grove Playhouse, is planning a 2012 South Florida conference under the auspices of his National Jewish Theater (NJT) Foundation. With the help of a $60,000 grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Mittelman is putting together an invitation-only conference to advance the NJT's Holocaust Theater Archive and web site.  Devoted to researching, cataloguing and encouraging the production of Holocaust-related theater, the archive has an advisory board that includes William Shulman of the Association of Holocaust Organizations, Holocaust scholar Michael Berenbaum, actor Theodore Bikel, theater historian Al Goldfarb and Haim Shaked of the Sue and Leonard Miller Center for Contemporary Judaic Studies at the University of Miami.

JHHH PRESS PIC *  A low-cost theater event and a reading will bring theater lovers to GableStage and Mosaic Theatre on normally dark nights for the companies, now home to the hit productions of Tarell Alvin McCraney's The Brothers Size (GableStage) and Michael Weller's Side Effects (Mosaic).

GableStage is hosting Ground Up & Rising's minimalist production of Danny Hoch's Jails, Hospitals & Hip-Hop starring Curtis Belz at 8 p.m. Monday and Tuesday.  The solo show requires a versatile actor to play a collection of marginalized guys trying to be heard.  Ground Up's Arturo Fernandez directs the show, and the $7 per person admission will benefit the company and its planned productions at the new South Dade Cultural Arts Center later this season.  For info, call 305-444-1119 or visit the GableStage web site.  GableStage is in the Biltmore Hotel, 1200 Anastasia Ave., Coral Gables.

The free staged reading at Mosaic happens at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the company's black box theater at the American Heritage Center for the Arts, 12200 W. Broward Blvd., Bldg. 3000, Plantation.  Edward Castle's A Bouquet for Raven Poe (yes, about Edgar Allan Poe) features Michael St.  Pierre, Shelby Steel, Scott Genn, Danielle Tabino, Daniel Nieves and Oscar Cheda.  Call 954-577-8243 or visit Mosaic's web site for info.

* If you're a fan of Caryl Churchill's plays, you're in luck: Florida Atlantic University's theater department is presenting Cloud 9from tonight through Oct. 2.  The time-traveling, gender-bending, smart script will be presented at the Studio One Theatre on FAU's main campus, 777 Glades Rd., Boca Raton.  Performances are 7 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 1 p.m. Saturday-Sunday. Admission is $20 ($12 for FAU students; $16 for faculty, staff and alumni).  Call 1-800-564-9539 or visit the FAU Events site for tickets.