June 03, 2011

Free theater

Looking for something interesting to do, arts-wise, tonight or tomorrow? How about checking out a free production of Stephen Belber's Tape, a play about the reunion of three high school friends and the revisiting of a hot love triangle.

Students from the University of Miami and Florida International University are banding together to get the show on in a small 30-seat venue, the House Next Door Thheatre, 2830 SW 37th Ct., Miami.  Performances are tonight and Saturday at 8 p.m.  The show is free, with on-site parking, but the students are selling refreshments and accepting donations to help defray costs.

Want info? E-mail producer Mauricio Abascal at MauryAbascal@gmail.com, or call him at 305-905-6712.


April 27, 2011

Cruz, Tune headed to UM

Cruz11_MHD_CM The University of Miami's Jerry Herman Ring Theatre just ended its season with an impressive production of Pal Joey, but theater department chair (and Ring producing artistic director) Henry Fonte has more -- much more -- in store for the 2011-2012 season.

South Florida's own Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, Nilo Cruz, will be in residence at UM in September as one of the university's Stanford Distinguished Professors.  He'll teach, do a public presentation, and the Ring will present his 1994 play Night Train to Bolina (Sept. 14-24), a piece about a boy and girl in a war-torn Latin American country.

Next, UM's theater department will join forces with the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts for a production of Federico García Lorca's The House of Bernarda Alba (Oct. 13-30).  Professional actors will play Bernarda Alba and her housekeeper La Poncia, and UM students will play the daughters.  Fonte will direct the production, which will be in the Arsht's Carnival Studio Theater.

Multiple Tony Award winner Tommy Tune returns Nov. 9-19 with playwright Mark Salzman for a full production of Project 54, the show they workshopped at UM in January.  The piece is a music- and dance-filled look at the golden days of the famed Manhattan club Studio 54 and founder Steve Rubell.  It's a world Tune knew well:  He lived one block over and stopped by the disco nearly every night, back in the day.

A revival of the Edna Ferber-George S. Kaufman comedy Stage Door plays the Ring Feb. 15-25, followed by a production of the musical A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum April 11-28.  Want info? Visit the Ring's web site.

(Miami Herald photo of Nilo Cruz by Charles Mostoller)

April 15, 2011

A musical, a play and new works in bloom

On stage at South Florida's colleges and universities at the moment, you can find a classic musical, a comedy by a journalist-turned-playwright and nine short new works by aspiring theater professionals.  The weekend also brings a reading of a piece inspired by Macbeth.

UM Pal Joey At the University of Miami's Jerry Herman Ring Theatre, the 1940 Richard Rodgers-Lorenz Hart classic Pal Joey is running through April 23.  Joey Barreiro plays the ambitious title character, a womanizing charmer who will do anything to further his song-and-dance career.  Performances are 8 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Saturday-Sunday.  Tickets are $25 Friday-Saturday, $22 other shows (discounts for seniors, students and UM faculty, staff and alumni).  The Ring is at 1312 Miller Dr. on the UM campus in Coral Gables. Call 305-284-3355 or visit the Ring's web site.

Two programs featuring nine new works are on tap at the New World School of the Arts' New Playwrights' Festival 2011 this weekend.  Program A features Apple Tree by Dylan Guerra, The Diner by Nile Harris, M by Jean-Louis Droulers, Swan Song by Andrew Quintana and An Irrelevant Title by Armando Santana.  In Program B are Recoil by Brandon Flynn, It's an Underworld After All by Dylan Guerra, Goodbye Alice by Maite Francois and The Crubicle by Rafi Lorie and Dylan Guerra.  Program A goes on at 4:30 today, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday; Program B will be presented at 7:30 tonight, 4:30 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday, all int he Louise O. Gerrits Theatre at New World, 25 NE Second St., Miami.  Tickets are just $5.  Call 305-237-3541 or visit the New World web site for info.

At Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, columnist Mitch Albom's comedy Duck Hunter Shoots Angel -- about two Alabama brothers who fear they've shot an angel -- runs this weekend and next.  Performances are 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Saturday-Sunday through April 23.  Tickets are $20 ($12 for students, faculty, staff, alumni and kids under 12).  The show is in the Studio One Theatre, 777 Glades Rd., Boca Raton.  Call 1-800-564-9539 or visit the FAU events web site.

 Also in Boca this weekend, the Boca Raton Theatre Guild is doing staged readings of Terry Lawrence's new play Scott at the Willow Theatre in Sugar Sand Park, 301 S. Military Trail.  Inspired by Macbeth, the play follows an American soldier being pushed toward power by his wife as he's exploited by politicians and business moguls.  Lawrence, whose play Women Drivers will be staged by Fort Lauderdale's Women's Theatre Project in the fall, will hear actors Barbara Sloan, Karen Stephens, Jeffrey Bruce, Peter Librach, Taylor Darden and Bradford Sadler read Scott under Genie Croft's direction.  Tickets are $10, and performances are 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Saturday-Sunday.  Call 561-347-3948 or email Carol Kassie at ckassie@gmail.com for info.

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.

February 18, 2011

On campus

South Florida's professional theaters are opening shows at a fast and furious pace -- tonight brings the world premiere of Juan C. Sanchez' The Bearded Lover at Davie's Promethean Theatre, plus the opening of Danai Gurira's Eclipsed at The Women's Theatre Project -- but student theater programs are keeping up the same frenzied pace.

Miami's New World School of the Arts winds up its run of the Broadway hit The Drowsy Chaperone this weekend with performances at 7:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday in the Louise O. Gerrits Theater on the eighth floor of the New World building at 25 NE Second St.  Tickets are $12 ($5 for students and seniors).  Call 305-237-3541 or visit the school's web site.

Lys Big Love UM At the Jerry Herman Ring Theatre on the University of Miami campus, Aristophanes' Lysistrata and Charles Mee's The Big Love continue their repertory run through Feb. 27. Performances are 8 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday at the Ring, 1312 Miller Dr., Coral Gables.  Tickets are $18 Friday-Saturday, $16 other shows (with discounts for students, seniors, faculty, staff and alumni).  Call 305-284-3355 or visit the Ring's web page to see the performance schedule for each show.

For a free theater experience, check out Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead on the Kendall campus of Miami Dade College.  Performances are 8 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, through Feb. 27 at the Studio Theater, Bldg. M, 11011 SW 104th St., Kendall.  Call 305-237-2282 or visit the web site for info.

Also in south Miami-Dade, the Roxy Theatre Group is presenting a huge student cast in the Broadway classic Damn Yankees through March 5.  Performances are 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday (with an additional matinee March 5) at the Roxy Performing Arts Center, 1645 SW 107th Ave., Miami.  Tickets are $20.  Call 305-226-0030 or email SusannePinedo@gmail.com.

Up north in Boca Raton, Florida Atlantic University is presenting the Jane Martin inside-theater comedy Anton in Show Business through Feb. 27.  Performances are 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Saturday-Sunday in the Studio One Theatre on the campus at 777 Glades Rd.  Tickets are $20 ($12 for students, faculty, staff, alumni and children under 12).  Call 1-800-564-9539 or visit the FAU web site.

(Photo of Elizabeth Nestlerode in Big Love, left, and Grace McCabe in Lysistrata by Kent Lantaff.)

November 03, 2010

On campus

The theater season is getting busier this week and next at colleges and universities all over South Florida.

Senor_Andy_549_ret Opening Thursday at Florida International University:  Jonathan Larson's Pulitzer Prize-winning Rent, in a production directed by FIU alum (and former Rent star) Andy Señor, who played the show's Angel on Broadway and on tour.  The musical runs through Nov. 21 at the Wertheim Performing Arts Center on the campus at 11200 SW Eighth St., Miami.  Performances are 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday.  Tickets are $20 ($18 for seniors, faculty, staff and non-FIU students, $15 for FIU students).  For info, call 305-348-0496 or visit the FIU theater site.

Next week brings three more productions.  First, the Douglas Hughes version of Henrik Ibsen's Hedda Gabler opens Nov. 10 at 8 p.m. at the Jerry Herman Ring Theatre on the University of Miami Hedda campus, 1312 Miller Dr., Coral Gables.  The play runs through Nov. 20 with performances at 8 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Saturday-Sunday.  Tickets are $8-$25.  Call 305-285-3355 or visit the Ring's web page.

A production of Federico García Lorca's Bodas de sangre (Blood Wedding), directed by professor (and INTAR founder/former artistic director) Max Ferrá, opens Nov. 12 on the north campus of Miami Dade College, where it runs through Nov. 21.  Performances by the college's Actor's Arena program are in Spanish, and they happen at 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 5 p.m. Sunday -- with admission free for all.  Call 305-237-1198 for info.

Jim Leonard's The Diviners, a play about a disenchanted preacher and a traumatized boy, also opens Nov. 12 and runs through Nov. 21 in the Studio One Theatre at Florida Atlantic University, 777 Glades Rd., Boca Raton.  Performances are 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Saturday-Sunday.  Tickets are $20 ($12 for students, faculty, staff, alumni and children under 12).  For info, call 1-800-564-9539 or visit the FAU site.

October 26, 2010

UM's Joshua Henry is a rising star

Henry 285 Joshua Henry hasn't been out of the University of Miami all that long -- he graduated in 2006 -- but the 26-year-old actor is forging an ascendant career.  He played the boyfriend of Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson in the first Sex and the City Movie, was part of the ensemble (and understudied the leading role of Benny) in the Tony Award-winning musical In the Heights, and got the showy role of the buff military recruiter in American Idiot

But on Sunday at Broadway's Lyceum Theatre, Henry's life in the theater jumps to a whole new level with the opening of The Scottsboro Boys, the final musical by the team that wrote the edgy scores for Cabaret and Chicago, John Kander and Fred Ebb.

Henry stars as Haywood Patterson, one of nine young black men falsely accused of raping two white women aboard a train in 1931.  The case of the "Scottsboro Boys," as the nine were called (Scottsboro was the Alabama town in which they were first tried, in front of an all-white jury after being held incommunicado), became both infamous and precedent-setting, reaching the U.S. Supreme Court.  Nonetheless, despite the fact that one of the defendants' two accusers recanted and said the rapes hadn't happened. Patterson was convicted in four separate trials, sentenced to death after each of the first three.

That's plenty of real-life drama, but Kander and Ebb (plus playwright David Thompson) take The Scottsboro Boys into another realm by styling the story as a minstrel show.  Tony Award winner Susan Stroman is the director and choreographer of a piece that composer Kander saw through to completion the 2004 death of his longtime lyricist-collaborator Ebb.

 Henry's grand opening night begins at 6:30 p.m. Sunday.  If you're New York-bound, you should know the show goes on at 8 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, 3 and 8 p.m. Saturday-Sunday at the Lyceum, 149 W. 45th St.  Tickets are $39.50-$131.50.  Call 1-800-432-7250 or visit the Telecharge web site to order.  For more on the musical, visit the Scottsboro Boys site.



October 22, 2010

Free theater

Savoring the arts doesn't have to be a costly experience; sometimes, you can see a play absolutely free.

This weekend, Barry University students are presenting Lanford Wilson's The Rimers of Eldritch. Hugh Murphy directs a cast of 17 students in the play, a murder mystery set in a dying midwest town.  Performances are 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday in Broad Auditorium on the campus at 11300 NE Second Ave., Miami Shores.  Visit the Barry theater web page for details.

On Saturday, Conundrum Stages presents a free reading of Edgar Allan Poe's The Fall of the House of Usheras part of a Poe celebration in conjunction with the "Big Read" program.  The reading is at 2 p.m. at the Broward County South Regional Library, 7300 Pines Blvd., Pembroke Pines.  Call 954-201-8849 or email conundrumstages@yahoo.com for more information.

October 19, 2010

'Tis the season

Hurricane-_(110) Though the arts have been a year-round thing in Florida for a long, long time -- don't call us snowbirds -- it's easy to tell that the Season (with a capital "S") has begun once the calendar has flipped from September to October.  I know this because (in addition to working more than a month without an entire day off) I had an extraordinary three days last week, days and evenings full of moving arts experiences that made me love my job even more. If that's possible.

First I zipped across Alligator Alley to Sarasota to take in several performances at the second Ringling International Arts Festival.  If you've not been to the Ringling Museum of Art (and if not, whynot?), you've missed a Florida treasure on 66 acres by Sarasota Bay.  In addition to the museum, with its collection of rare Old Master paintings (plus modern and contemporary art), you'll find Ca d'Zan (the former home of circus magnate John Ringling and his wife Mable), the Circus Museum, the historic Asolo Theater (a gorgeous restored 18th century Italian theater inside the museum's Visitors' Center) and the FSU Center for the Performing Arts (home to the Asolo Repertory Theatre, where the new musical Bonnie & Clyde  will kick off the season Nov. 16-Dec. 19).

BaryshnikovOn the festival's kickoff Night of Premieres -- violinist Tim Fain playing a new piece by Philip Glass, the Czech Forman Brothers doing a snazzy operatic puppet show, the debut of Pulitzer Prize winner Nilo Cruz's newest play Hurricane, and the night's hottest ticket, solo pieces danced by Mikhail Baryshnikov and David Neumann -- I chose the Cruz's Hurricane, a still-evolving piece about a Caribbean family in crisis after a storm.  It is always a thrill to be part of a first audience, even more so if the man responsible for it all happens to be a Miamian and the first Latino winner of the drama Pulitzer.  And if you can talk to him before and after, which is one of the bonuses of hanging out at a festival.

The next afternoon, I saw Baryshnikov (whose Manhattan-based Baryshnikov Arts Center copresents the festival with the Ringling) and Neumann (a witty, intriguing dancer-choreographer) dance their solos program.  I had seen the younger Baryshnikov (that's him in the photo) dance at Jackie Gleason Theater almost 30 years ago, when his then-girlfriend Jessica Lange was pregnant with their daughter Aleksandra (I remember because Lange and I both visited the ladies' room at intermission).  But to see one of the world's great dancers, now 62, perform again was so moving that I nearly got teary -- particularly as he danced the program's final solo, Benjamin Millepied's Years Later.  Dancing on a bare stage as black-and-white film of a 16-year-old, Baryshnikov dazzled behind him, the mature dancer still thrilled.  He remains a superb actor-dancer capable of communicating emotion -- resignation, acceptance, inspiration -- with the smallest movements and experience-honed technique.   And (thanks to that special festival mixing-and-mingling thing) Baryshnikov and I were part of the same audience for the Forman Brothers' Opera Baroque.

Tarell London On Friday, it was back across Alligator Alley and down to Miami to catch playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney's birthday gift to his high school alma mater, the New World School of the Arts.  About to turn 30 (which he did last Sunday), McCraney decided to throw a fundraiser to help graduating seniors travel to the auditions required for college and acting-program admissions.  The result was both a financial success (the event raised $5,380) and one of the most dramatically potent play readings I've ever attended.

Reading scenes from all three of his breakthrough Brother/Sister Plays -- In the Red and Brown Water, The Brothers Size and Marcus; or the Secret of Sweet-- McCraney and actors Glenn Davis (whose theater credits include productions at Canada's Stratford Festival, Chicago's Steppenwolf and Los Angeles' Mark Taper Forum) and Sterling Brown (a theater, movie and TV veteran currently playing Dr. Roland Burton on the series Army Wives) brought the excerpts to vivid life.  McCraney, a fine actor (though he's way too busy as a playwright to perform any more), was so intense and tormented during a Brothers Size speech that he brought the audience -- and himself -- to tears.  The taste of his talent made his listeners impatient for next summer, when GableStage will present the South Florida debut of The Brothers Size, with McCraney directing.

 The season marches on with opening after opening: Dreamgirls tonight at the Adrienne Arsht Center, A Behanding in Spokane Saturday at GableStage, the world premiere of Cane at Florida Stage Oct. 29, a rare production of No Exit by The Naked Stage, also Oct. 29.  And after last week's extraordinary collection of performances, I can't wait.


October 13, 2010

Tarell McCraney gives back

Tarell London Tarell Alvin McCraney, one of the most talked-about and celebrated young American playwrights, is going to turn 30 on Sunday.  The Miamian, who grew up in Liberty City, is still in the beginning phase of a career that has already earned him affiliations with Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre Company and Great Britain's Royal Shakespeare Company.  Still, entering a new decade is special.  But instead of partying or expecting gifts, McCraney is giving his own gift to his high school alma mater, the New World School of the Arts.

This Friday at 6 p.m., McCraney will do a VIP meet-and-greet, signing copies of his Brother/Sister Plays trilogy -- In the Red and Brown Water, The Brothers Size (which McCraney will direct at GableStage next summer) and Marcus; or the Secret of Sweet.  Then at 7:30 p.m., he and two actor friends -- Glenn Davis and fellow Steppenwolf member Jon Michael Hill -- will read scenes from McCraney's various plays (without regard to gender, he says with a smile).  The purpose is to raise money so that New World's graduating high school seniors can travel for all-important auditions for colleges and acting programs.  McCraney got that kind of help from people who believed in him when he went on to Chicago's DePaul University and then to the play-writing master's degree program at Yale University, so he figures now it's his turn to give back.

But Friday's event, he said recently, is just step one in his grander plan to make a difference in his hometown.

"I want to start a free outdoor Shakespeare festival, ala Canada's Stratford Festival or what the Public Theater does in Central Park,"  McCraney says.  "I want to do three shows every winter here, for free, and to create a company that has four or five playwrights writing for it.  Then I want to start a youth company in Overtown for 30 to 40 kids, from eighth grade through the senior year in high school.  I want to help them get the same kind of education I got at Yale and at the Royal Shakespeare company.  And I want to come home."

Currently, McCraney is always on the move, traveling to England where he works with the Royal Shakespeare Company, to Chicago for Steppenwolf, to the theaters all over the United States that are doing his work.  But he has dug in to pull off this New World birthday benefit, in part to demonstrate that he has what it takes to become the artistic director of his future Miami company.

McCraney knows it will take big, big bucks to make his long-range dreams for Miami a reality.  He applied for a Knight Foundation grant for the free outdoor Shakespeare festival a couple of years ago and didn't get it, not that he was surprised:  "You can't give a kid $2.5 million...But I wanted to show that I had an idea for the arts, and then get the community to buy into it."

McCraney has been picking the brains of artistic directors at the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Public, getting advice on how best to build his hometown company.  Though it will require him to be "a lot more political and out there than I want to be," the goal is worth it.

And personally, he adds, "I want to come home. I understand this place better than anywhere else I've been."

So temporarily, anyway, McCraney is back and making a difference. Friday's VIP event at new world costs $100 and happens at New World's eighth-floor Louise O. Gerrits Theater, 25 NE Second St. in Miami (call Rafael Maldonado at 305-237-3753 for info).  The 7:30 p.m. staged reading costs $30 and takes place in New World's Dance Studio, also on the eighth floor.  For info or tickets, call 305-237-3541 or visit New World's web site.

 (Photo by George Osodi/Aleim Magazine)