March 31, 2009

Theater for less

Since we're all looking to save money these days (aren't we?), three cost-conscious theater opportunities may be just the ticket for a dwindling entertainment budget.

2_Fuerza_Bruta[1] Miami's Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts is offering a buy one-get one deal on ticket to select performances of its three summer season shows:  the Off-Broadway extravaganza Fuerza Bruta (check it out in the photo) June 9-11 and June 14, the return of Celia: The Life and Music of Celia Cruz June 2-4, and City Theatre's popular Summer Shorts May 28-29 and May 31.  The only catch is that you have to show up from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. this Saturday, April 4, at the Arsht box office, 1300 Biscayne Blvd., to get the deal.

If you are willing to drive up to Boca Raton, you can catch a production of Helen Edmundson's searing play The Clearing for just $16 ($10 if you're an FAU faculty member, student or alumnus).  Set in 1652, the tragic drama concerns an English husband and his Irish wife during the time Oliver Cromwell was trying to drive the Irish from Ireland.  The play begins Friday, April 3, and runs through Sunday, April 12 in the Studio One Theatre on the campus at 777 Glades Rd.  Call 1-800-564-9539 or visit the FAU web site.

Fla stageAnd if you're not planning to go to the 33rd annual Carbonell Awards on Monday, April 6, at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, you may want to discover (for free!) what young playwrights are thinking.  Florida Stage, 262 S. Ocean Blvd. in Manalapan,  is presenting its Young Playwrights Festival at 7 p.m. Featured are works by Ashley Stornant (For the Record), Hope Tiffany (Unsaved), Rachel Chapnick (A Storm's a Brewin'), Stephanie Berra (A Day To Remember), and a couple of collaborative works by elementary school students, Endangered Animals and The Mixed-Up Rainbow. 

March 25, 2009

Creative kids go to the mall

LogoStarting next month, when kids and teens ask to go to Fort Lauderdale's upscale Galleria mall, it may not be because they're dying to go shopping.  The not-for-profit Fort Lauderdale Children's Theatre (FLCT) has just leased 12,000 square feet of space in the east wing of the mall.

Founded in 1952, Florida's oldest children's theater plans to eventually build its own stand-alone facility on Andrews Avenue in Fort Lauderdale.  But the move to Galleria, 2414 E. Sunrise Blvd.,  will allow the company to expand the offerings in its year-round programming for kids from 3 1/2 to 18.

"Partnerships like this allow organizations like ours to thrive and contribute to the benefit of our citizens," said FLCT executive artistic director Janet Erlick.  "Plus, this new location provides some added perks for our group, such as ample free parking, easy access from the parking lot and proximity to shopping."

The company's new classes and services will include theater instruction while parents shop, Mommy and Me classes, adult classes and Saturday morning story time. As always, FLCT offers classes, summer camp experiences and productions (through Sunday, the student actors are performing the school edition of Les Misérables at the Hollywood Playhouse).  For information on FLCT, call 954-763-6882 or visit the theater's web site.

March 17, 2009

Something's coming

Mariaandtony Broadway circles are abuzz in anticipation of Thursday's opening of West Side Story, a groundbreaking Broadway classic directed -- and reimagined by -- the author of its book, 90-year-old Arthur Laurents.  Of course, the 1957 original is a musical reinvention of Romeo and Juliet,with teen gangs the Sharks and the Jets standing in for the warring Capulets and Montagues.  But with its thrilling Leonard Bernstein score, lyrics by then-Broadway newcomer Stephen Sondheim, stunning choreography by Jerome Robbins and Laurents' heart-breaking script, West Side Story has remained an enduring piece of theatrical art.

The twist at Broadway's Palace Theatre is that the Puerto Rican Sharks and their family members actually speak and sing in Spanish.  Not all the time, but enough so that West Side Storyreportedly feels much more authentic.  Josefina Scaglione (shown in a Joan Marcus photo, with Matt Cavenaugh as Tony), the show's Maria, is a 21-year-old opera-trained Argentine actress, and a number of her cast mates are Latino performers.  The new dialog and lyrics are by Lin-Manuel Miranda, creator and star of last season's Tony Award-winning musical In the Heights.

Monica Rosell Kevin Yungman as Maria Tony In South Florida, a different, more traditional but decidedly younger West Side Story will play six performances beginning March 27.  The Roxy Theatre Group, a non-profit training program for kids and teens, has a large-scale production in the works: 75 cast members ages 11 to 17, representing more than 25 schools, singing and dancing to the accompaniment of the Greater Miami Youth Symphony.  Monica Rosell, a junior at Southwest Miami Senior High School, and Kevin Yungman, a sophomore at Cypress Bay High, play Maria and Tony. 

Roxy's West Side Story, which benefits the group's student scholarship fund, runs March 27-April 5 at 1645 SW 107th Ave. in Miami.  Performances are 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday.  Tickets are $20 ($50 opening night tickets include a cocktail reception and post-show party).  For information, call 305-226-0030 or email SusannePinedo@gmail.com.

March 12, 2009

Broward Center rolls out magic

The Broward Center is turning to circus theatrics and an illusionist couple to conjure up some diversion during these hard times.

Cirquebigwheels First up, at 8 p.m. March 20-21, is Cirque Mechanics' Birdhouse Factory.  Chris Lashua, who originated the German Wheel act in Cirque du Soleil's Quidam, devised and directs a piece inspired by Diego Rivera's industrial murals and Charlie Chaplin's movie Modern Times.  In the 90-minute show, the performer/athletes transform a gloomy factory into a place full of spirited fun.  Tickets to Birdhouse Factory are $25 to $65.  The show goes on in the Au-Rene Theater at the Broward Center, 201 SW Fifth Ave., Fort Lauderdale.  For information, call 954-462-0222 or visit the center's web site

The following weekend, the center brings The Spencers: Theatre of Illusionto the Miramar Cultural Center, 2400 Civic Center Place in Miramar.  Husband and wife illusionists Kevin and Cindy Spencer turn to both theater and magic to apparently walk through walls, levitate, vanish and reappear.  Their show happens at 8 p.m. March 27, 1 p.m. March 28.  Tickets are $15.50-$35.50.  For information, phone the box office at 954-602-4500 or visit the cultural center's web site..

February 10, 2009

Celebrating South Florida playwrights

Two talented, ascendant young playwrights from South Florida keep getting reasons to rejoice -- though not so much here at home.

Marco Ramirez Marco Ramirez, who is in his first year as part of the Juilliard School's graduate play-writing program, recently found out that his short play 3:59 a.m.: a drag race for two actors won the National Ten-Minute Play Contest and a $1,000 prize from the Humana Festival of New American Plays at Actors Theatre of Louisville.  Now comes the news that a play he wrote for the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. -- Mermaids, Monsters and the World Painted Purple -- is one of five new works nominated for the Charles MacArthur Award for Outstanding New Play or Musical at the 25th annual Helen Hayes Awards.  Those awards are Washington's equivalent of South Florida's Carbonell Awards, Philadelphia's Barrymores or Chicago's Joseph Jefferson Awards, and a very big deal indeed.  Ramirez will find out if he's a winner on Monday, April 13, when the Hayes awards are presented at the Warner Theatre.

Tarell South Florida's other hot young playwright, Tarell Alvin McCraney, already has a big spring on tap with the Tony-winning McCarter Theatre of Princeton, N.J., producing all three of his Brother/Sister plays:  In the Red and Brown Water, The Brothers Size and Marcus; or the Secret of Sweet in repertory May 14-June 21.

Chicago's famed Steppenwolf Theatre Company is underscoring McCraney's status as a playwright with major promise by announcing that it, too, will present the three Brother/Sister plays as part of its 2009-2010 season.  Tina Landau, who is directing In the Red and Brown Water at the McCarter, will stage all three plays for Steppenwolf, where she's a company member.

McCraney, who often finds himself on transatlantic flights (the London critics are crazy about his work), has yet to see any of the Brother/Sister plays produced in his hometown of Miami, a place that matters to him so much that he sometimes has "305" snipped into his haircuts.

Ramirez, at least, gets his plays produced in South Florida -- Miami's Mad Cat will world premiere Broadsword! at the end of March. Isn't it time South Florida got to see why so many places in the English speaking theater world are buzzing about McCraney? 

December 01, 2008

New World collaborates on 'Millie'

MillieA Tony Award-winning Broadway smash is utilizing the talents of students from both the musical theater and music divisions of Miami's New World School of the Arts.

Thoroughly Modern Millie, the Jeanine Tesori-Richard Morris-Dick Scanlan musical about an independent-minded flapper who takes New York City by storm in 1922, will showcase the talents of 30 high school music theater students, including Courtney Arango (pictured here) in the title role.  Jeff Hess from the theater division handles musical direction, with guest director Kim St. Leon staging the show and guest choreographer Karin Bejerano creating the dance numbers.  Both high school and college students from New World's music division will make up the orchestra.

Performances of Millie will be at 7:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday Dec. 5-14.  The show happens in the Louise O. Gerrits Theatre at New World, 25 NE Second St.  Tickets are just $12 (students and seniors pay only $5).  For information, call 305-237-3541 or visit the school's web site.

June 25, 2008

A young playwright soars

Marco08_shorts_trop_epf Since he was a student at Coral Reef High School, Marco Ramirez has been a talent worth watching.  He was named a Presidential Scholar in the Arts in 2001; by the following year, he had a play produced in City Theatre's Summer Shorts Festival (Singing Stan), followed by Pipo and Fufo: 1969 in the 2003 festival, I Am Not Batman in 2007, and The Big Brain on Bobby Martin and Becky Meets Mordecai Baxter in this summer's Shorts 4 Kids! festival.

He is a two-time winner of the Latino Playwriting Award at the Kennedy Center's American College Theater Festival for work he did while a student at New York University. And in 2007, he won the prestigious Heideman Award for short plays for I Am Not Batman, which was presented as part of the Humana Festival of New American Plays at Actors Theatre of Louisville.

Now, more good news:  Ramirez learned today that he has been accepted into the play-writing program at Juilliard in Manhattan, a program so competitive that it admits just a few students each year.  One of his teachers will be Pulitzer Prize winner Marsha Norman (she won for 'night, Mother, after beginning her career at Actors Theatre).  But the two will also have a professional connection during the upcoming theater season:  Both will see premieres of their commissioned works during the Kennedy Center's Performances for Young Audiences Season.

After submitting a competitive proposal and being selected for the commission, Ramirez has written a collection of short plays titled Mermaids, Monsters and the World Painted Purple, which the center's press office describes as "imaginative stories that capture the spirit and heart of Latino culture."  His plays debut Oct. 11-26.   Norman has collaborated on a new musical, The Trumpet of the Swan (based on the E.B. White book), with another Tony Award-winner, composer Jason Robert Brown.  Their show runs Dec. 4-6.

Ramirez says he's going to keep his ties with City Theatre, where he's literary manager, and with Miami's Mad Cat Theatre, which premiered his play The Beast.  But it is clear that, for a talented young writer, this is just the beginning.

June 24, 2008

Child's play(s)

Becky_2 City Theatre's Summer Shorts Festival has pulled up stakes and headed north, landing this week at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts.  For any stir-crazy parents looking for something fun to occupy the kids during these long summer days, consider Shorts 4 Kids!, a separate (and excellent) festival of five plays aimed at young audiences in the Amaturo Theater.

The plays -- by Lloyd Suh, Julie Jensen, Michael McKeever and Marco Ramirez (he wrote two; that's his Becky Meets Mordecai Baxter at left) -- will appeal most to kids 10 and up.  But smart younger ones and adults will enjoy the terrific writing and wonderful acting from Ceci Fernandez, David Hemphill, Sally Bondi, Andy Quiroga, Erin Joy Schmidt and Kevin Reilley.

The run is short: this Thursday and Friday at 10 and 11:30 a.m., and Saturday at 11 a.m. Tickets are a recession-friendly $10 and $12.50.  Call the Broward Center box office at 954-462-0222 or visit the web site.

MuddahMore kid-and-parent theater is available via the New Vista Theatre Company's production of Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah!. Built around the song parodies of the late Alan Sherman, the show tells the story of hapless Barry Bockman, his beloved Sarah Jackman and their misadventures at Camp Granada.  Samara Dunn, Wayne LeGette, Avi Hoffman (all shown at right), Stacy Schwartz and Oscar Cheda warble Sherman's tunes.

The show is having a regular run through July 6 at the West Boca Performing Arts Center, 12811 Glades Rd., Boca Raton.  But the company is offering special family performances at 1 p.m. July 2-3, with students getting in for $10 with each adult who pays $20. Call 1-888-284-4633 or visit New Vista's website.

June 10, 2008

Diego to the rescue

So you're thinking it's just Week 1 of summer vacation, and the kids are already whining that they're bored?  A live version of a popular Nick Jr. television show is happy to help.

Diego Go, Diego, Go Live! The Great Jaguar Rescue pulls into the Sanford and Dolores Ziff Ballet Opera House at Miami's Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts on Saturday and Sunday, June 14-15, for five boredom-relieving performances.

Jesse Carrion, featured in the 2007 national touring production of Rent, plays Diego.  Other actors play his sister Alicia and his equally famous cousin, Dora the Explorer.  With songs from the TV show and a dozen new tunes, the cast takes the audience on a quest through the rain forest to rescue Baby Jaguar.

Performances are at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, with an additional show at 5 p.m. Saturday.  Tickets are $18.50-$39.50.  Call 305-949-6722 or visit the Arsht Center website for details.

May 15, 2008

Kids expressing themselves

School is starting to wind down, but kids who love acting are busy performing or looking towards summer.

Mulan_press_photoThis weekend and next, Miami Children's Theater presents Mulan, the stage musical version of the popular animated Disney movie.  Mackenzie Dorr, Katie Susik, Crystal Ortiz and Katarina Martinez (at left in Lenny Rohrbacher's photo) are among the young actors who tell the story of a brave girl who fights to save China's emperor. 

Performances are Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 3 and 8 p.m. through May 24 at the Coral Gables Youth Center, 405 University Dr., Coral Gables.  Tickets are $10-$12 in advance, $18-$20 at the door. For more information, call 305-274-3595 or visit the Miami Children's Theater web site.

Prometeitos_navidad_061 For parents looking for a summer camp experience that is arts-filled and educational might want to check out Los Prometeitos Summer Camp at Miami Dade College's Wolfson Campus, 300 NE Second Ave., Miami.  Run by Teatro Prometeo Theatre at the Florida Center for the Literary Arts, the camp offers three week-long sessions in June in which kids will dance, sing and act -- in Spanish.  The fee for each session is $150.  For information, call 305-237-3262 or visit Prometeo's web site.

Prometeo is also offering vocational theater classes in Spanish for adults and, from May 19-31, a bilingual master class with Neil David Seibel.  Check the web site for details.