October 07, 2011

'24-Hour Theatre Project,' 91 hours later

Rehearsing So I went to the Naked Stage's fifth annual 24-Hour Theatre Project on Monday evening, and work has been kicking my behind ever since.  But I didn't want to let the work week end without sharing a few random observations, memories and special moments from what has become a welcome, creative bonding ritual for South Florida's theater community.

*  It never ceases to amaze me what so many talented professionals are able to pull off in such an incredibly short time.  How do you write a short play, let alone a good short play, in 12 hours?  How does an actor not only memorize and retain sometimes-complex dialogue, but do a convincing/funny/compelling job of creating a character in 10 hours or less?  How does a director get the new play staged, how does the sound designer find just the right music and effects, how does the behind-the-scenes team bring each little world to life? From the audience, even with the odd glitch, it looks like magic.

Securedownload[2] *  As always, the plays were a mixed bag, generally enjoyable and, this year, heavy on sexual themes and content.  Which is fine, except there were a few kids in the audience, which can make an otherwise perfectly acceptable adult play cringe-inducing.

*  My personal favorites among the plays were written by three of the four founders of Miami's Zoetic Stage.  Stuart Meltzer (who then did double duty as director of Christopher De Paola's Marvin Becomes a Man) spun the title Hubris and the Rain Cloud into the story of three witty, withering sisters confronting the hot young waitress who's been sleeping with one sister's husband.  Christopher Demos-Brown crafted a little gem titled A Martin Among Us, a riotous piece about a nerdy guy who can simply point his finger and give the gift of sexual ecstasy to just about anyone.  And Michael McKeever, the prolific playwright who became a plot point in Tony Finstrom's Imaginary Friends, wrote the riotous yet touching Love Machine, Rusted, about a sexually frustrated young couple and the swingers who come calling.

* In the um, well, OK category were Juan C. Sanchez's Love in Stereo (with an especially strange older couple),  De Paola's Marvin Becomes a Man (truly, creepily unsettling) and David Michael Sirois' Holy Mary, Mother of Todd (a relentlessly offensive play set at a meeting of Sex Addicts' Anonymous).  Yipes.

Cheda *  Performances in 24-Hour's fleeting plays that were especially memorable include Amy McKenna as a world-weary rabbit and Laura Hodos as a cute-as-a-button bunny in Andie Arthur's Ifigenia and the Inadequate Wand; a biting Melissa Minyard and Irene Adjan in Hubris and the Rain Cloud; Oscar Cheda as the Martian and Anne Chamberlain, Andrew Wind and Michaela Cronan as the recipients of his special gift, in A Martian Among Us; Adam Simpson and Betsy Graver as the young couple, Karen Stephens and John Felix as the bizzaro swingers in Love Machine, Rusted.

Five years after Naked Stage founders Katherine Amadeo, Antonio Amadeo and John Manzelli first tried The 24-Hour Theatre Project, the event has become a joyous, exhausting kickoff to each new season.  It showcases much of South Florida's theater talent and makes you eager to see what these gifted actors, directors and playwrights will do in longer form -- with much more rehearsal -- during the season. Please, bring it on.

(Bachi Frost photos, from top, show Avi Hoffman rehearsing with Sally Bondi and Amy Miller Brennan for Holy Mary, Mother of Todd; Melissa Minyard in Hubris and the Rain Cloud; Oscar Cheda and Andrew Wind in A Martian Among Us.)



October 02, 2011

'24-Hour' wordsmiths off and writing

Frame%20thin%20banner2 Naked Stage's 24-Hour Theatre Project gets its one-time-only performance Monday night at 8 at the Caldwell Theatre Company -- and now we know what will be on the bill.  Playwrights, directors, stage managers and actors got matched Sunday evening in Boca Raton, and if you're reading this any time before 7 a.m., just know that at various spots around the Caldwell, eight playwrights are trying to achieve just the right balance of creativity and caffeine in theater's version of pulling an all-nighter.
So if you go to South Florida theater's most inspired fundraiser (and why wouldn't you?), here's what you'll see.
* David Michael Sirois is writing a play titled Holy Mary, Mother of Todd. Avi Hoffman will direct Amy Miller Brennan, Deborah Sherman, Matthew William Chizever, Cliff Burgess and Sally Bondi in the piece, which sounds like a comedy.
* Tony Finstrom is creating Imaginary Friends, with Dan Kelley directing. Margery Lowe, Barbara Sloan, Laura Turnbull and Tracey Barrow-Schoenblatt are in that cast.
*  Christopher De Paola is writing Marvin Becomes a Man. Gordon McConnell will direct Nicholas Richberg, Mcley Lafrance, Elizabeth Dimon and Dave Corey.
*  Christopher Demos-Brown's play is A Martian Among Us, directed by Barbara Bradshaw. Michaela Cronan, Oscar Cheda, Anne Chamberlain and Andrew Wind make up the cast.
*  Juan C Sanchez is writing Love in Stereo, directed by Leland Patton and featuring Nan Barnett, Jackie Rivera, Marckenson Charles and Clive Cholerton. 
*  Andie Arthur is writing Ifigenia and the Inadequate Wand. Amy London will direct Amy McKenna, Ken Clement, Jessica Peterson and Laura Hodos in the play.
*  Stuart Meltzer is writing Hubris and the Rain Cloud, with Todd Allen Durkin directing. Irene Adjan, Andrea Conte, Melissa Minyard and Mikaela Schipani are in the cast.
*  Michael McKeever is creating what sounds like another comedy, Love Machine, Rusted. Michael Leeds is staging it, with Betsy Graver, Adam Simpson, Karen Stephens and John Felix in the cast.
The Caldwell is at 7901 N. Federal Hwy., Boca Raton.  Your ticket price will help fund a coproduction by The Naked Stage and The Promethean Theatre in 2012.  And in just four years, 24-Hour Theatre has become a treasured part of the South Florida theater community's seasonal rituals. Tickets are $25 ($50 for big-deal VIP seating), and you can get them online at Ovationtix.  Come see eight fresh-from-the-laptop new plays.  And eight very exhausted playwrights.

August 23, 2011

24 Hour Theatre Project returns

Frame The Naked Stage's 24 Hour Theatre Project, that most popular and creative of fundraisers, resurfaces at 8 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 3, at Boca Raton's Count de Hoernle Theatre (yes, that's the home of the Caldwell Theatre Company).

Artistic director Katherine Amadeo (who is simultaneously working on another project with her actor-husband Antonio -- the December birth of a baby boy) has announced the names of a number of South Florida actors, directors and playwrights who are planning to participate in the sleepless, intense creative experience of taking eight brand-new short plays from idea to performance in a day.

This year's lineup, in alphabetical order:  Irene Adjan, Steve Anthony, Andie Arthur, Nancy Barnett, Tracey Barrow-Schoenblatt, Sally Bondi, Barbara Bradshaw, Amy Miller Brennan, Cliff Burgess, Oscar Cheda,Clive Cholerton, Ken Clement, Andrea Conte, Dave Corey, Christopher Demos-Brown, Ryan Didato, Elizabeth Dimon, Todd Allen Durkin, Lela Elam, John Felix, Tony Finstrom, Betsy Graver, Laura Hodos, Avi Hoffman, Julie Kleiner, Michael Leeds, Amy London, Margery Lowe, Michael McKeever, Amy McKenna, John Manzelli, Stuart Meltzer, Leland Patton, Jackie Rivera, Juan C. Sanchez, Deborah Sherman, Adam Simpson, David Michael Sirois, Barbara Sloan, Karen Stephens, Shane Tanner, Barry Tarallo and Laura Turnbull.  And maybe more to come.

The theater is located at 7901 N. Federal Hwy., Boca Raton.  Tickets are $25 (VIP tickets are $50, and those buy you reserved seating an a souvenir poster).  Buy them via Ovationtix at 1-866-811-4111.  For Naked Stage info, visit the company's web site.

August 15, 2011

Alternative theater takes the spotlight

Conundrum Stages has an ambitious, four-night festival -- On the Boards: Our Alternative Theater Festival -- kicking off on Wednesday at the Tamarac Theatre of Performing Arts, 7143 Pine Island Rd. in Tamarac.  And this festival is affordable:  a suggested $10 donation gets you into any night's program.

Designed to promote South Florida theater companies, the festival also features preshow-concerts by several actor-singers.

Lisa Kerstin Braun On Wednesday, singer Lisa Kerstin Braun kicks things off, followed by a sample of Eve Ensler's The Vagina Monologues directed by and featuring Lea Roy, who is staging the play for a fall fundraiser at the Center for Creative Growth.  The second part of Wednesday's theater bill is The Honesty Project, a theater-music-dance piece drawn from questions answered by Florida Atlantic University theater students.  FAU grad Bradford Sadler directs.

On Thursday, Palm Beach County's Immeasurable Theatre performs Paradise Lost: Wings of War, adapted and directed by Ouida Williams from the poem by John Milton.  After that, The Alliance Theatre Lab presents The Lab Project, previewing new works by resident playwright David Sirois.

Friday's program begins with a concert by john Lariviere, followed by scenes from Thinking Cap Theatre's productions of MilkMilk Lemonade by Joshua Conkel and Death for Sydney Black by Leah Nanako Winkler. Then, Vanessa Garcia's The Charms of the Gifted and Wendy White's 7 Generations get read.

Saturday's program begins with Jeanne Lynn Gray in concert.  Fort Lauderdale's Infinite Abyss Productions will perform Bare: A Trip on Songs, a collection of music featuring six singers.  After that, Three Lefts Productions performs Little Men by Gary and Edmund Entin.

All of the festival programs begin at 7 p.m.  For information, call 954-673-5124, email conundrumstages@ymail.com or visit the company's web site.

July 14, 2011

Promethean sets a summer show...and more

270179_245825902098699_208429789171644_1143686_2289619_n-600x600 Continuing in the tradition of its summer hits Cannibal! The Musical and Evil Dead the Musical, Davie's Promethean Theatre is gearing up for another spoofy horror musical, this one Song of the Living Dead, a Zombie Musical.

Created at Atlanta's Dad's Garage Theatre Company, the show -- with music by Eric Frampton and Matt Horgan, and a cript by Horgan and Travis Sharp -- tells the story of a newly engaged couple stumbling into the midst of a zombie attack.  Margaret M. Ledford will direct, with Phil Hinton as musical director.  In the cast are Clay Cartland, Matthew William Chizever, Robert Coward, Mark Della Ventura, Lindsey Elizabeth Forgey, Mary Gundlach, Jaimie Kautzmann, Noah Levine, Joshua Olivares and Sharon Peoples.

Song of the Living Dead opens Aug. 12 and runs through Sept. 4 in the Black Box Theatre in the Don Taft University Center at Nova Southeastern University, 3301 College Ave., Davie.  Performances are 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 5 p.m. Sunday, and tickets are $30.  Call 1-866-811-4111 to order tickets, or get more info on Promethean's web site.


Shakespeare Things happen when you're bringing theater companies from all over the world to perform at the International Hispanic Theatre Festival, and due to travel troubles, the Friday and Saturday performances of the Argentine production El Trompo metálico in the Adrienne Arsht Center's Carnival Studio Theatre have been cancelled.

Instead, Prometeo Theatre will offer two more performances of its show Mujeres de Shakespeare, written and directed by Neher Jacqueline Briceño.  The play is performed in Spanish wit English supertitles.  Perormances are at 8:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday at Prometeo's theater on Miami Dade College's Wolfson Campus, 300 NE Second Ave., Miami.  Tickets are $25.  For information, call 305-237-3262 or visit Prometeo's web site.


Not much theater around on Mondays, but this coming Monday actor Chaz Mena will direct a staged reading of Rogelio Martinez's All Eyes and Ears at GableStage.

In his cast are Ken Clement, Alex Alvarez, Diane Garle, Laura Pons, John Manzelli and Deborah Sherman.  Martinez play is set in early '60s Havana, focusing on a family loyal to Fidel Castro's revolution, and the price the family pays for that loyalty.

The free reading is in GableStage's space at the Biltmore Hotel, 1200 Anastasia Ave., Coral Gables.  For info, call 305-445-1119 or visit the GableStage web site.


June 19, 2011

Calling all playwrights

Susi Westfall City Theatre's popular Summer Shorts festival serves grown-up theater lovers (through Shorts and headliner Jai Rodrigruez's late-night show Dirty Little Secrets) and family audiences (through the Lisa Loeb-Marco Ramirez musical Camp Kappawanna).  This year's festival is reaching out in another direction with an information- and entertainment-filled literary conference, CityWrights.

The gathering, which begins with registration and a welcome party Thursday from 6 to 8 p.m. at Miami's Epic Hotel, offers two days of panels, workshops and performances on Friday and Saturday, with a wrap-up Sunday brunch June 26 celebrating the playwrights and company of Summer Shorts, which winds up its run at Miami's Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts that day, then moves for an additional week's run at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts.

Playwright Susan "Susi" Westfall, City Theatre's literary manager and a co-founder of the company, dreamed up the literary conference and has filled it with impressive names, enticing (and useful) panels and an exciting bonus:  a free performance-lecture by Obie Award-winning playwright Lisa Kron (the author of 2.5 Minute Ride, Well and other works).

Lisa KronKron, who is participating in CityWrights thanks in part to the Dramatist Guild Fund's Traveling Masters Program, will lead a workshop for 10 young South Florida playwrights.   She'll also give a free, open-to-all lecture and performance titled What Will Happen Next? at 7:30 p.m. Saturday in the Peacock Room at the Arsht, 1300 Biscayne Blvd.  City Theatre describes her performance this way:  "One life in the theater and the search for dramatic action.  In this entertaining and enlightening mix of conversation and performance, Lisa Kron shares stories spanning the journey from her start improvising funny anecdotes in scrappy East Village clubs in the '80s, through the thrill of debuting her play Well on Broadway.  Along the way she shares what she has learned about the nature of dramatic action -- why plays are so hard to do well -- and why we keep trying."  (Reservations, required for Kron's performance, can be made by calling 305-75509401, ext. 10.)

After Kron's performance on Saturday, City Theatre will honor four of this year's Shorts playwrights in attendance (Israel Horovitz, Bara Swain, Garth Wingfield and Jon Kern), then comes a special 10 p.m. performance of Summer Shorts (ticket purchase required).

Participants in CityWrights include playwrights Horovitz, Gary Garrison and Andie Arthur, intellectual property attorney David H. Faux, editor Larry Harbison and literary agent Susan Schulman.

Because City Theatre wants the gathering to enrich the work of both out-of-town participants and South Florida writers, the company is offering a special rate to locals for Friday and Saturday events:  $30 for one day, $50 for both.  For information on CityWrights, call 305-755-9401, ext. 10, or email citywrights@citytheatre.com.

 (Photos of Susi Westfall, top, and Lisa Kron)




June 10, 2011

'Girls' play and teach

GirlPlay2011-front-edit-1webThe Women's Theatre Project is planning its third edition of 'Girl Play,' a three-day festival of staged readings of short plays with lesbian themes, for June 24-26.

But first the company, in collaboration with the Gay and Lesbian Community Center at the Pride Center at Equality Park, is presenting two free workshops this weekend featuring award-winning playwright Carolyn Gage.

Tonight at 7:30, Gage delivers a lecture and performance workshop on lesbian culture.  Winner of the 2009 Lambda Literary Award in drama, Gage will invite audience members of all abilities, genders and orientations to act out scenarios from lesbian history and culture.

On Sunday at 2 p.m., she will use 30 minutes of scenes from her play Ugly Ducklings to deliver an anti-bullying message, exploring harassment and homophobic policies at a girls' summer camp.  Gage and others will also have a panel discussion on the issue.

'Girl Play,' three different programs of short plays, happens at 6:30 p.m. June 24-25, 2 p.m. June 26.  Admission to those readings is $15 for each program.

All events take place at the Pride Center, 2040 N. Dixie Hwy., Wilton Manors.  For info, call 954-462-2334 or visit the Women's Theatre Project's web site.


April 29, 2011

Family-friendly theater in the spotlight

This weekend brings the 16th annual National Children's Theatre Festival at Actors' Playhouse in Coral Gables, an Area Stage/Theater Conservatory production of You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown (also in the Gables), and the ontinuation of the lavishly designed original play The Red Thread at the PlayGround Theatre in Miami Shores.

Kidsfest The weekend celebration at Actors' Playhouse, earns the "national" part of its title from the competition for its featured musical.  This year's winner is Emperor's New Clothes, adapted by Lani Brockman, with music and lyrics by Susan Bardsley.  The free show and activities go on at the Miracle Theatre, 280 Miracle Mile, Coral Gables, during the festival both Saturday and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m.  The Musical Miracles will also perform, and there will be lots of creative activity stations for kids.  Call 305-444-9293 or visit the Actors' Playhouse web site for more info.

Media At Area Stage, Broadway producer Arthur Whitelaw -- the man behind the original production of You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown -- caught Friday's opening performance of the show, which will run through May 8.  Artistic director John Rodaz directs a cast of conservatory students in the musical about Charlie, Lucy, Snoopy and the gang.  Performances are 7 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 5 p.m. Sunday at Area, 1560 S. Dixie Hwy.  Tickets are $20 ($10 for students).  Call 305-666-2078 or visit Area Stage's web site for more info.

RedThread0413 Wedding DB Continuing through May 27 is the PlayGround Theatre's visually stunning production of The Red Thread, a play-with-music by artistic director Stephanie Ansin and Fernando Calzadilla. Based on Chinese folk tales and myths, the piece focuses on the quest of the brave youngest daughter of a weaver after she sets out to retrieve his masterwork. Public performances are at 8 p.m. Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays, with many 10 a.m. weekday performances for school groups.  Tickets are $20.

The PlayGround Theatre is located at 9806 NE Second Ave., Miami Shores.  For info, call 305-751-9550 or visit the company's web site.    


January 24, 2011

Jai Rodriguez to headline Summer Shorts

Jai-event Miami's City Theatre celebrated its 15th anniversary last summer with the world premiere of the full-length family-friendly musical Camp Kappawannaby Lisa Loeb.  So how to top that for the Sweet Sixteen summer of 2011?  Bring in Jai Rodriguez, actor and TV personality, to lend some extra buzz to the Summer Shorts acting company.

Rodriguez, one of the stars of Bravo's Queer Eye for the Straight Guy (he also scored Broadway replacement gigs in Rent and The Producers), will headline this summer's company.  His fellow actors, according to festival artistic director John Manzelli, are Gregg Weiner, Finnerty Steeves, Ceci Fernandez and Steve Trovillion, a.k.a. "Mr. Summer Shorts." The summer's directors will be Manzelli, Trovillion, Barry Steinman, Gail Garrisan and Margaret Ledford.

Manzelli adds that the festival, which will be in the Carnival Studio Theater at Miami's Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts June 3-26 (and at the Broward Center June 30-July 3), will include three late-night performances of Rodriguez' solo show Dirty Little Secrets, presented in partnership with Out in the Tropics.  The regular Summer Shorts lineup will feature nine pieces.

As a fund-raising kickoff, Rodriguez is coming to Miami Feb. 10 for a reception and sneak preview of the summer fare.  Manzelli says the actor will sing, others will read from a few plays that will be done at the festival, and there will be drinks and food.

The fund-raising event is at 6 p.m. Feb. 10  on the 30th floor of Sabadell United Bank, 1111 Brickell Ave., Miami.  Admission is $60 per person.  RSVP by Feb. 1 to City Theatre executive director Barry Steinman by calling 305-755-9401, ext. 15, or emailing barry@citytheatre.com.

January 18, 2011

Mad Cat headed for South Beach comedy fest in Tei play

Miami's Mad Cat Theatre Company, which revived its show Shepherd's Pie at last year's South Beach Comedy Festival, is returning to the 2011 festival with a new play by company founder Paul Tei. Tei, winner of multiple Carbonell Awards and an actor with recurring roles on two TV series (USA's Burn Notice and Disney's Zeke & Luther), will draw on two other talents for Mad Cat's comedy fest show, writing and directing The Preservation Society.

The comedy focuses on Polly Chekhov, a California comedy writer who comes home to Hollywood, Fla., for her grandma's wake.  Strange distractions, however, keep her from making progress on a eulogy.

In the cast are Melissa Almaguer, Sofia Citarella, Tiffany Hanan Madera, Betsy Graver, Troy Davidson, Margaret Prusner, Ricky Waugh and Tei's parents, Anne and Pio.

The Preservation Society will get two performances, at 7 and 9:30 p.m. March 4 at Backstage at the Fillmore, 1700 Washington Ave., Miami Beach.  Tickets are $31 ($67 for VIP tickets).  For info, visit the Mad Cat or South Beach Comedy Festival web sites.