February 16, 2009

With Carbonells come kudos and kvetching

CarbonellSo the nominations for the 33rd annual Carbonell Awards have gone public, and though Monday is dark and a holiday, I can vividly picture the joy and rage flowing through South Florida's theater world.

Happiest, I'd guess, are the folks at Palm Beach Dramaworks, the small but artistically adventurous West Palm Beach company that got more nominations -- 15 -- than any other company (including several far larger theaters) in South Florida.  Primarily because of its widely-lauded production of Eugene Ionesco's The Chairs and Stephen Temperley's Souvenir (about tone-deaf opera diva wannabe Florence Foster Jenkins), Dramaworks earned smirking rights. How many of those nominations will turn into egg-shaped bronze awards on April 6 when the Carbonells are bestowed remains to be seen, but Dramaworks deserves whatever champagne its artists might be quaffing tonight.

Adding Machine His miserable look in the Adding Machine publicity photo aside, Oscar Cheda is probably celebrating too (ditto best actress nominee Maribeth Graham, she of the wagging finger).  Cheda got two acting nominations, one for Adding Machine, the GableStage musical that got more nominations -- 12 -- than any other show of 2008.  The dense, challenging musical paid off for artistic director Joseph Adler, who was nominated for his staging of Adding Machine but got shut out of nominations for best director of a play -- an award he has won five times since 2002.  Despite his record of artistic excellence and his winning streak, the opinionated Adler has never been shy (as if) about criticizing what he sees as flaws in the Carbonell system.  So who knows? Maybe the Carbonell judges bit back a little this year.

I wouldn't know -- though I participate in the program as a nominator, I'm not a judge, so I have no say in who gets nominated,nor in who wins.  But I'm a critic, so of course I have opinions. And so I'll share a few.

For the most part, I think the judges got it right.  Nothing on the nominees list jumps out as a what-were-they-thinking choice, though there were a few egregious omissions.  Work at most of the region's good companies (with the exception of Miami's Mad Cat, which is one of South Florida's boldest troupes) got noticed.  New Theatre's decision to focus on new plays paid off with four "best new work,"  to the misfortune of Seafarer Manalapan's Florida Stage, which has a far longer (and, I'd argue, better) track record of bringing new scripts to life (Nilo Cruz's Pulitzer Prize-winning Anna in the Tropics at New Theatre being a glorious exception).  I might have put Jessica Goldberg's Ward 57 at Florida Stage into the new work category instead of Jules Tasca's The Mission at New Theatre, for instance. But I wasn't one of the "deciders."

Likewise, I would have included the cast of the Women's Theatre Project's Jar the Floor in the best ensemble nominations.  I would have given GableStage's Blackbird a best play nod.  I would have nominated Ken Clement as best supporting actor for Mosaic's The Seafarer.  And so on.

But as noted, I'm not a judge. So I'll be just as surprised as the rest of the theater community when the Carbonells are divved up at the Broward Center in April.  Tickets this year are cheaper, just $25 (or $20 each, if you have a group of 10), and they go on sale Feb. 27 via the Broward Center web site.  For a complete list of nominees, check the Herald online.


October 03, 2008

Such a deal -- free theater

David00_stagesea28_mss_ho_2The Theatre Communications Group has an invitation for you:  How would you like to see a show at some of South Florida's best theaters -- for free?

TCG, with almost 500 not-for-profit member theaters around the country, is presenting the fourth "Free Night of Theater" at 600 theaters nationwide, including 10 participating companies in South Florida.

From Oct. 16-30, you can catch a performance of 1776 at Actors' Playhouse, the world premiere of William Mastrosimone's Dirty Business at Florida Stage, GableStage's production of David Mamet's November, New Theatre's world premiere of The Rant, the Jesus Quintero Studio's 27 Wagons Full of Cotton, Palm Beach Dramaworks' A Moon for the Misbegotten, the Promethean Theatre's Still the River Runs, the Women's Theatre Project's Silent Heroes, JCAT's At a Loss and a staged reading of Shakespeare Miami's Macbeth.

The idea behind "Free Night of Theater" is to attract new folks to theater or introduce theater fans to companies whose work they've never seen.  So do not take this as an opportunity to avoid paying for a ticket you'd otherwise purchase.

Each theater decides how many tickets to offer, and they go fast.  For information on what's available, visit the "Free Night of Theater" site, and go to the listing of participating South Florida theaters.

May 30, 2008

(Mostly) new theater at New Theatre

As South Florida companies are assembling and announcing their 2008-2009 theater seasons, it is becoming clear that the bad economy and cuts in arts funding are affecting programming decisions.  Certainly, that's the case at Coral Gables' New Theatre, which is coming at the problem in several ways.

Rickymartinez Though the company had planned to present a three-show "Shakespeare and Friends" summer season -- George Bernard Shaw's Heartbreak House, Tennessee Williams' The Glass Menagerie and the bard's As You Like It -- artistic director Ricky J. Martinez (right) has scrapped the Shaw and folded the other two productions into an elongated regular season.

New Theatre's 2008-2009 lineup begins with As You Like It Aug. 14-Sept. 7.  Then come three world premieres: Andrew Case's The Rant, a play about an investigator looking into the fatal shooting of a black teen by a New York police officer, Sept. 25-Oct. 26; Michelle Rosenfarb's The Gates of Choice, about a young Hasidic woman in a forbidden relationship with a soldier, Nov. 13-Dec. 14; and Robert Caisley's Kissing, about the aftermath of an illicit office kiss, Jan. 8-Feb. 8.  Williams' The Glass Menagerie will run Feb. 26-March 29, followed by the regional premiere of Theresa Rebeck's Broadway play Mauritius, about the battle over a rare stamp collection.

What this means is that instead of presenting eight plays, New Theatre is mixing its summertime classics and regular-season new works into a six-show lineup -- something managing director Eileen Suarez calls a "nouveau classic season."

The company is also trying to tackle funding issues with a campaign it calls "Act 10," seeking 1,000 people to donate $10 each.  Need info? Call 305-443-5909 or visit the website.