October 25, 2013

Silver Palm Award recipients announced

Carbonells0327 i epfThe six-year-old Silver Palm Awards for theatrical excellence aren't like the much older, more formal Carbonell Awards.  The Silver Palms vary in number from year to year, avoid categories and competition, and are decided upon by an executive committee -- playwright Tony Finstrom, actress and Becon TV talk show host Iris Acker and Florida Media News/ENV Magazine critic Ron Levitt -- based on recommendations sent to them by South Florida critics.

This year, Silver Palms go to 20 recipients in honor of the South Florida Theatre League's 20th anniversary.  They're for work done between Sept. 1, 2012, and Aug. 31, 2013, and they'll be presented at the League's annual holiday party in Fort Lauderdale on Dec. 2.

Honored this year are producer-writer-director-actor-designer Antonio Amadeo, for his multifacted original work in A Man Puts on a Play at The Naked Stage; Miami Theater Center playwright and director Stephanie Ansin for her production of The Three Sisters; Ann Kelly Anthony for her work as executive director and board chair at Mad Cat Theatre Company; Andie Arthur, for six years as executive director of the South Florida Theatre League; Matt Corey, for his sound design of Mosaic Theatre's The Birds; Lela Elam, for her outstanding performance in Ruined at GableStage; James Danford for 30 years of outstanding work as a South Florida stage manager.

IMG_Erin_Joy_Schmidt_as__2_1_Q0768O8MAlso receiving Silver Palms are Patrick Fitzwater for his direction and choreography of Slow Burn Theatre's Side Show; Ethan Henry, for his outstanding lead performances in Palm Beach Dramaworks' A Raisin in the Sun and M Ensemble's King Hedley II; Andrew Kato for his outstanding work as producing artistic director of the Maltz Jupiter Theatre; Jan McArt for her outstanding work developing new plays via the Lynn University New Play Reading Series; Harriet Oser for her outstanding performance in Driving Miss Daisy at the Plaza Theatre.

Other Silver Palm honorees are artistic director Skye Whitcomb and Outré Theatre, as the year's outstanding new professional company; Nicholas Richberg for his outstanding performance in Cock at GableStage; Erin Joy Schmidt for her oustanding performances in Mad Cat's Blow Me and Other Desert Cities at Actors' Playhouse; Nicole Stodard for her challenging productions at Thinking Cap Theatre and her outstanding adaptation/production of The Rover; John Manzelli of City Theatre and Andy Rogow of Island City Stage for their coproduction of Shorts Gone Wild, the outstanding LGBT theater piece of the season; Tom Wahl for his outstanding performance in Zoetic Stage's I Am My Own Wife; Mike Westrich, for his outstanding performance in Outre Theatre's tick...tick...BOOM!.  I am also getting a Silver Palm, recognizing my 34 years of theater criticism at the Miami Herald.  And I swear I didn't suggest that to the committee.

This year's party goes from 7:30 to 10 p.m. Dec. 2 at Stache, 109 SW Second Ave., Fort Lauderdale.  Theatre League members get in free, but anyone can come for a $25 admission fee.  For more info, contact Andie Arthur at 954-557-0778 or visit the Silver Palms web site.

(Photo of Ethan Henry by the Miami Herald's Patrick Farrell; Erin Joy Schmidt photo from Mad Cat)

October 18, 2013

24 Hour Theatre Project readies its crazy, creative '13 edition

Carbonells0327 d epfArtistic director and actor Katherine Amadeo is a talented, glamorous presence both on and offstage.  But come the evening of Oct. 28, the Naked Stage cofounder (she launched the company with hubby Antonio Amadeo and pal John Manzelli) may be looking a little sleep-deprived and frazzled.  That's because she'll be near the end of the seventh edition of the popular 24 Hour Theatre Project, a creative fundraiser that brings South Florida's theater community together for some made-overnight art.

This year, the peripatetic event takes place at Palm Beach Dramaworks.  At 7 p.m. Oct. 27, eight playwrights -- Andie Arthur, Christopher Demos-Brown, Jessica Farr, Tony Finstrom, Michael McKeever, Marj O'Neill-Butler, Deborah Sherman and Paul Tei -- will gather to choose titles, some deliberately bizarre, from a list devised by Amadeo.  The writers will draw the names of directors and actors from a hat, then scurry to a private place to spend the night creating brand-new short plays.

Early on the morning of Oct. 28, the eight shows go into rehearsal.  And that evening at 8 p.m., the one-time-only performance of 24 Hour Theatre 2013 takes place.

24 FrameInvariably, conflicting work commitments cause some of the participating artists to jump ship before the event (sending Amadeo into crisis control mode).  But at this point, the directors are slated to be Adalberto Acevedo, Kim Ehly, Desmond Gallant, David Hamphill, Michael Leeds, Leland Patton, Andy Rogow and Kim St. Leon.  This year's actors are Irene Adjan, Alex Alvarez, Tracey Barrow-Schoenblatt, Sally Bondi, Cliff Burgess, Clay Cartland, Oscar Cheda, Clive Cholerton, Natalia Coego, Dave Corey, Nick Duckart, Lela Elam, Patti Gardner, Nanique Geridian, Laura Hodos, Wayne LeGette, Dan Leonard, Noah Levine, Margery Lowe, Amy McKenna, David Meldman, Nicholas Richberg, George Schiavone, Adam Simpson, Karen Stephens, Shane Tanner, Pierre Tannous, Barry Tarallo and Gregg Weiner.  Lots of Carbonell Award winners and nominees in that bunch.

For plenty of hardcore South Florida theater fans, 24 Hour Theatre is a can't-miss event, no matter where it's taking place.  Dramaworks' Don & Ann Brown Theatre is at 201 Clematis St., West Palm Beach, right in the heart of the city's lively downtown.

General admission tickets are $30, VIP tickets (with reserved seating and a souvenir poster) run $50.  For info or tickets, call 561-514-4042, ext. 2, or visit the Dramaworks web site.

(Photo of Katherine Amadeo by Miami Herald photographer Patrick Farrell)

September 26, 2013

'From Scratch' celebrates new plays

One of the milestones in the developmental life of a new play -- a high-profile staged reading -- happens Sunday for the four playwrights in Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs' Playwright Image001Development Program.  Four writers mentored by award-winning playwright Deborah Zoe Laufer will hear their works read at the From Scratch festival at the Deering Estate at Cutler -- and you can take it all in for free.

First up at noon is Andie Arthur's The Secret of the Biological Clock, a piece recommended for teen audiences.  It centers on 16-year-old Jasmine, a girl determined to find her real dad with the help of a teen detective.

Flashing LIghts, a play by Edward G. Excalibur, is next up at 2 p.m.  That one is about a woman whose marriage is falling apart as she battles insomnia and binge eating.  Adult language is part of this play and the next two.

Susan Westfall's Two Weekends, which will be read at 5 p.m., is about change that affects old friends "confronted by love, loss and the arrival of the new neighbor lady."

VG pic 1The final reading, at 7 p.m., is of Vanessa Garcia's The Cuban Spring.  In it, Siomara Gonzalez faces an identity crisis that threatens her, her marriage and her oldest child.

The historic Deering Estate at Cutler is at 16701 SW 72nd Ave. in Miami.  For more information, call 305-235-1668, ext. 233, or visit the facility's web site.

(Photos show Deborah Zoe Laufer, top, and Vanessa Garcia)


September 06, 2013

McCraney's 'Antony and Cleopatra' has its cast

IMG_Tarell_McCraney_port_2_1_6V362J91Tarell Alvin McCraney's set-in-Haiti version of William Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra, a collaborative effort by South Florida's GableStage, Great Britain's Royal Shakespeare Company and New York's Public Theater, now has its Mark Antony, its Cleopatra, an international cast and a full creative team.  And the production, which will debut at the RSC's Swan Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon Nov. 7-30 before moving to Miami Beach's Colony Theater Jan. 11-Feb. 9 and the Public Feb. 18-March 23, involves a trio of grads from Miami's New World School of the Arts.

First among them, of course, is McCraney, who graduated from New World's high school then went on to earn degrees from DePaul University and the Yale School of Drama.  The Miami-raised playwright, a rising star in the United States and England, has moved the action of the play to the late 1700s in Saint-Domingue on the eve of the Haitian Revolution against the French.  He is also directing the play, which begins rehearsals this month in England,

Haitian-American choreographer Gelan Lambert, also a New World grad, will create the production's dances and movement.  And New World graduate Charise Castro-Smith, an actor, playwright and Yale Drama School grad, has been cast as Iras and Octavia.

Five of the play's performers are American:  Castro-Smith, Joaquina Kalukango (Cleopatra), Ian Lassiter (Agrippa and Thyreus), Chivas Michael (Mardian, Eros and The Soothsayer), and Henry Stram (Lepidus and Proculeius).  England's Jonathan Cake will play Mark Antony, with fellow British performers Samuel Collings (Octavius), Ash Hunter (Pompey, Alexas and Scarus), Chukwudi Iwuji (Enobarbus) and Sarah Niles (Charmian and Menas) rounding out the cast.

The set is being designed by the RSC's Tom Piper, with Stephen Strawbridge doing the lighting and Michael Thurber composing the music.

GableStage is doing its run of Antony and Cleopatra at the Colony on Miami Beach's Lincoln Road because of the venue's greater seating capacity.  In addition to regular performances, the company will bring in Miami-Dade County students to experience McCraney's action-packed take on Shakespeare at special free shows.

For information on Antony and Cleopatra in South Florida, call the GableStage box office at 305-446-1116 or visit the theater's web site.

                                (Photo of Tarell Alvin McCraney by George Schiavone)

June 17, 2013

Girl Play 2013 is a varied look at life from a lesbian perspective

125The Women's Theatre Project, based for its main stage productions at the Willow Theatre at Boca Raton's Sugar Sand Park, has long included plays with lesbian themes and points of view in the work that it does.  Girl Play, a festival of short-play readings, is part of that mission, and this year's fourth edition happens June 21-23.

Sixteen short plays are included in the lineup, with eight read on Friday starting at 7:30 p.m. and eight on Saturday at 7:30 p.m.  Audiences will pick their favorites, and those plays will get a second reading on Sunday at 2 p.m.

This year's plays, chosen from more than 100 submissions, are Joan Lipkin's Are You Married?, Sharon Goldner's Based on True Events, Donna Hoke's Cake Top This, Rahti Gorfien's Diaphanous, Dian "MJ" Perrin's Dyke Tracy, Detective, Karen L. Lewis' Gallery Postmortem, Jan O'Connor's Gayby's Playdate, Ruth Dyck Fehderau's Hildie and Hilda Go for a Walk, Tabia Lau's In the Water, Penny Jackson's Palpitations, Barbara Lhota's Personal Penchants, Eileen Tull's Semi-Circles, Kathleen Warnock's Sharing the Pie, Patricia Milton's Stonehenge, Michelle F. Solomon's Taste of Thai and Carol Mullen's Zero Mile Mark

Red%20CommercialDirecting the readings are Genie Croft, Marj O'Neill-Butler and Kim Ehly.  Ehly isn't just directing four shows -- she's also playing the lead in Dyke Tracy, Detective.  The other actors in Girl Play 2013 are Sally Bondi, Casey Dressler, Lela Elam, Noah Levine, Ann Marie Olson, Barbara Sloan, Karen Stephens, Carol Sussman, Pilar Uribe and Elayne Wilks.

The festival takes place at Art Gallery 21 at the Woman's Club of Wilton Manors, 600 NE 21st Ct., Wilton Manors.  Admission is $15 for one program, $25 for two and $35 for three.  Patrons on Saturday and Sunday will be given a parking pass because of the Stonewall Festival taking place those days (otherwise, parking would be $10).

For more info or tickets, call 1-866-811-4111 or visit the Women's Theatre Project web site.

Also note:  This festival is intended to be festive, so show up at least a half-hour early for drinks, music and an art exhibit.

June 15, 2013

Slow Burn's 'Wedding Singer' is that 'feel good' show

RobbieJuliaPressSlow Burn Theatre, the company that boldly goes where not many others in South Florida do when it comes to musicals, has done its share of complex, artsy shows -- think this season's Sweeney Todd, for example.

But when summer rolls around, co-artistic directors Patrick Fitzwater and Matthew Korinko are perfectly happy to go for fluff and fun.  Hence, The Wedding Singer, which opens Friday, June 21, for a way-short run through June 30.

Clay Cartland, who seems to be everywhere this season (a good thing, since he's abundantly talented), gets the plum role of Robbie Hart, the Jersey guy who's a popular wedding singer circa 1985.  Yes, that's the part Adam Sandler played in the movie.  And though Sandler's a mega-gazillionaire known the world over, I'm betting Cartland will bring something special to the part. (Alas, I'll be on vacation and will miss this one, so I'm going out on a limb and speculating.)

Courtney Poston plays the waitress with the rhyming name, Julia Gulia, the gal who just might save Robbie from his mega heartbreak after he's dumped at the altar.

RobbiePressAlso in the cast are Conor Walton, Domenic Servidio, Erica Mendez, Rick Hvizdak, Nicole Piro, Penny Mandel, Jerel Brown, Rick Peña, Ben Solmor, Jonathan Yepez, Lauren Bell, Sabrina Gore, Kaitlyn O'Neill and Alisha Todd.

The musical gets just six performances:  8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday.  Slow Burn performs at the West Boca Performing Arts Theater on the campus of West Boca Raton High School, 12811 W. Glades Rd.

Tickets are $35 ($30 for seniors, $20 for students).  For info, call 1-866-811-4111 or visit the company's web site.

(Photos by Gemma Bramham)

June 14, 2013

Durang's Tony winner, McCraney play top GableStage season

A little earlier than is his custom, GableStage's Carbonell Award-winning artistic director Joseph Adler has put all the pieces of his new season puzzle together -- and the lineup for 2013-2014 is full of enticing titles.

Vanya0050rHot from its Tony Award as Broadway's best play last Sunday, Christopher Durang's Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike will be produced at GableStage next spring.  Durang's smart satire of Anton Chekhov's characters and themes will run May 17-June 15, 2014.

The new season begins Nov. 23-Dec. 22 with Aaron Posner's still-running Off-Broadway hit My Name Is Asher Lev.  Based on a novel by Chaim Potok, the play focuses on a talented Jewish painter torn between his Hasidic upbringing and his dreams of artistic success.

IMG_Tarell_McCraney_port_2_1_6V362J91Next is Miamian Tarell Alvin McCraney's set-in-Haiti adaptation of William Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra.  A collaborative effort of the Royal Shakespeare Company, New York's Public Theater and GableStage, the play will be presented by GableStage at Miami Beach's Colony Theatre Jan. 11-Feb. 9.

Katori Hall's The Mountaintop, a play set at Memphis' Lorraine Motel on the night before the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, runs March 15-April 13.

After the Durang play, Samuel D. Hunter's The Whale takes audiences into the world of a 600-pound recluse and his angry teenager daughter.  That one runs July 19-Aug. 17, 2014.  The next season wraps up Sept. 20-Oct. 19, 2014, with David West Read's The Performers, a play about high school friends reconnecting at the Adult Film Awards in Las Vegas.

(And a side note: GableStage's current season isn't over yet.  David Lindsay-Abaire's Good People runs July 20-Aug. 18, with Stephen Karam's Sons of the Prophet closing out the 2012-2013 season Sept. 21-Oct. 20.)

GableStage is offering its new lineup to current subscribers for $225 and to new subscribers for $260, and with each subscription, theatergoers get an additional complimentary ticket to one show.  Single ticket prices will be going up for the new season, and a subscription provides a savings of nearly 40 percent.

The theater is located in Coral Gables' historic Biltmore Hotel at 1200 Anastasia Ave.  For information, call the box office at 305-445-1119 or visit the company's web site.

(Photo of the Broadway production of Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike by Carol Rosegg; photo of Tarell Alvin McCraney by George Schiavone)

June 11, 2013

The sounds of musicals fill the summer

If you're a voracious theater fan, you may be feeling that your summer calendar looks kind of light -- and you'd be right, mostly.  There aren't dozens of full-fledged productions, though we do have City Theatre's Summer Shorts, Slow Burn Theatre's The Wedding Singer, Rated P for Parenthood at Actors' Playhouse, Cock and Good People at GableStage, Brighton Beach Memoirs and Character Man at Stage Door in Coral Springs, The Facts of LIfe: The Lost Episode at Empire Stage, plus 8-Track: The Sounds of the '70s and Waist Watchers the Musical at the Plaza Theatre in Manalapan. Miami's Arsht Center will play host to two big summer shows, 8CHO and Slava's Snowshow.

There are college summer festivals at Florida Atlantic University (Side by Side by Sondheim, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum and The Man Who Came to Dinner are on the bill) and at Florida International University (featuring an alumni showcase, Bachelorette, Reverse Psychology, A Thousand Years and a Glengarry Glen Ross featuring successful FIU acting alums), plus a Broward Center anthology event celebrating five years of work by Conundrum Stages. The 28th edition of the International Hispanic Theatre Festival plays the Arsht Center's Carnival Studio Theater in July. And there are play-reading events too, notably the Women's Theatre Project's Girl Play 2013 and the ongoing Summer Theatre Fest Stages of the Sun reading series on Mondays through Aug. 26 at various theaters.

But this summer also brings something special in the form of concert presentations of musicals at two Palm Beach County theaters.

Louis TyrrellAt the Theatre at Arts Garage in Delray Beach, this month's Summer Tune-Up is already under way.  The series, which happens at 7:30 p.m. each Thursday under the guidance of artistic director Louis Tyrrell, features reading-style concert presentations of fresh new musicals.  This week it's The Longing and the Short of it, a theatrical song cycle by Daniel Maté; on June 20, it's The Hostage Song by Clay McLeod Chapman and Kyle Jarrow; and on June 27, the musical is Dani Girl by Michael Kooman and Chris Dimond.

Admission to each event is $15-$20 ($5 more at the door).  The Theatre at Arts Garage is at 180 NE First St., Delray Beach.  Call 561-450-6357 or visit the web site for more information.

More lavish concert versions of classic musicals are planned for July and August at Palm Beach Dramaworks, 201 Clematis St., West Palm Beach, where Dancing at Lughnasa is in its final week.  Former Caldwell Theatre Company artistic director Clive Cholerton will helm the popular Dale Wasserman-Mitch Leigh-Joe Darion musical Man of La Mancha July 10-21, then move on to Stephen Sondheim and George Furth's Company, which will run Aug. 7-18.

Performances of both musicals are 8 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Saturday-Sunday, with tickets priced at $35.  For information, call 561-514-4042 or visit the theater's web site.



May 28, 2013

Actors' Playhouse rounds out its next season

Scott and HemActors' Playhouse at the Miracle Theatre in Coral Gables has finalized its six-show lineup for 2013-2014, and it's an eclectic one split 50-50 between musicals and plays.

The season begins Oct. 9-Nov. 3 with the Off-Broadway satire Ruthless! The Musical, a look at a diva of a third grader who would kill for a starring role.  Next is Sean Grennan's play Making God Laugh(Dec. 4-29), a moving comedy about empty nesters who welcome their grown kids home over holidays spanning three decades.

Peter Quilter's Broadway hit End of the Rainbow gets its regional premiere Jan. 15-Feb. 9.  The play-with-music focuses on the legendary Judy Garland as she prepares for her London comeback try in 1968.

Spamalot, the season's big musical offering, runs March 5-30.  The wildly funny Tony-winning show by Monty Python's Eric Idle and composer John Du Prez follows a decidedly different version of King Arthur and his knights as they go on a quest to find the Holy Grail.

Mark St. Germain's play Scott and Hem in the Garden of Allah runs May 14-June 8, 2014.  The barbedplay focuses on literary giants F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway on a particular night in 1937 at the Los Angeles resort the Garden of Allah.

The traditional summer musical revue for 2014 is Mid-Life 2! (The Crisis Continues).  Running July 16-Aug. 17, the Baby Boomer-friendly show looks at all the joys, laughs and concerns that go along with becoming eligible for an AARP card.

Subscriptions to the season range from $185 for previews to $435 for the gala opening night performances.  The cost is $239 for Wednesday-Thursday evenings and Sunday matinees, $275 for Friday-Saturday evenings, $279 for VIP flexible/anytime tickets for premium seats at any performance.

Actors' Playhouse performs at the Miracle Theatre, 280 Miracle Mile, Coral Gables.  For information, call 305-444-9293 or visit the theater's web site.

May 22, 2013

Outré Theatre goes 'BOOM!'

Ttb141Boca Raton's Outré Theatre Company, which launched in November with Andrew Lippa's musical The Wild Party, is turning to an autobiographical musical by Rent creator Jonathan Larson for its next production.  tick, tick...BOOM! began as a solo show performed by Larson in 1990.  After his tragic death on the night before the first preview of Rent -- the musical that would make his reputation and win him a posthumous Pulitzer Prize -- playwright David Auburn restructured tick, tick...BOOM! as a piece for three actors.  Miami's Raúl Esparza won an Obie Award for his performance as Jon in the 2001 Off-Broadway production.

In the Outré production, Michael Westrich plays Jon, an aspiring composer whose fast-approaching 30th birthday has him questioning whether to follow or drop his dreams.  Sabrina Gore is Susan, Jon's dancer-girlfriend, and Jerel Brown is his pal Michael, a former actor who has given up showbiz for a more lucrative corporate life.

The show opens Friday and runs through June 9 at the Mizner Park Cultural Arts Center, 201 Plaza Real, Boca Raton.  Performances are 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $30 ($25 for seniors, $20 for students).  For info, call 954-300-2149 or visit the Outré web site.

 (Outré Theatre photo of Jerel Brown, Michael Westrich and Sabrina Gore)