April 30, 2013

Mad Cat is making a move

Mad Cat Artistic Director Paul TeiFresh off its South Beach Comedy Festival debut of Jessica Farr's Charming Acts of Misery, Miami's 13-year-old Mad Cat Theatre Company is on the move.  No, not to Los Angeles, which Farr and Mad Cat founder-artistic director Paul Tei now call home.  These theater cats are setting up shop at Miami Theater Center in Miami Shores, where a full-length version of Farr's play -- retitled B**w Me (it's about fashion muse Isabella Blow, so you can fill in the asterisks yourself) -- will get its world premiere Aug. 16, running through Sept. 1.

Since its founding in 2000, Mad Cat has had a long and happy symbiotic relationship with the Miami Light Project, first working in the old Light Box space on Biscayne Boulevard, then moving to Miami Light's new venue, the Light Box at Goldman Warehouse in Wynwood.

Erin Joy Schmidt.Blow Me.Isabella BlowBut the company began looking for quarters that might replicate the intimacy of its first home, finding that combination in MTC's 50-seat SandBox space.

  "With a move to Miami Theater Center as our core venue, we look to return to our roots and expand our mission.  It's a prospect we are all looking...forward to.  A new homecoming," Tei said in a statement, also expressing gratitude to Miami Light Project for the organization's long time support of Mad Cat.

MTC artistic director Stephanie Ansin, wanting to grow her facility as a place where many companies and artists can work, noted, "We are doing what we can to creatively and collaboratively respond to [challenges in the arts] so we can strengthen, mobilize and preserve the theater community in South Florida."

MTC's SandBox is located at 9816 NE Second Ave. in Miami Shores.  For updates on Mad Cat's move and the production of B**w Me, visit the company's web site.

(Photos of Mad Cat artistic director Paul Tei and Erin Joy Schmidt as Isabella Blow by Mitchell Zachs )

April 17, 2013

Colin McPhillamy shares an adventure

Colin300That Colin McPhillamy is an uncommonly fine actor comes as no news to anyone who has seen him in Palm Beach Dramaworks' current show, Eugene Ionesco's Exit the King.  Or to those who saw him at Dramaworks in Copenhagen or The Pitmen Painters, or in several plays at the late, lamented Florida Stage and Promethean Theatre.

The London-born, Royal Central School-trained actor is equally adept at drama and comedy (both skills on display in his current performance), and he has also been a director, teacher, producer, playwright and short story writer.

As it happens, McPhillamy knows his way around a memoir, too.  His new book, An Actor Walks Into China, details his adventures as he struggled to produce Western theater in China and Chinese theater in London.  Frustration, humor, keen observation and a sense of the dramatic (naturally) are all part of McPhillamy's entertaining story.

9781481112970_p0_v1_s260x420On Thursday at 2:30 p.m., the actor-author will read from his book at Dramaworks' Don & Ann Brown Theatre, 201 Clematis St., West Palm Beach.  Admission to the hour-long reading and talkback is $10, but that buys you a copy of his book.  Can't make it?  The book is also available via the actor's web site, on Amazon and at other online sites.

For information on the reading or Exit the King, call 561-514-4042 or visit the Dramaworks web site.

April 12, 2013

New World debuts new voices

Two college students and six high school students at the New World School of the Arts have written short plays that will debut at this weekend's 2013 New Playwrights Festival.

Directed by faculty members David Kwiat, LaVonne Canfield, Andy Quiroga and Scott Douglas Wilson, the plays explore topics including love, marital relationships, family, suicide and more.  On the program are Making the Cut by Freddy Valle, Rubbing Alcohol by Luna Rodriguez, Like Moths to Flames by Lauren DeLion, Poor, Poor Eleanor by Armando Santana, American Hotdog by Marie Becnel, Corners by Emily Wilson, One Week of April by Ciara Alyse Harris and Superboy by Jennie Coutrier.

Performances are Friday (that's today) at 4:30 and 7:30 p.m., and Saturday at 2 and 7:30 p.m. For info, call 305-586-9148 or 305-237-3541.  New World is at 25 NE Second St., Miami.

April 04, 2013

CityWrights offers workshops, panels, networking and more

9557120088With summer not so far away, Miami's City Theatre is gearing up for its annual Summer Shorts festival June 6-30 at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts -- and for a rich week of programming in the third edition of its CityWrights gathering for playwrights.

City co-founder and literary director Susan Westfall has put together another jam-packed, enlightening symposium June 19-23 at Miami's Epic Hotel.  Two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist Tina Howe will participate thanks to the Dramatists Guild Fund's Traveling Masters Program, along with master playwrights Lauren Gunderson (author of the family musical The Amazing Adventures of Dr. Wonderful and Her Dog, running June 15-30 at the Arsht) and Steve Yockey (a featured Summer Shorts playwright and stage, TV and film writer). 

Among the highlights and topics of the week:

*  Howe will send an exercise in advance to playwrights attending the conference, and the CityWrights acting ensemble will read the pieces.

*  There will be discussions or panels on how to Howe b&w finaldevelop, launch, market and legally protect work.

* Publishers and agents will offer information sessions.

*  Writing for film, theater, television and the internet will be explored.

*  Entertainment attorneys can earn continuing legal education credits and meet experts on law and the arts.

* A teacher training institute to help educators teaching middle and high school students integrate playwriting into English, language arts and theater classes is part of the conference.

* A dozen students ages 16-19 will attend the conference free, work with professionals and get a reading of their CityWrights-created work. Interested students should email CityWrights@citytheatre.com.

*  Two workshops for theater professionals, one on self-producing, the other on creating autobiographical solo shows, are part of the gathering.

114 laurenThe master playwrights and writers whose work is being produced as part of Summer Shorts will hold question-and-answer sessions about their work and careers, and the masters will read from their plays on Saturday evening.  Numerous readings will be part of the week, and the winner City Theatre's National Award for Short Playwrighting, with comes with a $1,000 prize, will be revealed at the conference launch party June 19.

Two early-bird rate all-access passes are on sale through April 30 -- $275 for regular attendees, $175 for students (those rise to $350 for a regular pass, $275 for students after the deadline).  One-day pass rates for specific programs range from $100 to $195.

To register or get more information, call 305-755-9401 or visit the City Theatre web site.

 (Photos show, top to bottom, Susan Westfall, Tina Howe and Lauren Gunderson)

April 03, 2013

Slow Burn heats up in Aventura

Sweeney3EPatrick Fitzwater and Matthew Korinko, the founders and co-artistic directors of Slow Burn Theatre, have taken a slow and steady approach to growing their company since launching it in early 2010 with the musical Bat Boy.  Slow Burn performs at the West Boca Performing Arts Theatre, a huge venue that happens to be the theater at West Boca Raton Community High School.  Yet unlike their savvy business plan, the quality of the theater art that the duo produces has grown at warp speed. 

In rehearsal for their April 12-21 of Stephen Sondheim's Sweeney Todd(their third Sondheim, after 2010's Assassinsand 2012's Into the Woods), Fitzwater and Korinko are unveiling their first expansion plans.  Next season, two of their productions will open in West Boca, then play the Aventura Arts & Cultural Center.

"Jeff Kiltie [event services manager] from the Aventura center came to see our production of Xanadu, then came back this fall to see Avenue Q," Fitzwater said Wednesday.  "He said he thought the quality was fabulous...so we've been in talks for a couple of months about how moving shows would help us and how it would help them."

PatrickMHSNext season, Slow Burn will produce four musicals:  Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey's Pulitzer Prize-winning Next to Normal, which premiered regionally at Coral Gables' Actors' Playhouse in 2012;  Jason Robert Brown and Alfred Uhry's Parade; Chess, the musical by ABBA guys Bennie Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus, with lyrics by Tim Rice; and High Fidelity, a musical by Kitt, Amanda Green and David Lindsay-Abaire, based more on the Nick Hornby novel than the hit movie.  Next to Normalwill kick off the Aventura partnership Nov. 7-10, with Chess traveling to Aventura April 10-13.

Fitzwater directs and choreographs Slow Burn shows, which have often starred Korinko.  The latter on Monday shared the best ensemble Carbonell Award for his work in Neil Simon's Rumors at Stage Door Theatre in Coral Springs.  The risk-taking Slow Burn hasn't been eligible for South Florida theater's highest honor so far.  That's not because of the quality of the company's work (the region's critics have been and continue to be impressed) but because the founding duo's fiscally conservative strategy means their shows don't run long enough to be given consideration. With the additional Aventura performances, that may change, at least for Next to Normal and Chess.

Fitzwater said he chose the two shows for the 326-seat Aventura venue because (no surprise) they made sense financially or commercially.

"Next to Normal has a small cast and a unit set," he said.  "And with Chess, we can fall back on the ABBA connection."

Tickets to Next to Normal at the Aventura Arts & Cultural Center, 3385 NE 188th St., Aventura, go on sale April 12 and are priced at $34.50 and $39.50.  For info, call 877-311-7469 or visit the center's site.

If you don't want to wait to see what the Slow Burn buzz is all about, check out Sweeney Toddat the West Boca Performing Arts Theatre, 12811 W. Glades Rd., Boca Raton.  Performances are 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday April 12-21. Tickets are $35 ($30 for seniors, $20 for students). For information, call 866-811-4111 or visit the Slow Burn web site.

(Photo of Matthew Korinko and Karen Chandler in Sweeney Todd by Gemma Louise Bramham; smaller photo shows Patrick Fitzwater)

 

March 30, 2013

Last chance to catch 'Broadway Unplugged'

Andy SenorIf you love the songs of Broadway delivered by actors who were meant to sing them, you'll want to catch tonight's final performance of Broadway Unplugged.  The show is a project of The District Stage Company, a group founded by artistic director Andy Señor Jr. and other Miami talents.

 Señor, who made his professional debut playing Angel in Rent, performed the role on Broadway and in London, Asia, Los Angeles and in the U.S. national tour.  Of the dream behind District Stage, he said in a statement, "I have developed such rich relationships in the Broadway community over many years, and I'm excited to create events in Miami that feature Broadway talent and turn up the heat in the South Florida theater scene."

Broadway Unplugged has two shows Saturday evening, at 8:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. in the intimate black box theater at the South Miami Dade Cultural Arts Center, 10950 SW 211th St., Cutler Bay.

On the bill with Señor, who will sing Sarah from The Civil War, are Rebecca Naomi Jones (American Idiot and Passing Strange), Adam Chanler-Berat (Peter and the Starcatcher and Next to Normal), Matt Caplan (Rent, South Pacific and Spider-Man), Janet Dacal (In the Heights and Wonderland) and singer-songwriter Matt Nakoa.  Jared Stein is musical director of the rich, hot program.

Rebecca Naomi JonesSome of the  other numbers you'll hear tonight if you make the trek to Cutler Bay: Jones singing Murder Ballad from the Off-Broadway show of the same title; Chanler-Berat singing Smash; Dacal, who did several performances as Nina in the current Actors' Playhouse production of In the Heights when Sarah Amengual was out sick, singing songs from that show; Caplan performing This Nearly Was Mine from South Pacific; Caplan and Nakoa singing original songs.  And the cast will perform group numbers from Rent, Spring Awakening and American Idiot.

Tickets are $30, and you can get them by calling 786-573-5300 or visiting the SMDCAC web site.

March 29, 2013

Sánchez to receive Abbott Award at Carbonells

05-MarioSanchez-7711Each year at the Carbonell Awards, someone is honored for his or her long-term, significant contributions to the arts in South Florida.  At the 37th annual Carbonell ceremony on Monday, the evening's highest honor -- the George Abbott Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Arts -- will be presented to Mario Ernesto Sánchez.

The founder of Miami's Teatro Avante came to the United States from Cuba on a Pedro Pan flight when he was 15.  After launching his Spanish-language company in 1979, Sánchez took on a large-scale annual challenge in 1985:  the International Hispanic Theatre Festival.  In July, he'll oversee the 28th edition of the festival at in the Carnival Studio Theater at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts and Teatro Prometeo.

Sánchez, who pays most of his bills with a busy career as a film and TV actor, has been hugely influential in elevating Spanish-language theater in South Florida.  The festival showcases adventurous, important productions from the Spanish-speaking world and beyond, and Teatro Avante has represented Miami at festivals around the world.   Sánchez has emphasized inclusion by presenting his shows with English supertitles and sometimes choosing productions that are more movement-driven than language-based.

Serious Spanish-language theater in South Florida is on the rise -- and Sánchez's festival, company and unwavering passion for his art form have plenty to do with that.

CarbonellAlso being honored during the Carbonell ceremony, which begins at 7:30 p.m. at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, 201 SW Fifth Ave., Fort Lauderdale, is Actors' Equity Association.  In celebration of its 100th anniversary, the actors' union will receive the Ruth Foreman Award, named for the late South Florida theater pioneer.

A trio of students from Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties will receive $1,000 Carbonell scholarships to pursue education in theater or journalism.  This year's honorees are Sammi-Jack Martincak of the New World School of the Arts, Christian Frost of J.P. Taravella High School and Jade Zaroff of West Boca Community High School.

The Carbonell ceremony isn't just a one-after-the-other awards presentation, of course.  It's also an impressive show that highlights nominated musicals and plays from 2012.  This year's show and ceremony has been put together by two Zoetic Stage founders who just happen to be nominees themselves:  producer Michael McKeever, whose play Moscow is up for best new work and who got a scenic design nomination for his I Am My Own Wifeset; and director Stuart Meltzer, whose direction of Zoetic's I Am My Own Wife earned him a nomination.

IMG_quartet_3_1_O3593M2TUnder the musical direction of Caryl Fantel, the show will feature five performances by actors nominated for their work in musicals.  Vicki Lewis will sing Before the Parade Passes By fromthe Maltz Jupiter Theatre's Hello, Dolly!.  Former Miss America Kate Shindle will perform the title song from the Maltz's Cabaret.  Jodie Langel will sing I Miss the Mountains, one of her numbers in the Actors' Playhouse production of Next to Normal.  Matt Loehr, a double nominee for the Maltz's Hello, Dolly! and The Music Man, will sing Ya Got Troublefrom the latter.  And Wayne LeGette will perform The Stock Exchange Song from the Theatre at Arts Garage's production of Cabaret Verboten.

This year for the first time the Carbonell organization will be tweeting out the names of winners.  Follow those dramatic developments @CarbonellAwards.

Anyone can attend the show and ceremony, and there are still some tickets remaining.  They're $25 in advance, $35 at the door.  For tickets or information, call 954-462-0222 or visit the Broward Center web site.

(Photos show Mario Ernesto Sánchez, the Carbonell Award and the cast of Cabaret Verboten, with Wayne LeGette second from top.)

 

 

March 26, 2013

Lin-Manuel Miranda to check out 'Heights' at Actors' Playhouse

Creator00 heights wknd JMActors' Playhouse in Coral Gables has scored a major hit with its production of the Tony Award-winning In the Heights.  There has been offstage drama too, with an ailing Sarah Amengual replaced for several performances byJanet Dacal, the actress who created the role of beautician Carla in the Off-Broadway and Broadway productions of the show.  Dacal gives her final performance as Stanford dropout Nina (a role she also played on Broadway) at 8 p.m. Wednesday.

Now comes more big news:  In the audience for the final performance of In the Heights at 2 p.m. April 7 will be the guy who dreamed up the show when he was still a college student.  Lin-Manuel Miranda, Tony Predictions NYET173who originated the role of the show's lovelorn hip-hop narrator Usnavi, is coming to Miami to watch the Actors' cast (including Nick Duckart as Usnavi) close out their successful run of a joyous show that has been compared to a Latino Fiddler on the Roof.  The actor-playwright will also be the guest of honor that evening at the theater's 25th Anniversary Gala Bash, which kicks off at 6:30 p.m. at the InterContinental Miami, 100 Chopin Plaza.  Entertainment, silent and live auctions (with celebrity auctioneer Roxanne Vargas of WTVJ-NBC6), drinks, dinner and dancing are all part of the Heights-themed evening, with tickets starting at $500 and going way, way up for tables.

There's still time, though, to catch the last few performances of In the Heights at the Miracle Theatre, 280 Miracle Mile, Coral Gables.  Performances are at 8 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday.  Tickets are $50 Friday-Saturday, $42 for other shows (seniors get a 10 percent discount, students can get $15 rush tickets, Saturday-Sunday excluded).  Call 305-444-9293 or visit the Actors' web site for more info.

(Photos of Lin-Manuel Miranda in the Broadway production of In the Heights by Joan Marcus)

 

South Florida Theatre League has a racy proposition

Bed_Concept2 copyThe South Florida Theatre League wants you...to get in bed with the arts.

The umbrella organization for theaters from Miami to Jupiter has come up with a novel campaign to ratchet up awareness of the region's theatrical riches.  Bombshell Productions is building a bed on wheels that will travel from theater to theater during the annual WLRN Summer Theatre Fest June 1-Aug. 31, stopping at different theaters before Thursday performances.  Its final destination: the Coconut Grove Bed Race on Labor Day Weekend.

The League intends to do interviews with curious theater fans, asking them about what theater and the arts mean to them.  The fans can pose for photos beside the bed or, if they're adventurous, on it.  Interviews and photos will be posted on the League's web site.

CarbonellThe bed will make an early debut on Monday before the 37th annual Carbonell Awards -- or "Theater Prom," as the glammed-up theater folks call it -- outside the Broward Center for the Performing Arts.  The ceremony-show starts at 7:30 p.m., and afterwards, the bed will lead the way to the League-sponsored after party.

The full schedule of when and where the bed will appear will be released soon.  But expect it to turn up outside theaters with family-friendly fare (Slava's Snowshow at Miami's Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts July 31-Aug. 25, Wind in the Willows at Sol Children's Theatre Aug. 9-25) as well as theaters with plays whose titles invite an adults-only audience (Cock at GableStage May 18-June 16, and a Mad Cat world premiere of a play about Isabella Blow Aug. 15-Sept. 1).

 

(Rendering of bed by Bombshell Productions; Carbonell Award statue designed by Manuel Carbonell) 

 

March 23, 2013

Janet Dacal steps into the 'Heights'

The show must go on, and at Actors' Playhouse, the solution when leading lady Sarah Amengual got sick was a dramatic one: fly in Broadway actress Janet Dacal to play Nina in the theater's current hit production of In the Heights.

Dacal, who appeared in The Last Five Years at Actors' this season, has a long history with the Tony Award-winning musical by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Quiara Alegria Hudes.  She originated the part of beauty shop employee Carla in the show's Off-Broadway and Broadway productions, and then moved into the role of Nina, the bright young woman who comes back from Stanford University to her vibrant northern Manhattan neighborhood with a secret.

Dacal rehearsed with the Actors' cast all day Saturday and did her first performance Saturday evening.  She'll also play Nina at 2 p.m. Sunday and 8 p.m. Wednesday.  A Florida International University grad, Dacal is working with a much-praised cast of South Florida actors and performers who have done In the Heights on Broadway and on tour.

Tickets to the show are $42 ($50 on Friday-Saturday), with 10 percent discounts for seniors and $15 student rush tickets except Saturday-Sunday.  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.