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)

March 04, 2013

Nan Barnett to head National New Play Network

Nan Barnett newNan Barnett, the theater professional whose business savvy helped grow Florida Stage from a college-based professional company to the country's largest regional theater devoted to new plays, has just been named the new executive director of the National New Play Network (NNPN).

 Barnett has spent this season as executive director of Actors Express in Atlanta, an NNPN member company celebrating its 25th anniversary season.  But she built her career as an actor and administrator alongside Florida Stage artistic director Louis Tyrrell until the acclaimed company, which was based in Manalapan for most of its 24 years, ceased operations in 2011 due to the bruising recession and a loss of support after a move to West Palm Beach.

Florida Stage was a NNPN member theater, and Barnett led the organization's board while she was managing director of the company.  Miami's New Theatre, Sarasota's Florida Studio Theatre and the Orlando Shakespeare Theater are also members, and Miami's Zoetic Stage is an associate member. 

"You don't get two dream jobs in a lifetime, but I think I might have," Barnett said Monday from her Atlanta office.  "NNPN has taken ideas that were floating around the field and tried them, moved them forward...Several of our programs are being replicated in other organizations, which is flattering."

Barnett said that among the NNPN initiatives with great potential are the New Play Exchange, a database of new works that should help plays come to the attention of more theaters, and NNPN associate memberships.

Founded in 1998, the NNPN began an innovative "rolling world premiere" program, in which several members theaters agree to produce a new play in the same season, giving the playwright more national exposure and the chance to continue developing a script as he or she sees what different actors and directors bring to the work.

Barnett, who earned her bachelor of fine arts degree from the North Carolina School of the Arts Professional Training Program, will start her new job in May. She and her actor-husband Gordon McConnell plan to keep their home in Florida, but she notes that the timing is right for a move:  Their son Hunter goes off to college in the fall.

She succeeds Jason Loewith, who is leaving NNPN to become artistic director of Maryland's Olney Theatre Center.  NNPN is based at Washington D.C.'s Woolly Mammoth Theatre.  For more information on NNPN, visit the organization's web site.

January 30, 2013

'The Whole Caboodle'....and even more

This weekend is one of those when a theater lover could be driving from Miami to West Palm Beach to catch the four (yes, four) new productions that are opening -- and that's not counting the forever-popular Wicked, which has returned to the Broward Center for the Performing Arts for a run through Feb. 17.

CABOODLE SPLAT! (SM)Triple Carbonell Award nominee Michael McKeever, the very successful South Florida playwright whose 1998 play 37 Postcards is going to be produced (in Russian) at the Boshoi Drama Theatre in St. Petersburg starting in June, has proven he can write it all:  comedies, dramas, full-length plays and short ones.  The Whole Caboodle, a collection of seven short McKeever plays, opens at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Studio Theatre in the Mizner Park Cultural Arts Center, 201 Plaza Real, Boca Raton.

Parade Productions is presenting the show, which features several plays McKeever originally wrote for Naked Stage's 24-Hour Theatre Project and City Theatre's Summer Shorts Festival.  On the bill are American Gothic, Craven Tutweiler (The Real Life Story Of), Laura Keene Goes On, Knowing Best, Splat!, Love Machine,Rusted and Move On, or Sondheim at Studio 54.

In the versatile cast are Elena Maria Garcia, Clay Cartland, Jacqueline Laggy, Casey Dressler, Candace Caplin and the multitasking McKeever. Kim St. Leon is directing. Performances are 7:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday, through Feb. 24.  Tickets are $35 and $40.  Call 1-866-811-4111 or visit the Parade Productions web site.

SSChristine1Also in Boca Raton, but way out west, Slow Burn Theatre is mounting yet another lavish musical, this one the rarely produced Side Show.  Kaela Antolino plays Daisy Hilton, and Courtney Poston is Violet Hilton, real-life conjoined twins who became famous in the 1930s and appeard in the Tod Browning movie classic Freaks.

Also in the large cast are Carbonell nominee Matthew Korinko, Rick Pena, Jerel Brown, Conor Walton, Karen Chandler, Krissi Johnson, Lisa Kerstin Braun, Sabrina Gore, Alisha Todd, Justin Schneyer, John Corby, Dan Carter, Michael Mena and Bruno Faria. Patrick Fitzwater is directing and choreographing the show.

The musical, by Bill Russell and Henry Krieger, runs through Feb. 10 at the West Boca Performing Arts Theatre, 12811 W. Glades Rd., Boca Raton.  Performances are 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday.  Tickets are $35 ($30 for seniors, $20 for students).  Call 1-866-811-4111 or visit the Slow Burn web site.

Duo300Palm Beach Dramaworks takes a fresh look at an American classic with its production of Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun, about a black Chicago family in the 1950s arguing over how to use an insurance payment to change its future.  Carbonell Award nominee Ethan Henry plays Walter Younger, Pat Bowie his mother Lena, in a cast that also includes Joniece Abbott-Pratt, Shirine Babb, Marckenson Charles, Dave Hyland, McLey LaFrance, Jordan Tisdale, Mekiel Benjamin, Joshua Valbrun, Lanardo Davis and Jeffrey Brazzle.  Seret Scott is the director.

Performances are 8 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, 7 p.m. Sunday, 2 p.m. Wednesday and Saturday-Sunday, through March 3.  Tickets are $55.  Dramaworks performs in the Don & Ann Brown Theatre, 201 Clematis St., West Palm Beach.  Call 561-514-4042 or visit the company's web site.

AGNES photo AMiami's New Theatre is also tackling a classic drama beginning this week:  John Pielmeier's Agnes of God.  Christina Groom plays a novice nun accused of murdering her newborn baby.  Pamela Roza plays the psychiatrist trying to get to the heart of the shocking mystery, while Barbara Sloan is the young nun's protective Mother Superior.  Ricky J. Martinez is staging the play.

Performances are 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 1 and 5:30 p.m. Sunday, through Feb. 17 (no late show Feb. 3).  Tickets are $40 ($35 Thursday and Sunday evening; $15 student rush tickets, and the first 25 students under 25 get in free opening weekend).  New Theatre performs at the Roxy Performing Arts Center, 1645 SW 107th Ave., Miami.  Call 305-443-5909 or visit the theater's web site.

Yes, it's a way busy theater weekend with many promising choices.  But get ready: Next weekend is even busier.


January 23, 2013

Help get a play on...and have some fun

Murder, Fugettaboutit Poster (final)Putting on a play is never easy nor cheap, at least if you're aiming for high-quality professional work presented in a major performing arts center.  Alliance Theatre Lab is in the midst of a campaign to raise $5,000 for its March 7-24 production of Brothers Beckett, the David Michael Sirois comedy about twentysomethings who are finding adult life none too easy.  The award-winning play was a major hit for Alliance when the company did it almost two years ago at the Main Street Playhouse in Miami Lakes, but mounting a full production in the Carnival Studio Theater at Miami's Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts is way more pricey.

So the company has come up with a couple of fun fundraisers to augment its ongoing Indiegogo campaign, which will soon hit $2,000.  First up is a comic murder mystery-Italian dinner night this Sunday at 8 p.m. at Dellaventura's Pizzeria, 4120 SW 64th Ave., Davie.  (Alliance company member Mark Della Ventura, who's in the Brothers Beckett cast, is a driving force in the fundraising.)  The cost for the interactive murder mystery show, a family-style dinner and two glasses of beer or wine is $50 per person, advance reservations required.  Visit the Alliance site for reservations and info.  

Super Bowl for Beckett (portrait)On Monday, Feb. 4, the Beckett boys (and girls) will go bowling at SpareZ Bowling Alley, 5325 S. University Dr., Davie, to raise some more dough.  If that's more up your alley, the event happens from 8 to 10 p.m., with a 7:30 p.m. check-in.  Cost is $20 in advance, $25 at the door.  Again, visit the Alliance site or call 305-259-0418.  Proof that arts fundraising doesn't have to be all earnest and stodgy.

January 22, 2013

Teatro Avante returns with 'El no'

XXVII - IHTF - El.no.Teatro.Avante.Photo.1Teatro Avante closed out the XXVII International Hispanic Theatre festival in July with its production of Cuban playwright Virgilio Piñera's El no.  Adapted by Gilda Santana and directed by Mario Ernesto Sánchez, the play is about the eternal conflict between generations, and it boasts a powerhouse case in Isabel Moreno, Gerardo Riverón, Maribel Barrios and Julio Rodríguez.  The play is performed in Spanish with English supertitles.

Avante is bringing the play back to South Florida Thursday through Sunday for a run at the On Stage Black Box at the Miami-Dade County Auditorium, 2901 W. Flagler St., Miami.  Performances are 8:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 5 p.m. Sunday, with tickets priced at $30, with discounts available for seniors, students and disabled theatergoers.  Call Ticketmaster at 1-800-745-3000 or the box office at 305-547-5414.

November 27, 2012

GableStage gets NEA grant for McCraney 'Hamlet'

Theater_Antony_and_CleopatraGableStage, which will join with the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) and New York's Public Theater in premieringTarell Alvin McCraney's set-in-Haiti Antony and Cleopatra next season, has just been awarded a $10,000 National Endowment for the Arts Art Works grant to support its upcoming production of Hamlet.  The 90-minute adaptation by McCraney and Bijan Sheibani, commissioned by the RSC, will run at GableStage Jan. 12-Feb. 10, then be performed free for 15,000 Miami-Dade County Public Schools students at the Joseph Caleb Auditorium in Liberty City and the South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center in Cutler Bay.

The NEA received 1,509 eligible applications for the Art Works grants from not-for-profit groups seeking more than $74 million in support.  GableStage's is one of 832 approved grants totalling $22.3 million.

McCraney will direct his adaptation, and he has now settled on his cast.  Edgar Sanchez will play Hamlet, with Dylan Kammerer as Horatio, James Randolph as Claudius and the Ghost, Alana Arenas as Gertrude, Peter Haig as Polonius, Ryan George as Laertes and Rosencrantz, Mimi Davila as Ophelia and Arielle Hoffman as Guildenstern and a player.

Performances will be at 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 2 and 7 p.m. Sunday (no evening show the first weekend).  Tickets range from $37.50-$50.  GableStage performs in the Biltmore Hotel, 1200 Anastasia Ave., Coral Gables.  For information, call 305-445-1119 or visit the theater's web site.

November 13, 2012

24-Hour Theatre delivers magic at warp speed

IMG_0594The one-night-only performance of the eight little plays created for Naked Stage's 24-Hour Theatre Project 2012 has come and gone.  Hopefully, the sleep-deprived playwrights are starting to feel human again today, thanks to much-needed zzzzs and the satisfaction of a job well done.  As for artistic director Katherine Amadeo and her multitasking hubby Antonio Amadeo (the author, director, designer and star of the current A Man Puts on a Play at Barry University's Pelican Theatre), after being up for 48 hours straight, they deserve a week at a spa. But the fact that they are parents to school-age daughter Lara and baby son Max makes that an unlikely fantasy.

IMG_0613Naked Stage's annual fundraising event has become a much-anticipated opportunity for South Florida's theater community to show just how impressive its work can be under the tightest of time constraints.  After the playwrights did their thing over the hours when Sunday evening morphed into Monday morning, actors, directors, stage managers and interns arrived at the Biltmore Hotel at the raw hour of 7 a.m. Monday to learn their newly created lines, get the plays up on their feet, and rehearse, rehearse, rehearse before the single 8 p.m. public performance at GableStage, the place where 24-Hour Theatre began six years ago.  The free hosting of the event was, once again, thanks to GableStage artistic director Joseph Adler; as Antonio Amadeo noted from the stage, Adler supports the theater community again and again by turning over his space for readings, performances and events like 24-Hour Theatre.

IMG_0620This year, the audience of theater folk and theater fans got a lot of bang for their ticket price bucks.  As always, there were hits, misses and messes, but overall, South Florida theater did itself proud.

For me, the loveliest and fullest play of the evening was Stuart Meltzer's Pieces of Lisa.  Staged by Amy London and driven by Nicholas Richberg's quietly magnetic performance as a grieving son, the play explored the different mourning styles of three disparate brothers and their stoic father.  Meltzer's writing was funny, clever and touching, and Pieces of Lisa is clearly a short play worthy of a future life.

Christopher Demos-Brown went for smart, funny dialogue mixed with a snippet of meta theater in The Peanut Butter Conspiracy, a comedy about four parents at a tony private school who have been called on the carpet for the sin of sending a kid to school with a banned peanut butter sandwich. Funniest moment: When Tracey Barrow-Schoenblatt as a sexy mom and Oscar Cheda as a gay dad looked at an exquisitely attired, ridiculously in shape Jim Ballard and voiced the same simultaneous thought: "He's hot."  With some tweaks, Peanut Butter could stick around too.

IMG_0555Also on the plus side: Juan C. Sanchez's Splintered, a play about a man (Clive Cholerton) certain that his departed wife (Barbara Sloan) isn't really gone; Michael McKeever's Goldfish Don't Bounce, a neat comedy about a newly-in-love young couple (Arielle Hoffman and Adam Simpson) and an unhappily married pair (Lela Elam and Wayne LeGette) "celebrating" their 14th anniversary; and Andie Arthur's Mermaids in the Attic, a haunting piece (featuring Troy Davidson, Julie Kleiner and Hunter McConnell) about the loss of two generations of women in a family.

Tony Finstrom's Myth America aspired to be a raucous Southern Gothic comedy about a family's secrets spilled onstage.  Christopher DePaola's dark Pontius Co-Pilot featured Anne Chamberlain as a deceptively wholesome-looking drug dealer.  Marjorie O'Neill-Butler's Satan's Cheerleaders was an idea that proved hellish, in the end.

A large cross-section of South Florida's far-flung theater artists gather and mix three times a year:  At the annual Carbonell Awards, which honor some of the best work done during the previous year; at the Theatre League's annual holiday party, where the Silver Palm Awards are bestowed; and at the 24-Hour Theatre Project.  Naked Stage's event isn't about competition.  It's about creativity and community-building.  And on that score, 24-Hour Theatre delivered as it always does -- impressively.

(Photos of 24-Hour Theatre Project 2012 by George Schiavone)







September 14, 2012

Zoetic Stage joins National New Play Network

ZOETIC- I AM MY OWN WIFE (WAHL) 1 The National New Play Network (NNPN) has a new member company: Zoetic Stage, which will kick off its season Oct. 4-21 with Doug Wright's Pulitzer Prize-winning I Am My Own Wife. The play, a solo show starring Tom Wahl as Charlotte von Mahlsdorf (a German man who lived as a woman and survived both the Nazis and East German communists), will be done in the Carnival Studio Theater at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts.  Zoetic's work is part of the Arsht's Theater Up Close series, and this particular play is one of the offerings during the center's ongoing Light/The Holocaust & Humanity Project.

The NNPN affiliation is a valuable one for Zoetic in two ways.  As artistic director Stuart Meltzer observes in announcing the relationship, "It is vital to the health of every community that new writers continue to strive, question society and bring humanity back to our social media-frenzied world.  Becoming a member means that we can now include our very own playwrights on a larger circuit and recruit the work of outside playwrights to Miami."

In NNPN's model, several theaters agree to stage a "rolling world premiere" of a script they all like, giving a playwright different productions of a new play, exposing the work to audiences in different cities and allowing the writer to do ongoing developmental work between premieres.  Zoetic, which has staged world premieres by founding playwrights Michael McKeever (South Beach Babylon and Moscow) and Christopher Demos-Brown (Captiva), will now have more opportunities to help the work it originates have an ongoing life.

Miami's New Theatre, which will stage Robert Caisley's Happy Nov. 30-Dec. 16 as part of a rolling world premiere, is part of NNPN, as are the Orlando Shakespeare Theatre and Sarasota's Florida Studio Theatre.

September 12, 2012

McCraney crafts a London hit

IMG_Tarell_McCraney_port_2_1_6V362J91Miami's Tarell Alvin McCraney, whose sizzling 90-minute Royal Shakespeare Company adaptation of Hamlet (written with Bijan Shebani) will play GableStage Jan. 12-Feb. 10, is busy adding to his reputation (at home and abroad) as one of America's most talented young playwrights.

McCraney's newest play, Choir Boy, has just opened at London's Royal Court Theatre to reviews that range from appreciative to flat-out raves.

Commissioned by New York's Manhattan Theatre Club, where it will get its U.S. premiere with previews starting June 18 and an opening July 2, Choir Boy is set in a black boys' prep school celebrating its 50th anniversary.  The headmaster's nephew is at odds with Pharus, a gay student with a glorious tenor voice who is determined to become leader of the school's famous gospel choir.  In her review in The Guardian, critic Lyn Gardner writes: "Threaded with searing gospel songs, McCraney's play examines the shifting nature of truths, biblical and otherwise, and cleverly manipulates the hot-house setting to consider wider issues of black American history, from the brutal days of slavery to Obama's cry of 'yes we can!'"

The playwright, building on the reputation he established with The Brother/Sister Plays, has another important premiere this season.  Tina Landau will direct his play Head of Passes for Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre, where he is an ensemble member. Running April 4-June 9, the play is a reimagining of the Book of Job set during a woman's surprise birthday party.

Here's hoping these new works will make their way to South Florida.