October 27, 2014

24-Hour Theatre is back, as art with a heartfelt purpose


South Florida theater's most creative benefit, the 24-Hour Theatre Project, returns this evening for one night only, with the aim of helping one of the theater community's own. Eight playwrights spent the late hours of Sunday and wee hours of Monday writing short plays spun from titles on a list created by the Naked Stage's artistic director, Katherine Amadeo.  And Monday night at 8 p.m. at Palm Beach Dramaworks, the results of their sleepless creativity will unfold with participation from many of the region's finest artists.

Theater fans who fork over $30 for a ticket ($50 for VIP seating and a poster) will get to see the only performance of eight brand-new works.  And they'll be helping to put a dent in the considerable medical expenses of Dana Castellano, a Women's Theatre Project board member who has waged a fierce fight with cervical cancer since January.

In July, when the community came together to perform a benefit dubbed The Dana Plays, Castellano explained her deep love of theater.

Untitled"The more I was around theater, the more I loved it.  You see an amazing show and use your imagination, which is something we lose just going to the movies," said Castellano, who had emergency surgery a few weeks ago.

As for what you'll see tonight if you make the trek to West Palm Beach, here's the rundown.

Antonio Amadeo, who co-founded the Naked Stage with his wife and pal John Manzelli, is the author of Coin-Operated Boy, which is being staged by Thinking Cap Theatre founder and artistic director Nicole Stodard.  Alex Alvarez, Tracey Barrow-Schoenblatt, Troy Davidon and Matthew Korinko are in the cast, and Amanda Bartmon is stage managing.  Andie Arthur's The Monsters of Madison Avenue, directed by Slow Burn Theatre's Patrick Fitzwater, features Noah Levine, Kevin Reilley, Barbara Sloan and Shane Tanner, with Stephanie Meskauskas as stage manager.

Tony Finstrom's The Last Viking, staged by Steven Chambers, features Meredith Bartmon, Sally Bondi, Julie Kleiner and Lourelene Snedeker, with Kent Wilson stage managing.  Michael Leeds is the author of May Divorce Be With You, which will be staged by Margaret Ledford. In that cast are Michelle Brino, Niki Fridh, Christina Groom and Joe Kimble, with Shonna Rash as stage manager.

Katherine AmadeoMichael McKeever's offering is Last Trip on the Mothership, staged by Amy London and featuring Clay Cartland, Dave Corey, Sabrina Gore and Adam Simpson, with Louis Brady stage managing. David Nail has written a play titled Soul Control, to be staged by Barbara Bradshaw.  Laura Hodos, Margot Moreland, Rick Peña and Josh Stoughton are in the cast, and Nikki Hudak is stage manager.

Karen Stephens' play is titled Phineas Finds His Way.  Kim St. Leon directs Beverly Blanchette, Nick Duckart, Jeni Hacker and Pierre Tannous, with Rachel Chin stage managing.  Matt Stabile is the author of Life, in 140 Characters or Less.  Andy Rogow is staging the play, and cast features Nanique Gheridian, Amy McKenna, Ann Marie Olson and Skye Whitcomb, with Patrick Rodriguez as stage manager.

All of the artists are contributing their time and talents to one of the theater community's signature annual events.  And this year, that art is in service of someone widely loved and admired.

Palm Beach Dramaworks is located at 201 Clematis St., West Palm Beach.  For tickets, call 561-514-4042, ext. 2, or visit the Dramaworks web site.

August 21, 2014

Coconut Grove Playhouse proposal to get public presentation


The Coconut Grove Playhouse Advisory Committee, a special committee of the Coconut Grove Village Council, is inviting anyone interested in the future of the Coconut Grove Playhouse to a meeting from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday at Miami City Hall for a presentation by the Coconut Grove Theater Foundation.

Attorney Lewis "Mike" Eidson, chairman of the Performing Arts Center Trust and a former member of the playhouse board, heads the foundation, which was formed in May.  The group is proposing that a larger 750-seat regional theater be added to plans for a 300-seat theater on the site, which is jointly leased by Miami-Dade County and Florida International University.  Under the county's current plan, the award-winning GableStage company would operate the smaller theater.

The historic theater, which closed during its 50th anniversary season under the weight of $4 million in debt, has sat vacant and deteriorating since 2006.  But with $20 million in bond money available, the debt cleared and proposals being submitted to the county by architects, the theater where Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot had its American premiere in 1956 finally seems poised for a comeback.

At Friday's meeting, those attending will get an update on the status of county plans, then Eidson and other Foundation members will detail their ideas for the larger theater on the site.  A question-and-answer session will follow.

Miami City Hall is located at 3500 Pan American Dr. in Coconut Grove.


August 18, 2014

'On Your Feet' sets an opening, a theater and Miami auditions

IMG_NEDERLANDER_ORGANIZA_2_1_9U2D2164_L58054614On Your Feet, the upcoming Broadway bio musical about Miami music superstars Gloria and Emilio Estefan, is less than a year away from its tryout run at Chicago's Oriental Theatre.  On Monday, producers James L. Nederlander, Estefan Enterprises and Bernie Yuman announced a worldwide casting search for all the roles in the show -- including the chance to play the leading lady, the most successful Latin crossover artist in history.

The casting search -- dubbed Reach Gloria (#ReachGloria) -- has three facets:  online, a Sept. 9 open casting at New York's Pearl Studios, and another open casting Sept. 21 at Miami's Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts. 

"Finding the right performers to tell our story on the Broadway stage is the most important step in this project.  Our own journey together started in Miami, a city that has been such an inspiration to us both, and it only felt right that the city be a cornerstone of our search for the next generation of bright talent," Gloria Estefan said in a statement.

Audition videos can be submitted via www.OnYourFeetMusical.com, which also has more details and a submission link.

The musical's Chicago tryout runs June 2-July 5, then the show moves to Broadway's Marquis Theatre.  New York previews start Oct. 5, and the official opening night is Nov. 5, 2015.

Tony Award winner Jerry Mitchell is directing On Your Feet, which features a script by Alexander Dinelaris and music drawn from the Estefans' vast catalog of hits, including 1-2-3, Conga, Rhythm Is Gonna Get You and Mi Tierra.  Sergio Trujillo, whose credits include Jersey Boys and Memphis, will be the choreographer.

August 12, 2014

GableStage swaps out a show in its 2014-2015 lineup

Artistic director Joseph Adler announced his new GableStage season a couple of days ago, but he's making a switch in solo shows.  Instead of Terry Teachout's Satchmo at the Waldorf, Adler will present I'll Eat You Last, a comedy by Red author John Logan.  Bette Midler starred as Hollywood super agent Sue Mengers when the play was done on Broadway in the spring of 2013, and Adler has decided to showcase a still-to-be-cast powerful actress in that slot next summer.

GableStage winds up its run of Samuel D. Hunter's The Whale on Sunday, and the official last show of the current season is Terrence McNally's Mothers and Sons, which runs Sept. 20-Oct. 19.

IMG_Tarell_McCraney_4_1_IB2P78GH_L68676250The 2014-2015 lineup begins with Joshua Harmon's Bad Jews, a comedy about the grandchildren of a Holocaust survivor fighting over his religious heirlooms, Nov. 22-Dec. 21.  Next is Tarell Alvin McCraney's Choir Boy, a play about a gay student named leader of a gospel choir at a black prep school, running Jan. 24-Feb.  22.  David Ives' New Jerusalem, a play about 17th century philosopher Baruch De Spinoza defending himself at an Amsterdam synogogue against charges of atheism, runs March 28-April 26.

Harvey Fierstein's Casa Valentina, a Tony Award-nominated play about straight men who gathered in the Catskills in 1962 to indulge their passion for cross dressing, runs May 30-June 28.  I'll Eat You Last runs throughout August 2015.  The new season's final show is Irish playwright Conor McPherson's The Night Alive, which runs Oct. 3-Nov. 1.

GableStage memberships are priced at $225 for renewals, $260 for new subscribers.  They allow flexibility in choice of performance, and subscribers can bring guests at $5 off the regular ticket price. The company performs at the Biltmore Hotel, 1200 Anastasia Ave., Coral Gables.  For information, call 305-445-1119 or visit the theater's web site.

August 08, 2014

One busy August theater weekend

South Florida theater is anything but dead in the summer.  This weekend, you have the ongoing productions of Samuel D. Hunter's The Whale at GableStage in Coral Gables, Mid-Life 2! (The Crisis Continues) at Actors' Playhouse in Coral Gables, H2OMBRE at Miami's Adrienne Arsht Center, Butterflies Are Free at Stage Door Theatre in Coral Springs.  But there are other options too, three of them just opening.

Lovett HeraldThe catch-it-before-it-closes exception is the ambitious production of Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler's Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street at Area Stage Company in Coral Gables. Sondheim's music is challenging enough for most professional adult actors, but Area's cast is drawn from students in its highly regarded, five-year-old conservatory program. Artistic director John Rodaz, who founded the company 25 years ago on Miami Beach's Lincoln Road, cast Katerina McCrimmon as the crafty Mrs. Lovett and Javier Romero as the vengeful, murderous barber. 

The final four performances are at 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 7 p.m. Sunday and 8 p.m. Aug. 16.  Area performs at the Riviera Theatre, 1560 S. Dixie Hwy., Coral Gables.  Tickets are $10-$25.  Call 305-666-2078 or visit the company's web site for details.

Smiling AMENFort Lauderdale's Thinking Cap Theatre is offering more provocative food for thought with the opening of Young Jean Lee's Church.  The site-specific production about faith and the evangelists who preach it is taking place in a revival-style tent next to The Vanguard, the company's future home, at 1501 S. Andrews Ave.  Nicole Stodard directs Carey Brianna Hart, Scott Douglas Wilson, Ann Marie Olson and Vanessa Elise as the evangelists, and Sabrina Gore leads a praise band featuring Mariah Busk, A.J. Calaluca, Chas Collins, Michael Friedman, Amy S. London and Miles Smith. 

Performances are 8 p.m. Friday-Sunday, with an additional show at 10 p.m. Saturday, through Aug. 24.  Since it does tend to rain (a lot) this time of year in South Florida, the show will move to the Muse Center for the Arts, 99 SW 14th St., Fort Lauderdale, if the heavens open up.  Tickets are $28 ($15 for students).  For info, call 813-220-1546 or visit the theater's web site.

SGW.5.webAlso in suddenly theater-jammed Fort Lauderdale, City Theatre and Island City Stage are opening Shorts Gone Wild 2, a fresh batch of adult-oriented, LGBT-friendly short plays .  On this year's program are Lion in a Bear Bar and Sarah Stein Sends a Selfie by Michael McKeever, I Alone by Christopher Demos-Brown, The Emperor Is Naked! by Michael Leeds, The Last Time I Saw Bathhouse Betty by Tony Finstrom, A Bump Between Friends by Fielding Edlow, Game On by Gary Garrison and Glamping by Carey Crim. 

Margaret M. Ledford, Teddy Harrell, Gail S. Garrisan and Leeds direct the versatile company, which features Niki Fridh, Matthew Stabile, Gladys R. Benton, Renee Elizabeth Turner, Larry Buzzeo and Craig Moody.  Shorts Gone Wild 2 is being presented at Empire Stage, 1140 N. Flagler Dr.  Performances are 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 5 p.m. Sunday, through Sept. 7.  Tickets are $30.  Call 954-519-2533 or visit the Island City Stage web site for info.

Even wilder, we're guessing, is the 40th anniversary production of the 1974 revue Let My People Come opening at the Andrews Living Arts Studio, 25 NW Fifth St. in (you guessed it) Fort Lauderdale.  Staged by artistic director Robert D. Nation, the all-about-sex show features actors L'Oreal Joiner, Raibelis Paulino, Dora LaFrance, Ashley Hyde, Caleb Santos, Sujotta Pace and Brian Bonk.  Pseudonyms?  I'm betting on a few.

The show by Earl Wilson Jr. features some new music, lyrics and text, and there are interactive verbal bits (a sex trivia game, for one) that are likely to make the inhibited turn scarlet.  Not to mention artfully lit frontal nudity, and a no-one-under-18 policy.  Don't say you weren't warned.  Let My People Come runs through Sept. 6.  Performances are at 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday.  Tickets are $29.95.  Call 800-838-3006 or visit the ALA web site.

(Photos of Area Stage's 'Sweeney Todd,' Thinking Cap Theatre's 'Church' and City Theatre-Island City Stage's 'Shorts Gone Wild 2')

July 11, 2014

Art takes on a deeper purpose in 'The Dana Plays'

Dana CastellanoDana Castellano has been a familiar figure in South Florida's theater community for a number of years, from the time she was in a long relationship with an actress until the present day, when her real-life drama is rivaling almost anything you could see on stage.

In January, Castellano was diagnosed with Stage 4 cervical cancer, and she has literally been engaged in the fight of her life ever since.  She has endured the surgery, the chemo, the radiation, the treatment-caused illness like the feisty warrior she is.  When she learned what she was facing, she invited family and friends (many via Facebook) to join her on "Team Chaos," an unofficial support group whose motto is, to paraphrase, screw cancer.

A woman with lots of body art and piercings, Castellano decided to turn what might be an otherwise traumatic part of cancer treatment -- shaving her head -- into a party.  She invited friends in the theater community, including Antonio and Katherine Amadeo, the couple behind The Naked Stage and the 24-Hour Theatre Project.  And there, the idea for The Dana Plays -- a benefit with an artistic twist -- took shape.

"I said, 'Let's  do it. Let's take theater and use it to raise awareness.'  Antonio is so fast, he just ran with it. I'm just speechless.  It blows me away how not even an hour-long conversation could blow up to become something so huge," says Castellano, 45. 

For his part, Amadeo says, "Dana wanted us to consider doing a large fundraiser...that would raise awareness and funds for the American Cancer Society, since they had done so much for her during this tough time.  She was so excited by the idea. Of course we said yes."

What has evolved is an evening of original short plays by South Florida writers to be presented in a one-time-only event at 8 p.m. Monday.  Miami Theater Center, 9806 NE Second Ave., Miami Shores, is hosting the evening, and the South Florida Theatre League is presenting the program, which will raise funds for both Castellano and the American Cancer Society.

"What I love about The Dana Plays is that it is not only another place where the community can band together, but it's one where we're focusing on something bigger than just our artistic community," says Andie Arthur, executive director of the Theatre League and one of the evening's playwrights.

And participation by the theater community is vast.  Works written for the occasion are So I Was Wondering by Christopher Demos-Brown, Lyd by Jessica Farr, The Purple Troll by Tony Finstrom, F**k You, Cancer! by Avi Hoffman, The Opponent by Michael McKeever, Wearing Hope by Deborah  L. Sherman, Ex-Communication by Matt Stabile, We're in the Money by Paul Tei, Be Nice to Me, My Girlfriend Has Cancer by Arthur and one more by Demos-Brown.

Amy London and Hoffman will direct a host of South Florida's finest actors in the readings:  Barbara Bradshaw, Elena Maria Garcia, Gregg Weiner, Sally Bondi, Elizabeth Dimon, Sofia Citarella, Clay Cartland, Jeffrey Bruce, Harriet Oser, Angie Radosh, Andy Rogow, Dave Corey, Niki Fridh, Michaela Cronan, Arielle Hoffman, George Schiavone, both of the Amadeos, and Stabile.

Through her work as a board member of The Women's Theatre Project, Castellano has become a contributing member of the theater community, a person with a deep passion for the art form.

"The more I was around theater, the more I loved it.  You see an amazing show and use your imagination, which is something we lose just going to the movies," Castellano says.

And of the Amadeos, she says, "They are the dynamic duo of theater, Batman and Robin."

The inspiration for The Dana Plays will be in the audience on Monday with her friends and extended family.  She's ready to use her imagination, ready for whatever she sees.

"It will be hard to watch these plays.  But I'll be sitting there with a handkerchief or a box of Kleenex," she says.

Admission to The Dana Plays is $15, with additional donations welcome.  For information, call 305-751-9550 or email Andie Arthur at andie@southfloridatheatre.com.

March 07, 2014

Summer Shorts sets its company


City Theatre's popular Summer Shorts festival will unfold June 12-July 6 in the Carnival Studio Theater at Miami's Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts.  But already, producing artistic director John Manzelli has figured out his acting company and who will be joining him in directing this year's short plays -- Margaret M. Ledford and New Theatre artistic director Ricky J. Martinez.

Returning to the Shorts company are Irene Adjan, Elizabeth Dimon and Todd Allen Durkin.  Joining those experienced Summer Shorts actors are David Perez-Ribada, Niki Fridh and Mcley Shorts.3Lafrance.  Jodi Dellaventura will create the Shorts set, Ellis Tillman the costumes and Matt Corey the sound design.  The play titles are TBA but coming soon.

Performances will be 8 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, 4 p.m. Sunday, and tickets will cost $40-$45.  To launch sales, City Theatre is offering a 20 percent early bird discount on tickets purchased by April 30.  Use the promotional code EARLY (valid for Wednesday-Friday shows).  For info, call the Arsht at 305-949-6722 or visit the center's web site.

(Pictured are Irene Adjan, Elizabeth Dimon and Todd Allen Durkin.)



March 03, 2014

'Ragtime,' 'Murder Ballad' top 2014-15 Actors' Playhouse lineup

Murder Ballad.webJust as it's getting ready to open this season's big musical -- Monty Python's Spamalot -- Actors' Playhouse in Coral Gables has settled on the six shows for its 2014-2015 season.

First up (Oct. 8-Nov. 2) is the Julia Jordan-Juliana Nash adult rock musical Murder Ballad, a 2013 Off-Broadway hit about a successful New Yorker whose past dangerously resurfaces.  Placing the audience and performers together in a bar setting, the show mixes lust, betrayal and violence.

Tom Dudzick's play Miracle on Division Street is next, running Dec. 3-28.  Set in Buffalo, N.Y., the comedy centers on a matriarch who runs a soup kitchen next to her family's most treasured artifact:  a 20-foot-tall shrine to the Virgin Mary, the subject of a legend that may not be quite accurate.

Ragtime.webThe company's biggest undertaking of next season, the Terrence McNally-Stephen Flaherty-Lynn Ahrens musical Ragtime, runs Jan. 28-Feb. 22.  Based on E.L. Doctorow's sprawling, history-laced novel linking an upper class white family, black characters and Jewish immigrants in the early 20th century, the Tony Award-winning show features a cast of more than 30 actors.

The Austin Winsberg-Alan Zachary musical First Date will run March 18-April 12, 2015. The 2012 Broadway musical centers on a couple whose blind date at a restaurant morphs to involve friends, exes, parents and more.

The Book Club Play by Karen Zacarias, running May 13-June 7, 2015, is a comedy about that omnipresent social and literary gathering, the book club. When members of one club become the subjects of a documentary, the arrival of a new member shakes up the group dynamics.

Next season winds up with a summer run of Paul Slade Smith's Unnecessary Farce July 15-Aug. 9, 2015.  In addition to the requisite number of doors (eight in this case), this farce involves an embezzling mayor, a hit man, an accountant who keeps shedding her clothes and a couple of eavesdropping cops.

Subscriptions to the new season are now on sale.  Prices range from $203 for preview performances to $453 for gala opening night tickets, which include pre- and post-show parties.  Subscriptions to Wednesday or Thursday evening performances and Sunday matinees are $257; Friday and Saturday evening subscriptions are $293.  Special VIP/flexible, student and young professional packages are also available.

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

 (Photos of the New York productions of Murder Ballad and Ragtime by Joan Marcus.) 

February 04, 2014

Covenant House benefit honoring Paige O'Hara

Ft. Laud. Native Paige O'Hara with BelleShe didn't appear as the bookish, beautiful Belle in Disney's Oscar-winning 1991 smash Beauty and the Beast -- but that's only because the movie was animated.  Take a look at Paige O'Hara's photo, though, and you see that the animators may have drawn some of their inspiration from the woman who gave voice (spoken and musical) to Belle.

On Saturday at 6:30 p.m., the Fort Lauderdale native will be back home as one of two honorees at the Night of Broadway Stars, a benefit for Covenant House, which provides shelter and services to homeless young people.  Produced by Neil Berg, the show will feature performances of Broadway classics by professional singer-actors and some of the Covenant House residents.  O'Hara will perform alongside Broadway-tested talents Alan H. Green, John Treacy Egan, Rita Harvey, Capathia Jenkins, Ted Louis Levy and Natalie Toro.

Honored along with the late Kevin Koenig, co-founder of City Furniture, O'Hara has been dedicated to showbiz since she began acting with the Fort Lauderdale Children's Theater.  She got training at Parkway Middle School and in the arts program at Nova High, then went to New York.  Among her theater roles:  Ellie May in Showboat, Fantine in Les Miserables, Nellie Forbush in South Pacific.

The gala evening takes place at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, 201 SW Fifth Ave., Fort Lauderdale.  Tickets are $225, and the event includes the performance, dinner and a post-show reception.  Roxanne Vargas of NBC6 will emcee.  For information, contact Elisa Stone of Covenant House at 954-568-7914 or via email at estone@covenanthousefl.org.

January 08, 2014

Miami Theater Center, City Theatre seeking new work

Two South Florida companies, the Miami Theater Center and City Theatre, are putting out the call for new projects (MTC) and plays (City).

Octavio campos headshot 2013_photo_Mitchell Zachs

The Miami Shores-based MTC is asking artists from varied performance disciplines to submit project ideas for its 2014-2015 SandBox Series.  Funded by a $100,000 Knight Arts Challenge grant, the series will allow artists to develop and present new, sometimes experimental work.

Those with ideas should submit a biography, an artist's statement, a written project narrative, a two-minute video of themselves describing the project and two brief video clips of prior work.  All projects must be new, and applicants have to be at least 18 and eligible to work in the United States.

Applications are due by 6 p.m. Feb. 14.  To complete an online application, visit MTC's web site. Applications and supporting materials must be sent to the Miami Theater Center SandBox Series, 9806 NE Second Ave., Miami, FL 33138.  Questions should be directed to series producer Octavio Campos at octavio@mtc.org.  The five artists chosen by a panel of theater professionals will be announced in July, and residencies/performances will take place from October 2014 to June 2015.  All selected artists receive a commissioning fee, three weeks to rehearse and the opportunity to present six performances over two weekends.

Miami's City Theatre is reprising its successful LBGT-themed Shorts Gone Wild project and is seeking new 10-minute plays for Shorts Gone Wild 2.  The rules:  The plays must be new works never produced in South Florida.  Each writer is limited to one submission of a play running 10 minutes or less (10 pages maximum), with no more than six actors required.

Scripts must have a title page with the title, writer's name, email address, mailing address and phone number.  A cast listing, set requirements, synopsis, short playwright biography and information on any productions outside of South Florida are also required.  Submissions can be made online as a single PDF document, and the deadline is Jan. 24.  No materials will be returned, but those whose work is being considered will be contacted by City Theatre and Island City Stage.  For City Theatre info, call 305-755-9401; for Shorts Gone Wild 2 questions, email Susan Westfall at susan@citytheatre.com

 (Photo of Octavio Campos by Mitchell Zachs)