September 30, 2008

Savoring a classic for free

Mary_stuart Rafael de Acha's Theater by the Book is getting the jump on Broadway -- at least, on a spring Broadway production -- with a reading of Friedrich Schiller's Mary Stuart on Sunday, Oct. 5.

British actresses Janet McTeer and Harriet Walter will reprise their roles from the 2005 Donmar Warehouse production of Schiller's 1800 play (Peter Oswald updated the script) at Broadway's Broadhurst Theatre beginning March 30, 2009.

DeAcha has cast Annemaria Rajala, Harriet Oser, Jana Tift, Wayne Robinson, Carlos Orizondo, James L. Randolph Jr. and himself in the reading of Schiller's play about the rivalry between Mary, Queen of Scots and Queen Elizabeth I.

The drama happens at 1 p.m. at the Bass Museum, 2121 Park Ave., Miami Beach, and admission is free.  For more information, visit the Theater by the Book web site.

September 29, 2008

A timely play considers financial woes

Acosadostems2008Take a look at this image of Christian Ocon and Ivette Kellems.  In this photo by director Ernesto Garcia, it looks as if the two are reacting to the shocking news that the $700 billion bailout package got a big "no!" from the House of Representatives on Monday.  That's not actually what's happening in the picture -- but it is thematically related.

Ocon and Kellems are about to open in Teatro en Miami Studio's production of Los acosados (The Hounded), a one-act play by exiled Cuban playwright Matias Montes Huidobro.  In it, a husband and wife find themselves trapped by ever-escalating debt.  Garcia calls it "...a reflection about our posessions.  Are we their owners, or are they really the ones that possess us and lave us when we die?''

This too-timely play is getting a long run at Teatro en Miami Studio, 2500 SW Eighth St. -- from Oct. 3 to Nov. 22.  Performances are each Friday and Saturday at 8:30 p.m., and tickets are $20.  If you don't speak or understand Spanish, you're out of luck with this one.  But Garcia and his wife Sandra plan to start presenting their shows with English supertitles as of January.  For information on Los acosados, call 305-551-7473 or visit the company's web site.  Here's a little video from the site:

September 26, 2008

Savoring theater's masterful playwrights

Series_logoPalm Beach Dramaworks begins its season with a production of Eugene O'Neill's A Moon for the Misbegotten Oct. 17-Nov. 30, and then moves on to another classic, Eugene Ionesco's The Chairs Dec. 19-Feb. 1.  But the award-winning West Palm Beach company isn't limiting its exploration of classic drama to those two productions.

The company's Master Playwright Series, which kicks off Oct. 27, will explore the work of O'Neill, Ionesco and Anton Chekhov through programs presenting scenes from each playwright's work plus a staged reading of a full-length play by each.

200pxoneilleugeneloc The series begins Oct. 27-28 and Nov. 3-4 with readings of scenes from various O'Neill plays.  A reading of O'Neill's 1922 play The Hairy Ape takes place Nov. 10-11 and Nov. 17-18.

Ionesco's work is highlighted in scene readings Dec. 29-30 and Jan. 5-6.  His first play, 1950's absurdist The Bald Soprano, will be read Jan.12-13 and Jan. 19-20.

Chekhov scene readings will take place May 11-12 and May 18-19.  The company will do a staged reading of his Uncle Vanya May 26, May 29 and June 1-2.

Nearly all readings take place at 7 p.m. at the theater, 322 Banyan Blvd., West Palm Beach.  Admission to each event is $15, but you can attend all three playwrights' scene presentations and full-length readings for $75.  For information, call Dramaworks at 561-514-4042 or visit the company's web site.

September 25, 2008

Divine decadence comes to the Ring

CabaretThe more things change, the more Cabaret feels trenchant and relevant:  As the world seems to be crumbling around us, we hunger for escape.

Based on Christopher Isherwood's Berlin Stories and John Van Druten's stage play I Am a Camera, the 1966 Broadway smash owes an immense debt to the vision of its original director, Harold Prince.  It was Prince who assembled the team of book writer Joe Masteroff and composer-lyricists John Kander and Fred Ebb, Prince who took the story artfully from straightforward dramatic scenes to the boundary-pushing entertainment of the show's Kit Kat Klub.

Theater students at the University of Miami (including Jed Alevizos, Grace McCabe and Becca Kotte at right) are betting that a little come-to-the-Cabaret escapism is just what the show doctor ordered in these troubled times.  Their production runs Oct. 1-4 and Oct. 7-11 at the Jerry Herman Ring Theatre, 1312 Miller Dr. on the UM campus in Coral Gables.  Performances are at 8 p.m., with matinees at 2 p.m. Oct. 4-5 and Oct. 11.

Tickets are $18-$22 (seniors, faculty, staff and alumni pay $16-$18, students $8-$10).  For info, phone the theater at 305-284-3355 or visit the Ring web site.

September 24, 2008

Revolution and beyond in a Cuban kitchen

Cuban_flagThe work of Eduardo Machado, a masterful writer and teacher/mentor to many other playwrights, isn't produced in South Florida nearly often enough.  It was the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles that put together an epic production of Machado's Floating Island plays (Broken Eggs, Fabiola, The Modern Ladies of Guanabacoa and In the Eye of the Hurricane) in 1994, not a theater in Miami, home to a vast population of Cuban exiles for whom Machado's pungent storytelling might resonate with special power.

Thanks to the theater department at Florida International University, however, Miami gets a Machado from Thursday (Sept. 25) through Oct. 5.  FIU is doing The Cook, a play inspired by Machado's visit to a Havana paladar (private restaurant) in 2001.

Gladys_adria The Cook unfolds over a 40-year period, as a servant named Gladys stays behind when her aristocratic employers flee Cuba after the Revolution.  Gladys is keeping a promise to watch over the house, but as the years roll by and life in Cuba changes vastly, she comes to think of her employers' home as her own.

Performances are 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $12 ($10 for students, alumni and seniors).  The show is on the Wertheim Performing Arts Center main stage on FIU's campus at SW Eighth Street and 117th Avenue.  Call 305-348-0496 for tickets and information.

(Production photo by Fred Murray)

September 23, 2008

Smoke gets in your eyes. Mine too.

Cig300Maybe you've seen them as you're getting ready to walk into a theater:  the signs that let you know there will be smoking or gun shots or strobe lights used in the play you're about to see.

I'm glad to know those things in advance, I guess, but that early warning system usually makes me cringe.  The rapid flickering of a strobe light makes me squeeze my eyes shut 'til it's over.  When I see an actor pull out a gun, I stick my fingers in my ears until the bullets have flown.  And the smoking?  If I could hold my breath for the duration, I would.

I know, sometimes smoking onstage is meant to reveal something about a character. Neil LaBute wrote it into Wrecks, so when Gordon McConnell did the play at Mosaic Theatre last season, he had to smoke up a storm.  It looks like Todd Allen Durkin (pictured in the upcoming Moon for the Misbegotten at Palm Beach Dramaworks) will be smoking when he plays James Tyrone, and maybe that's right for the man and the era.  Intellectually, I get it.

But emotionally and physically, sitting in an audience while an actor clouds the air that we're all breathing is tougher to take.  For me, it's personal  My parents were both smokers. Heavy smokers.  Long after they managed to quit, they both died -- of lung cancer.  A friend who died recently had also quit years before he passed away.  Lung cancer got him too. 

I'm glad that, increasingly, states are affirming that non-smokers have the right to breathe clean air.  I prefer that kind of air when I go to the theater. How about you?

September 22, 2008

Have your say on an arts facility

Pglogonotext_2 Theater artists with a dream are working to help transform the 550-seat, open-air (but dome-covered) Banyan Bowl at Pinecrest Gardens into a true performing arts center.

Max Pearl, artistic director of the Pinecrest Repertory theater; producer and arts consultant Darrell Calvin, and set designer Kenneth Kurtz have been appointed to a committee by Pinecrest mayor Gary Matzner and the Village of Pinecrest Council.  Their task is to produce a feasibility study and business plan, as well as making recommendations about improvements and renovations to the facility.

The Banyan Bowl is located at Pinecrest Gardens, once the home of Parrot Jungle.  Pinecrest Rep has staged two productions there, and Pearl says that the aim is to make the transformed facility home to several professional companies.

A workshop on the project is set for 7 p.m. Oct. 6 in the Pine Room at Pinecrest Community Center, 5855 SW 111th St., Pinecrest.  Pearl, Calvin and Kurtz are seeking input and ideas. For information, visit the village web site or email Pearl.

September 19, 2008

24-Hour Theatre Project back on the boards

2008_24_hour_theatre_logo_white_sma Naked Stage's oh-so-creative fundraiser, the 24-Hour Theatre Project, was supposed to have happened on Aug. 25.  Then longtime Sun-Sentinel theater critic Jack Zink passed away, and because the date conflicted with his memorial service, the play-in-a-day event was put on hold.

The trio that founded The Naked Stage -- Antonio Amadeo, Katherine Amadeo and John Manzelli -- have found a date that works for this year's host theater, Actors' Playhouse, and for many of the writers, directors and actors who had planned to participate.  So now the frenzied celebration of creativity will happen on Monday, Nov. 10, in the Balcony Theatre at Actors'.

The fun begins the evening before when eight playwrights get together to pick a theme for the short play they'll spend the night writing.  Actors and directors arrive early the next day to rehearse, block the play and memorize it.  The shows go on at 8 p.m. Nov. 10.

Artists who have signed on so far are Irene Adjan, Katherine Amadeo, David Arisco, Andie Arthur, Chris Demos Brown, Marjorie O'Neill-Butler, Clive Cholerton, Michaela Cronan, Todd Allen Durkin, Scott Genn, Sandy Ives, Christopher A. Kent, Wayne Legette, Lucas Leyva, Margery Lowe, Joseph Adler, Kim Morgan Dean, David Perez-Ribada, Deborah L. Sherman and Barbara Sloan -- with more to come.

Tickets are $58.  For info, call the Actors' Playhouse box office at 954-444-9293, visit
Actors' web site or the Naked Stage site.

Just fyi, last year's inaugural 24-Hour Theatre Project was a packed-to-the-gills success, an impressive artistic statement about just how far South Florida's talented theater community has come.  This one is positioned to be bigger and, its founders hope, better.  It's a good thing that they've proven they have the vision and energy to pull this off:  Just two days before 24-Hour Theatre kicks off with the playwrights picking their topics, the Amadeos open in Naked Stage's production of Nerve, directed by Manzelli

September 18, 2008

Looking for new GLBTQ plays

Lavender_footlights Gearing up for the seventh annual Lavender Footlights Festival, artistic director Ryan Capiro is starting his play search.  The festival, which will happen Feb. 28-March 2, 2009, is looking for scripts with gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer themes -- particularly plays that deal with diversity, Latino/Caribbean themes, unusual or controversial issues.

Playwrights can submit up to three scripts (none returned).  Send a cover letter with return address, contact information and a statement that the play hasn't been produced in Florida, a copy of the script and, for full-length plays, a one-page synopsis.  Send the information to Capiro via email or snail mail everything to Living Arts Trust, Attn: Ryan Capiro, P.O. Box 942107, Miami, FL 33194-2107.

Deadline is midnight Dec. 1, and playwrights will find out whether their work has been selected via email on Jan. 15.  For more information, visit the Lavender Footlights web site.

September 17, 2008

Can "Godot" go to Edinburgh?

Godot1_4 Teacher, actor and playwright Meshaun Labrone Arnold has been working like mad to raise money for some of his drama students at Hialeah-Miami Lakes High School.  In his second year as a teacher, Arnold is trying to make a big dream come true:  He wants to get the kids in the school's drama club to the Edinburgh Festival in Scotland to perform their striking, creative production of Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot.

Set during the Iraq War, this Godot imagines Vladimir and Estragon as soldiers -- dead soldiers who don't realize they've lost their lives.  The production was done during the past school year, and after Arnold (with the sponsorship of his Florida International University teacher and mentor Philip Church) applied to the American High School Theatre Festival (AHSTF) program to have the show done at Edinburgh, he got a yes.

Godot2 Here's the deal, though:  To get the kids, who are mostly from families of modest means, to Scotland will cost $88,000.  The money buys airfare and lodging, a two-day stop in London for classes and tours and theater, then 10 days at the Edinburgh Festival next summer, where they'll give four performances of Godot.  Arnold's motivation is to give his students the kind of world-expanding experience he has had working as an actor in London and Prague.

I have blogged about this before and am doing so again because the group has to raise another $3,000 toward its goal by Friday, Sept. 19. As Arnold points out, the tough economy and cuts in educational funding have made raising money harder than usual.

If you're of a mind to help, E-mail Arnold or phone him at school at 305-823-1330. Check out the AHSTF web site for details.