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 [email protected].

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 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.



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.

August 21, 2012

Free theater

Macbeth Flyer Final Press picThe theater season will begin in earnest next month, but if you're itching to see something sooner, two companies have a couple of options -- and both are free.

Ground Up & Rising continues its "Zero Point" initiative -- a project aimed at attracting new audiences with bare-bones yet thrilling theater -- with Curtis Belz's hour-long adaptation of William Shakespeare's Macbeth, reimagined as a cautionary tale in a post-apocalyptic world.  The production features David Gallegos, Jenny Lorenzo, Claudio Pinto, Jose Antonio Paredes and Belz, and it's directed by Collin Carmouze.

The play will be presented this Sunday and Sept. 2 at the Miami Beach Botanical Garden, 2000 Convention Center Dr., Miami Beach.  Performances are at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. both days.  Call Ground Up at 305-756-4672 or visit the company's web site.

Next Tuesday, the new Crashbox Theatre Company gets launched with a staged reading of James Carrey's If This Play Sucks, Blame Facebook.  The playwright directs Noah Levine, Casey Casperson, Scott Douglas Wilson, Nori Tecosky, Johann Azcuy and Kaitlyn O'Neil in the play about two friends whose weekend stay at a lake house turns weird.

The reading is at 8 p.m. Aug. 28 at Empire Stage, 1140 N. Flagler Dr., Fort Lauderdale.  Admission is free, but donations are welcome.  For more info, call 954-678-1496, visit Empire Stage's web site or check out Crashbox on Facebook.

July 23, 2012

One night only

In South Florida's theater world, hope and talent spring eternal, despite the financial hard times that have imperiled or sunk several key companies.  New troupes spring up, hoping to become an ongoing part of what the region's theater has to offer.  Two of them have one-night events scheduled on Monday and Tuesday this week.

Tonight at 7:30, the new Our Stage Theatre Company debuts with a piece called Short Play Soiree.  High school alumni and current students from Miami's New World School of the Arts are behind the effort, and the requested $10 donation for admission will benefit Jackson Memorial Hospital's Art Cares program.  The collaborative program features company members Maite Christi Francois, Nile Harris, Armando Santana, Crystal Ferreiro, Julio Maxwell, Jaime Bernard, David Zaldivar, Brianna Hart, Krystal Ortiz and Sandi Besen.  The show goes on at GableStage in the Biltmore Hotel, 1200 Anastasia Ave., Coral Gables.  Visit the GableStage web site for info.

(Also at GableStage, at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 31, Carbonell Award-winning actor and New World professor David Kwiat will share his poetry.  That event is free.)

PhotoThe other event this week is a staged reading ofDog Sees God: Adventures of a Teenage Blockhead. Members of the new Outré Theatre Company.  Bert V. Royal's hard-hitting play may remind you of a popular, long-running comic strip featuring cute kids and a dog, but these characters are teens with every problem those years can bring.  Mike Westrich, Patrick Rodriguez, Clay Cartland, Kaitlyn O'Neill, Josh Harding, Christina Groom and Ann Marie Olson are in the cast.

The performance at 8 p.m. Tuesday is part of Conundrum Stages' reading series at Empire Stage, 1130 N. Flagler Dr., Fort Lauderdale. Admission is free, but donations are encouraged.  Learn more at the Outré web site.

June 27, 2012

McKeever's 'Stuff' gets a New York reading

STUFF READING ANNOUNCEMENTHappy times for South Florida's prolific and widely produced Michael McKeever.  His play Stuff, which won the 2011 Carbonell Award as best new work after its world premiere at Boca Raton's Caldwell Theatre Company, will get an invitation-only staged reading at 3 p.m. Thursday in New York.

The play about the real-life, way-eccentric Collyer brothers -- born into great wealth, they descended into a world of hoarding and madness -- features an impressive cast for the reading, which is being directed by Shelley Butler.

Angels in America star Stephen Spinella will play Langley Collyer, David Greenspan his brother Homer.  Penny Fuller plays their mother, and Sheldon Best plays two men who interact with the brothers at very different points in their lives.

This reading of a play that got strong reviews for its South Florida debut could be a step toward a New York production for McKeever, whose work is produced at theaters throughout the United States and in Europe.

June 12, 2012

Durang, Ayvazian headline CityWrights weekend

ChristopherDurang_credit Susan JohannChristopher Durang and Leslie Ayvazian are celebrated playwrights, actors and teachers.  This Friday and Saturday, they'll draw on all that expertise as they play various roles during CityWrights, a City Theatre-sponsored conference for playwrights backed by a significant grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation's Knight Arts Challenge.

Durang, who is coming to the symposium as part of the Dramatists Guild's Traveling Masters program, is the award-winning author of such stinging, funny plays as Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All for You, Beyond Therapy, A History of the American Film, Baby with the Bathwater, The Marriage of Bette and Boo, Miss Witherspoon (a finalist for the 2005 Pulitzer Prize), and Why Torture Is Wrong, and The People Who Love Them(produced at Plantation's Mosaic Theatre in 2009).  He and Marsha Norman co-chair the play-writing program at Juilliard, and he has acted in his own work and in 10 movies.

Ayvazian, an adjunct professor at Columbia University, is an award-winning playwright and actress who performed her solo show High Dive in 2002  for City Theatre at Miami Beach's Colony Theater (South Florida actress Barbara Sloan also did the play in 2011 at New Theatre).  Her other plays include Deaf Day, Nine Armenians and Make Me, and her acting gigs have ranged from Broadway to multiple episodes in the various Law & Order series.

Other presenters and participants in CityWrights, which was put together by City Theatre co-founder and literary director Susan Westfall, include director of the Center for the Theater Commons and HowlRoundeditor Polly Carl, Samuel French Off-Off Broadway Short Play Festival coordinator Billie Davis, writer-musician Ivan Anderson, playwright and South Florida Theatre League executive director Andie Arthur, Atlantic Theater Company associate artistic director Christian Parker, Dramatists Guild Fund executive director Rachel Routh, literary agency head Susan Schulman, Broadway producer Joan Stein, director-writer-producer Roland Tec, former National New Play Network president and Florida Stage managing director Nancy Barnett, Samuel French literary manager Amy Rose Marsh, artistic directors Ricky J. Martinez of New Theatre and John Manzelli of City Theatre, and attorneys David H. Faux, Andrew Peretz and Steven E. Eisenberg.

0407121644At Thursday's launch party from 6 to 8:30 p.m. at the Sabadell United Bank Building, City Theatre will honor playwright Carey Crim, whose Green Dot Day won the 2012 City Theatre National Award for Short Playwriting.  Currently part of the Summer Shorts festival at Miami's Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, the play is about a couple trying hard, on schedule, to have a baby.  Fifteen other playwrights will be honored as finalists during the event.

Two days of CityWrights sessions will take place Friday and Saturday at Miami's Epic Hotel, 270 Biscayne Boulevard Way, with a wrap-up Samuel French presentationn on Sunday morning. Sessions will focus on the art and business of putting up a show, the rights of playwrights, writing and creative sessions, the art of collaboration, the playwright as actor and director, submitting work and more, and Ayvazian and Durang will read from their new work Saturday evening.

The cost of attending the entire conference is $325 ($275 for Florida professionals), and City Theatre is now offering a $150 day rate for Friday or Saturday.  For information, call 305-755-9401, ext. 10, email [email protected] or visit the company's web site.




March 21, 2012

Carbonells honor Harris; justice and satire on campus

Catching up with some varied news from South Florida's always-busy theater scene.

JayHarris-NoCreditProducer Jay H. Harris has been named the 2012 recipient of the George Abbott Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Arts, an honor to be presented at the Carbonell Awards ceremony on Monday, April 2.  The Carbonells are, of course, South Florida's top theater award.  And the Abbott award, named for legendary producer-director-playwright George Abbott, is the Carbonells' most prestigious honor.  Harris has a huge theater resume, having supported productions at numerous South Florida theaters (including New Theatre's world premiere of Nilo Cruz's Anna in the Tropics, which won the Pulitzer Prize and which Harris then produced in London).  He has also produced shows in numerous other American cities and in New York, where his production of Say Goodnight Gracie was nominated for a Tony Award.  Harris also played a major role in the evolution of the Carbonell Awards program, serving on its board from 2001 to 2008 and helping devise the current voting structure.

Harris will be honored, as will a host of Carbonell nominees and winners, during a show and ceremony beginning at 7:30 p.m. April 2 in the Amaturo Theater at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, 201 SW Fifth Ave., Fort Lauderdale.  Tickets are $25 in advance, $35 at the door, and the public is invited.  Numbers from each of this year's nominated musicals are part of the show, and admission to an after-party at the Green Room, 109 SW Second Ave., is free with a Carbonell ticket.  For information, call the Broward Center box office at 954-462-0222, email [email protected], or visit the Broward Center's web site.


IMG_helen03.jpg_2_1_8U3PHKNGSister Helen Prejean, the author of Dead Man Walking, is coming to speak about capital punishment at the Florida International University campus April 13, in a free presentation running from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the campus' Graham Center student union. In honor of her appearance the FIU Theater Department and Honors College are joining forces to present readings and a performance of three justice-themed plays.  On Thursday, students from the Honors College will do a reading of Erik Jensen and Jessica Blank's The Exonerated. David Mamet's Oleanna gets a reading by theater students on March 29. Then Phillip M. Church directs theater students in a reading of Tim Robbins' adaptation of Dead Man Walking April 5.

All performances take place at 7 p.m. in the FIU Black Box Theater at the Wertheim Performing Arts Center, 11200 SW Eighth St., Miami. Admission is free, and talk-backs follow each event.  For information, call 305-348-3394.


UTown-7Though you won't have long to go (sorry), if you've managed to miss Urinetown during its earlier South Florida stagings at Actors' Playhouse, Slow Burn Theatre and so on, you have another chance to see it this Thursday-Sunday. John Manzelli directs students from Barry University's Department of Fine Arts in the Tony Award-winning musical about the strict regulation of bathroom privileges during a drought.  Ranging stylistically from the stinging social satire in the manner of Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht to spoofs of other Broadway musicals, Urinetown is provocative, funny and not for the kiddies.

Performances are at the Broad Center for the Performing Arts, 11300 NE Second Ave., Miami Shores.  And get this: Admission is free.  Performances are at 7 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, with no reservations required.  Need info? Call 305-899-3291.

February 29, 2012

Arts Garage celebrates new plays

Louis04 NEWPLAYS TROP RDENew play work was Louis Tyrrell's passion during the 24 years he served as artistic director of the late, lamented Florida Stage.  So it's no surprise that Tyrrell is launching his new venture, the Theatre at Arts Garage in Delray Beach, with a smaller-scale version of a new play festival, the kind of event that was a big draw at the debt-burdened Florida Stage before it suddenly shut down in June.

Though the artsy location in Delray Beach off bustling Atlantic Avenue is more intimate and modest, the names involved in the New Play Fest are big ones, including keynote speaker (and Pulitzer Prize winner) Marsha Norman.

The festival, which begins Thursday and runs through Sunday, offers six play readings over its four days.  Tickets to the readings and Norman's speech are $15-$20 for each event, or you can pay $112 and get into everything.

The fest begins with a reading of Lauren Gunderson's Exit, Pursued by a Bear at 7:30 p.m. Thursday.  Des Gallant directs Nancy Noto, Andrew Wind, Taylor Staniforth and Scott Douglas Wilson  in a play described as a contemporary Southern revenge comedy.

John Briggs directs the 7:30 p.m. Friday reading of William Mastrosimone's Oblivion.  Antonio Amadeo, Marckenson Charles, Cliff Burgess , Natasha Sherritt, Steven Chambers and Andrea Conte appear in the play about a composer who tries to rescue a drug-addicted young woman.

At 2 p.m. Saturday, Margaret Ledford directs the reading of Jessica Goldberg's Better, a play about a family dealing with a fatal illness.  In the cast are David Sirois, David Nail, Amy McKenna, Bruce Linser, Peter Haig, Barbara Bradshaw and Deborah Sherman. 

Marsha00 norman sun hoNorman delivers her keynote address, Writing the Third Act, at 7 p.m. Saturday.  At 8 p.m., Tyrrell directs a reading of her play Nightly News from the War on Women, about human trafficking and violence toward women.  In the cast are Alan Gerstel, Julie Rowe, Damian Robinson, Mayumi combs, Lou Tyrrell, Karen Stephens and Jessica Peterson.

On Sunday at 2 p.m., Clayton Phillips directs a reading of Bruce Graham's The Outgoing Tide, a play about a family and a man who decides to take charge of his life.  Actors Kelli Mohrbacher, Dan Leonard, Barbara Bradshaw and Peter Tedeschi are in the cast.

The festival's final reading  is at 7 p.m. Sunday.  Israel Horovitz directs his own Gloucester Blue, a play involving secrets, sexual tensions and much more.  David Nail, Amy McKenna, Robert Walsh and Wayne LeGette are featured in the cast.

The Theatre at Arts Garage is at 180 NE First St., Delray Beach, and it really is in a garage, so parking is no problem.

Need info?  Call 561-450-6357 or visit the organization's web site.