Monday, December 31, 2007

Mosaic has its own blog!

Mosaic Theatre has its own blog, TILES. Mosaic's founder and Artistic Director Richard Jay Simon is its author.

Inspired by the behavior of some recent audiences, he's set out to improve theater patrons' understanding of etiquette:
"I have seen zero Patron Education down here and it’s going to start right now"
He has a point; there's not a performance that goes uninterrupted by chirps, blips and symphonic samples from someone's cel phone.

Back in the 80's, it was beepers; etiquette then was for patrons to leave the beeper in the box office; if it went off, an usher would come and gently tap you on the shoulder, and you'd leave the auditorium to respond to it. Of course, back then it was mostly doctors who used pagers, or other "on call" professionals. But that practice has fallen into disuse, and everyone and their child has a cel phone, and they can't seem to turn them off for even brief periods.

In case you're wondering, yes, I did invite Richard Jay to blog here, but never received a response. The door's still open, and I don't mind if it's select posts from Tiles. The more of us that are talking, the more likely we are to find someone to listen.

Best of luck, and welcome to the Blogosphere!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Fresh Perspective

While doing some research, I found a young theater lover who reviews some of the productions she sees. Her blog is called Groundlings, and she's tagged all her theatre-oriented posts. Not only is she an aspiring performer, she has a few very well-written reviews up. Hard to believe she's twelve.

Welcome to the Theatre Scene, Dara. Keep going to theatre, and keep talking about it!

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Friday, December 28, 2007

Last Shows of 2007

It's been a banner year for theater here in South Florida; with premiers of plays, musicals and even entire theaters, we've had a cultural bumper crop.

So, what can you see to cap off the year of South Florida Theatre? Here's a short list of what's playing this final weekend of 2007:

The Caldwell Theater initiated its new home with John Patrick Shanley's DOUBT. Michael Hall directs a stellar cast that includes Pat Nesbitt and Terrell Hardcastle; there is no doubt at all about how good it is.

Florida Stage is offering up an adaptation of a rare Mark Twain story: A Murder, A Mystery, and A Marriage continues its run through January 13, 2008. They are located in Manalapan, see their web site for directions and show times.

New Vista Theatre is ambitious: not only are they running Funny Girl through Sunday at the West Boca Performing Arts Center in Boca Raton, they are also running Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris at the Miniaci Performing Arts Center in Fort Lauderdale through January 6th. Funny Girl closes this weekend, but Jaque Brel will play Boca Raton from January 17 through February 3rd.

If you're down in the Keys, you can catch Gore Vidal's The Best Man at the Waterfront Playhouse in Key West. It runs throught January 12, 2008.

Palm Beach Dramaworks offers The Fourth Wall through February 3rd. This A.R. Gurney play is directed by perennial South Florida favorite, J. Barry Lewis. Dramaworks is located in downtown West Palm Beach.

If you're looking for something to do with the kids, Actors' Playhouse at the Miracle Theater has one more performance of their musical adaptation of Madeline's Christmas on Saturday, at 2pm. The Bemelmans tale comes to life as Madeline does her best to save Christmas for Miss Clavell and the twelve little girls in two straight lines.

THE LITTLE DOG LAUGHED by Douglas Carter BeaneLast and by no means least, GableStage is opening The Little Dog Laughed this Saturday at their intimate space at the Biltmore Hotel. And not only are the opening just in time for 2008, they're offering a special New Year's Eve performance at 9pm, followed by a Champagne Supper in the Biltmore's Ballroom. And if that's a lot of action for you, you can stay right there at the hote; the Biltmore is offering special room rates to GableStage patrons for the evening.

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Thursday, December 27, 2007

Palm Beach Post Presents "The Hapsters"

Hap Erstein published his top picks for 2007 in Sunday's Palm Beach Post. Along with his ten choices for the best of 2007, he had some...other...categories, including Best Title for a Flaccid Play and Lowest Artistic Aspirations for a New Play
. See his article for THOSE award winners.

But his top ten are:

1. 'A House With No Walls,' Florida Stage

Philadelphia writer Thomas Gibbons scored big with his third straight thought-provoking drama on racial themes, looking at the political spin we place on history, in a crackling production led by coolly cerebral Karen Stephens.

2. 'Man of La Mancha,' Maltz Jupiter

Director Peter Flynn decided against a revisionist take on this musical classic from the idealistic '60s, and none was needed, for this musical biography of Cervantes and his masterwork, Don Quixote, still cast a spell on the audience.

3. 'Marc Salem's Mind Games,' Kravis Center

A low-key contemporary vaudevillian's act of apparent audience mind-reading still confounds us to this day - how did he do that? - and we will be back for more befuddlement when he returns the first week of January.

4. 'Melt,' New Theatre

Davie playwright Michael McKeever's best script yet, a tale of six intertwined characters in today's multicultural Miami, an epic tale inventively staged on this company's tiny stage.

5. 'Side by Side by Sondheim,' Palm Beach Dramaworks

Begin with the early songbook of the reigning composer-lyricist of Broadway, and you have a head start to a great evening, but a top-notch ensemble and the musical direction of Craig Ames made it even more sublime.

6. 'Lieutenant of Inishmore,' GableStage

Ireland's master of mayhem ups the gore content and the comedy level in this riotous fable of Irish rebels who can't shoot straight, in a blood-spattered production featuring a scene-stealing black cat.

7. 'According to Goldman,' Florida Stage

A glib morality tale about the screenwriting game from Hollywood veteran Bruce Graham, about a writing instructor who encounters an unusually savvy student in this twist on All About Eve.

8. 'Trying,' Palm Beach Dramaworks

Maybe Joanna Glass' portrait of former attorney general Francis Biddle in his final year of life is not a great play, but Peter Haig made it a superb evening of theater, an intimation of our collective mortality.

9. 'Chita Rivera: The Dancer's Life,' Kravis Center

At 74, the star of West Side Story, Chicago and Kiss of the Spider Woman redefined ageless, touring with her Broadway career biography, reminding us how few performers dedicate their lives to the theater anymore.

10. 'Pericles,' Palm Beach Shakespeare Festival

Director-actor Kevin Crawford selected one of the Bard's lesser, action-packed potboilers then uncharacteristically delivered a straightforward production that was accessible and involving, one of the company's best outings in years.

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Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Herald's list of Notable South Florida Theatre events

The Miami Herald published its most notable events of 2007 this past Christmas Eve. And as one would hope, the South Florida theatre scene had its moments, as enumerated by the Heralds' theatre reviewer, Christine Dolen:

  • Quick and impressive: November's 24-Hour Theatre Project, produced by the Naked Stage and involving a wide spectrum of South Florida talent, proved the theater community has the chops and the gifted playwrights to create, rehearse and present six plays in only a day.
  • Overcoming its title: With a name like Urinetown,
    it's a wonder that any theater produces this nifty satire on political
    corruption and musicals themselves; nonetheless, an Actors' Playhouse
    cast full of superb voices did the show proud in October.
  • Mideast conflict: April should have seen three one-person shows about women in the Middle East: Golda's Balcony at GableStage, Nine Parts of Desire at the Mosaic Theatre and My Name is Rachel Corrie at Mosaic; the first two got impressive productions, but protests against the ever-controversial Rachel Corrie convinced artistic director Richard Jay Simon to pull the play.
  • Irish eyes: GableStage continued its way with Martin McDonagh's bloody, darkly funny plays in its August production of The Lieutenant of Inishmore, a piece involving a wayward cat, a too-attached terrorist and some blinded bad guys.
  • New works rule: In March,
    Manalapan's Florida Stage inaugurated its festival devoted to readings
    of new plays (including one co-authored by Tarell McCraney), with
    several landing on this season's schedule; Coral Gables' New Theatre
    has also jumped enthusiastically on the new works bandwagon.
  • Languishing playhouse: Despite occasional bursts of
    news and ongoing work by its remaining board, the historic Coconut
    Grove Playhouse remains a dark, decaying shell of the once-great
    theater that shut down more than a year and a half ago -- and more than
    $4 million in debt.

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Saturday, December 22, 2007

SIGHTINGS: The Miracle Theater

The Miracle Theater on Coral Gable's Miracle Mile is home to Actors' Playhouse. A national landmark, it's featured in many photographs.

But Coconut Grove Grapevine has a photo of the creation of a painting of the Art Moderne
treasure, crafted by Jeffrey Passage.

Photo from Coconut Grove Grapvine

Friday, December 21, 2007

More Shows for Kids this Weekend

Playground Theatre also has several shows this weekend; it's presenting The Steadfast Tin Soldier at the Byron Carlysle Theatre in Miami Beach.

Hans Christian Andersen gives a peek into the playroom after the children go to sleep. See a brave toy soldier risk everything for the love of a beautiful ballerina.

Shows are:
Sat, Dec 2211am
Sat, Dec 223pm
Sun, Dec 233pm

The Byron Carlyle Theater is at 500 71st Street in Miami Beach. Call 305-751-9550 x223 for tickets, or go HERE.

Nightingale, Pierrot, Doll, Piggy Bank, and Tin Soldier
Played by Valerie Stanford, Stephanie Ansin, Melissa Almaguer, John Page, and Meshaun Labrone Arnold

Adapted and Directed by Vyatcheslav Dolgachev
Translated by Aleksandr Kheyfets
Set & Costume Design by Margarita Demianova
Lighting Design by S. Ryan Schmidt

Spend Christmas Eve in Paris

"In an old house in Paris that was covered in vines
Lived twelve little girls in two straight lines

- the smallest one was Madeline."

With the calendar placing Christmas on a Tuesday, it's going to be a looooooong weekend of antici.....PAtion. Already out of school, the kids will have three days at loose ends to repeat the endless query "Can we open some presents NOW?!?"

So Actors' Playhouse is coming to the rescue; there will be two additional performances of it's holiday offering Madeline's Christmas. Take your children away from the temptations of a tree surrounded by unopened presents, and spend an hour or so in Paris with Miss Clavell and the girls.
There will be a 5pm performance on Sunday, December 23. There will also be a special performance on Christmas Eve, at 7:00pm.

Tickets are available on the Actors' Playhouse website, or by calling 305-444-9293

Madeline's Christmas
By Ludwig Bemelmans
book and lyrics by Jennifer Kirkeby
music by Shirley Mier

Directed by Earl Maulding
Costumes by Ananda Keator
Sets by Christopher Jahn
Lights by Patrick Tennent

Miami has a Shakespearean Company

Somehow this company completely slipped under my radar; I don't know who they are, how they got started, or anyone involved with the project.

But they're doing MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING this January over in Coconut Grove's Peacock Park.

Perusing their website, I think they're a community theatre group. But an ambitious community theatre group.

Hey, it's Shakespeare in the park!

(tip o' the hat to the Grapevine for the lead)

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Caldwell's Castle

Caldwell has opened its new theater in Boca Raton. Named for their chief benefactress' late husband, The Count de Hoernle Theatre is a veritable palace. It's a major step up for one of the region's major theatre companies.

The company was created in 1975 at the suggestion of the man who invented the rubber dustpan (and founder of Rubbermaid), James R. Caldwell. A retiree to Boca Raton, he persuaded the College of Boca Raton (now known as Lynn University) to let the company use its small auditorium, some office space, and 6 dorm rooms. He also urged his fellow Boca Ratonians (Ratonites?) to throw in their support. Within four years, the "Caldwell Playhouse" had 3,000 subscribers and won its first Carbonnell Award.
"To finally have our own home, even though we have to pay for it, gives us stability,"
- Michael Hall
I remember their second space, located in a downtown shopping mall. The developers of Mizner Park helped the company set up its third "temporary" home in the Levitz Furniture Plaza. The plan was to continue producing plays - and raising funds - until the new mall was finished and the theater could move in. That never happened, and they remained in their "temporary" home for nearly two decades.
"...suddenly, we're not hidden away in a crumbling mall."
- Michael Hall
Their new space is their own building. After 32 years of making do, Artistic Director Michael Hall made sure his company's new home would have room to prepare and to perform, and clear sightlines for the audiences to see the show.

As he told the Sun-Sentinel's Mary Damiano, "That was the most important thing to me. I told them I would sacrifice more seats for total visibility."

Of his larger space; a stage with full wing space and plenty of headroom, and a rehearsal hall larger than many area theaters: "It will allow me to consider plays that require a two- or three-story set, plays that have moving scenery."

Did he worry about the larger space? He told Jan Sjostrom of the Palm Beach Daily News that "It's absolute fear to build a building this big, with all the things that are required by code and all the things that suddenly pop up that no one told you about. Suddenly, the seats came, and it was like this is a dream come true."

The first review is in; Christine Dolen attended the opening of their premier production of John Patrick Shanley's Doubt. Of the Caldwell's new home, she wrote:
"The Count de Hoernle Theatre is the Caldwell's fourth home, increasing its seating capacity by 27 (though the 332-seat space feels much larger). Each of its previous theaters opened with a comedy; Doubt, though it sometimes inspires been-to-Catholic-school laughter, showcases the company's formidable dramatic chops with layered work from its powerful cast."
- Christine Dolen, Miami Herald
Doubt plays through January 6th. Tickets available online or by phone.

Caldwell Theatre Company
7873 N. Federal Highway
Boca Raton, FL 33487

Box Office (561) 241-7432 or Toll Free (877) 245-7432

Additional Stuff:
A video of the opening ceremony is available at the Boca Raton News website.
A slideshow of the space is available at the Palm Beach Post site.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Behind the scenes: Actors' Playhouse at the Tree Lighting

Earl Maulding gives a few last minute notes to The Miracles before they perform...

Like, make sure your shoes are tied

Twelve little girls in two straight lines; the smalles one is Madeline!

Madeline and the other girls from
Miss Clavel's Academy are doing just fine.

Madeline's Christmas runs through December 24th at the Miracle Theater, with special shows on December 23 at 5pm and a 7pm Christmas Eve performance.

Visit the Actors' Playhouse website for ticket information, or call 305-444-9293

Friday, December 7, 2007

Coral Gables Tree Lighting

The Musical Miracles and the cast of Madeline's Christmas will be performing outside of Coral Gables City Hall as part of the Tree Lighting Ceremony, according to Actors' Playhouse. Madeline's Christmas is the holiday offering for children at The Miracle Theater, and the Miracles are sponsored by the Playhouse.

The Musical Miracles is a talented troupe of youth who audition to be part of a year-round intensive musical training program under the direction of the Actors' Playhouse Educational Director. They gain experience developing careers in musical theatre, admittance into magnet schools, casting in television commercials, and as performers in productions demanding youth actors at Actors’ Playhouse. Visit their MySpace page to see their performance schedule.

Madeline’s Christmas is a delightful musical based on the popular Madeline book series by Ludwig Bemelmans. "In an old house in Paris that was covered with vines lived twelve little girls in two straight lines.” With this classic storybook line, the audience enters the world of Madeline’s Christmas. It plays through December 24th at Actors' Playhouse at the Miracle Theater, with special performances on December 23rd and Christmas Eve. Details and tickets available online.

The ceremony is Friday, December 7 in Merrick Park, beginning at 5 p.m. Merrick Park is transformed into a winter wonderland offering lots of activities for the family from 5-10 p.m. including carnival games, trackless train, face painting, candy land and more.

At 7 p.m., members of the City Commission will welcome the arrival of Santa Claus and will turn on the light switch for the gigantic holiday tree outside City Hall.

This evening, children can take pictures with the old bearded fellow dressed in red from 7:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. After this day, Merrick Park will be open from 9 a.m. until 11 p.m. every day until December 23. Come take pictures with Santa on Thursdays and Fridays from 5-10 p.m. or Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 10 p.m.

For additional information, contact the Parks and Recreation Department at 305-460-5600.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

2nd Annual 1st Stage New Works Festival

March 2-4, 2008

1st STAGE: 2nd Annual New Works Festival In its continuing efforts to inspire and develop new work Florida Stage presents its 2nd Annual New Works Festival. Join us for 6 playreadings read over 2 days, a playwrights' panel discussion, artist receptions, the sun, the surf, and so much more...


NILO CRUZ (Anna in the Tropics, A Bicycle Country)
Interpreter of Desire
The Pulitzer Prize-winner returns to Florida Stage with a poetic drama of lost love in 1960s Cuba.

JEFFREY HATCHER (Ella, Stage Beauty)
GI Gay
Jeffrey Hatcher confronts the controversial topic of gays in the military.

WILLIAM MASTROSIMONE (Benedict Arnold, Extremities)
Dirty Business
The true story of a party girl caught between a mafia capo and the President of the United States.

(Backwards in High Heels, Lizzie Borden)
A Crash in Roswell
In this new musical, a family is caught up in the otherworldly events of July 1947.

MARCO RAMIREZ (Mister Beast, I Am Not Batman)
Macon City
The lines blur between the comic book panel and the theatrical stage.

And a sixth reading to be announced...

Keynote speaker is Pulitzer Prize-winning
playwright, Marsha Norman.

Special Packages Available for Theatre Professionals.

For tickets call the box office at:

(561) 585-3433 (inside Palm Beach County)
(800) 514-3837 (outside Palm Beach County)

Sunday, December 2, 2007

The Long and Winding Road to Florida Stage's Next Show

The upcoming Florida Stage production of A Murder, A Mystery, & A Marriage is based on a Mark Twain Story of the same name. But this is no Huckleberry Finn or Tom Sawyer.

This story was originally a gimmick that Twain pitched to his longtime friend, William Dean Howells, editor of The Atlantic Monthly. Twain would write a bare-bones plot but wouldn't write an ending. In his "blindfold novelette" concept, other writers would create their own endings for the story. He hoped to get contributions from noted authors like Henry James, Bret Harte, and William Dean Howells (a noted writer of the day). These endings would be published in The Atlantic Monthly.

"If we could ring in one or two towering names beside your own,we wouldn't have to beg the lesser fry very hard."
- Mark Twain, in a letter to William Dean Howells.
This was an idea that had never been tried before. Now, of course, there have been several similar collaborations; South Florida's own Miami Herald produced Naked Came The Manatee, which featured Carl Hiaasen, Elmore Leonard, James W. Hall, Edna Buchanan, Les Standiford, Paul Levine, Brian Antoni, Tananarive Due, John Dufresne, Vicki Hendricks, Carolina Hospital, and Evelyn Mayerson. But Twain was there first.

Well, almost. Unfortunately, no one else wanted to collaborate on the project.
"I see where the trouble lies. The various authors dislike trotting in procession behind me." - Mark Twain, in a letter to William Dean Howells..
Twain wrote his own version of the story in two days. He hesitated in showing it to Howells, and even noted that it was ""Not Original. God said the same of another Creation." He did tell Howells that his wife liked it. "'Good;' pretty strong language - for her."

He didn't give up his idea; he tried peddling it to other magazines, and even tried tinkering with the basic structure. But after his death in 1910, it remained largely forgotten. It wound up in the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center in Austin, Texas. Patrick E. Martin, a lawyer who represents the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library, (which owns the manuscript to "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,") heard about the forgotten story in the mid 1990's. He acquired the rights to publish the novelette "the way Twain wanted, as a contest." The Atlantic, appropriately, got the first rights to run the serial. The magazine finally published it in June of 2001, one hundred and twenty five years after Twain first proposed it.

The serial caught the imaginations of Aaron Posner and James Sugg. While a melodrama can make for a challenged read, it lends itself perfectly to the musical theatre form. Their musical has received the kind of praise that the story it is based on never did.

Their musical adaptation was first produced at Maryland's Round House Theatre, a production that garnered reave reviews and a nomination for the Charles McArthur Award for Outstanding Play or Musical. It had a similar reception at the Delaware Theatre Company in Wilmington, Delaware, where it was nominated for a Barrymore Award.

A Murder, A Mystery, & A Marraige runs December 7 through January 13 at Florida Stage. 282 South Ocean Blvd, Manalapan, FL, 33462 561-585-3433, 800-514-3837

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Friday, November 30, 2007

Big Weekend at Actors' Playhouse

Actors' Playhouse is opening not just one play at the Miracle Theatre this weekend, but TWO. AND they're hosting a production by Permanent shows! That's THREE shows premiering on Miracle Mile.

Martha Mitchell Calling opens for its Florida premier at 8:30 this evening in the intimate Balcony Theater. It's sold out for the opening night, but there are still seats available over the weekend. Annette Miller stars as Martha Mitchell in this play by Jodi Rothe, and is directed by Daniela Varone. Also featured is Gordon McConnell, as Attorney General John Mitchell.

Saturday, the Playhouse's Theatre for Young Audiences program starts its run of Madeline's Christmas, a musical adaptation of the classic tale by Bemmelmans. This run includes a Christmas Eve performance. This show sold out last year, so don't miss it! It plays every Saturday in December at 2:30 pm, with a special 5pm show on December 23rd, and the Christmas Eve show at 7:00pm.

Finally, the Playhouse is hosting EL SHOW DE FERNANDO ARAU. Fernando Arau is a comedian and co-host of “Despierta América” on Univision, the country's longest-running spanish language morning program. He's playing in the Main Stage Theater at 8:30 pm. One night only, don't miss it! This spanish-language production is presented by Permanent Shows.

What a way to kick off the holiday season!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Sightings: Heath Kelts

Heath Kelts has made numerous appearances on South Florida stages. While he has relocated to The Big Apple with his lovely bride, stage manager Michele Wargacki, he still comes down to do shows on a regular basis.

He's currently featured as the father in this add for Meijer's, a high end grocery chain:

Monday, November 19, 2007

Following the 24 Hour Theater Project

As I post this, it's the half-hour call for the first performance in the 24 Hour Theater Project. Sadly, I am too embroiled in the two shows that I'm putting in at Actors' Playhouse, but I've been keeping track.

Christine Dolen has been looking in on the project throughout the day, and posting updates in her blog. I have a feed from her blog in the sidebar, but it only updates every few hours. The current feed is behind, and I recommend going directly to it.

She outlines the Project in LET'S PLAY. She lists the playwrights, directors, and the players.

The action really starts in RANDOM ACTS OF CREATIVITY. The playwrights draw their play's title, the director, and the cast.

Then she checks in on the progress in REHEARSE, MEMORIZE, AND OPEN. Scripts delivered around 7:30 am, and then the FUN starts. Dolen summarizes the plays, reviews the casts, and reports on the overall mood. She reports: far, the 24-Hour Theatre Project is fostering an exhilarating sense of creative engagement, the likes of which South Florida's theater community hasn't seen.
Curtain's at eight: quit reading this and RUN!!!!

Gablestage is located at the Biltmore Hotel at 1200 Anastasia Avenue, Coral Gables, FL 33134-6356. Single seats for the fundraiser are $50. Please call the Gablestage Box Office at (305) 445-1119 to purchase your tickets. Doors open at 7:45 PM.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Hey, JOE has a theater! Let's write a SHOW! SIX of them!

They say God took six days to create the Earth.

But now, 6 playwrights will each create a new play in just one day, or actually, one 24-hour period.

It starts tonight at 7pm, when the playwrights will gather at Barry University's Pelican Theater to select a theme upon which they will base a play. Randomly selected directors and actors will be assigned to the playwright's project, and they will have 24 hours to write the script, stage & rehearse the play, and be set to perform it at 8pm on Monday, November 19, at GableStage, located in the Biltmore Hotel.

The 24-hour Theater Project is the brainchild of Naked Stage founders Antonio Amadeo, Katherine Amadeo, and John Manzelli. Joe Adler of GableStage is providing the space for the performances. Their intent is to create a collaboration between local theater companies that would not otherwise occur, and to raise funds for the participating companies. The Project will use the creative talents of The Naked Stage, GableStage, Ground Up and Rising, Mad Cat Theatre Company, and Promethean Theatre.

The playwrights are: Andie Arthur, Will Cabrera, Ricky J. Martinez, Michael McKeever, Marco Ramirez, and Juan C. Sanchez.

They will draw from the cream of South Florida acting talent, a smörgåsbord of award winning performers. (List available on the Naked Stage website.)

And in the most anticipated performance of the 2007-2008 theater season, Joe Adler, artisitic director of GableStage will appear in one of the shows. Joe doesn't appear onstage much, unless he's accepting a Carbonell or making a curtain speech.
GableStage Artistic Director Joe Adler

The Naked Stage's first annual 24-Hour Theatre Project fundraiser will take place on Monday, November 19th, 2007 @ 8:00 PM at Gablestage at the Biltmore Hotel. There will be a small reception/meet & greet with the directors, writers and actors immediately following the performance. Gablestage is located at the Biltmore Hotel at 1200 Anastasia Avenue, Coral Gables, FL 33134-6356. Single seats for the fundraiser are $50. Please call the Gablestage Box Office at (305) 445-1119 to purchase your tickets. Don't wait, as tickets will go FAST! Doors open at 7:45 PM.

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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Co-operative Venture: GableStage and Ground Up and Rising

Ground Up & Rising Proudly Presents Jesus Hopped the "A" Train at GableStage at the Biltmore

Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train is a shocking and powerful play that addresses faith, justice, freedom-- and the oppressiveness of prison life. The piece defies all assumptions and expectations in its humane and startlingly original portrayal of a young man’s journey through the American criminal justice system. It won the Edinburgh Fringe First Award and was nominated for the Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Play.
“Has undeniable value as an open-ended play of ideas that finds genuine drama in debate. It's the kind of work less often found in New York than in London…. it has been written in flame.”
- New York Times

Directed by Arturo Fernandez.

Martha WHO is calling?

The next show at the Actors' Playhouse draws either questions or exclamations, depending on whether you're a baby boomer or a Gen-Xer. It's worth learning a little bit about Martha Mitchell Calling.

...I do think Martha deserves more than a footnote in its history. She should be remembered as the woman who tried to blow the whistle on what was going on...
Front Row At The White House - My Life And Times by Helen Thomas, Scribner, 1999

According to Actors' Playhouse in their press release:
"On the eve of an election year, Actors’ Playhouse at the Miracle Theatre in Coral Gables takes its audience back to the Watergate scandal through Jodi Rothe’s fascinating, inventive and entertaining play, Martha Mitchell Calling, playing Nov. 28-Dec. 23, 2007."
But who the heck WAS Martha Mitchell, anyway?

In December 1971 a wire story ran about Vice President Spiro Agnew's gag Christmas gift list. Included on the list were: "For Martha Mitchell, a brand-new Princess phone. For John Mitchell, a padlock for a brand-new Princess phone."
- Front Row At The White House - My Life And Times, Helen Thomas, Scribner, 1999

As anyone who remembers Watergate can tell you, she is the woman who brought down the Nixon White House. She was an insider, and she was the first to call for Nixon's resignation.

“[Nixon] bleeds people. He draws every drop of blood and then drops them from a cliff. He'll blame any person he can put his foot on.”
- Martha Mitchell

I hear you. You've seen All The President's Men. Redford was hot, Hoffman was intense. They had sideburns. Hal Holbrook spilled the beans. That's what GenX remembers about Watergate. But there is a human side to the story.

"Martha's trademark is her mouth, literally and metaphorically."
TIME, November 1970

I love its gentle warble,

I love its gentle flow,
I love to wind my tongue up
And I love to let it go.

Martha Mitchell's High School yearbook comment

Annette Miller as Martha Mitchell. Photo by Kevin Sprague

As important as two harried reporters were, and even counting "Deep Throat," the truth is that it was a woman who toppled Tricky Dick and his cohorts.

But it didn't start out that way:
Martha-isms such as "Anytime you get somebody marching in the streets, it's catering to revolution," and "Adults like to be led. They would rather respond to a form of discipline" have made her a pillar of rectitude and moral resurgence to much of conservative America, a figure of ridicule to liberals and a public embarrassment to many a traditionalist Republican.

...the Attorney General, who might be the most embarrassed of all, merely smiles a wan little smile and refers fondly to her as his "unguided missile." She also has an admirer in President Nixon, who has referred to her as "spunky" and told her to "give 'em hell."

- TIME, November 30, 1970

Martha wasn't like all the stuffed shirts involved in the scandal; she was a popular hostess in the Washington scene, a true Washington insider. She was featured on the cover of NEW YORK magazine in a glamorous spread. She appeared on the cover of TIME and LIFE. And she spoke her mind.
"I don't like Agnew, but my God, I think he's better than Nixon. I've told my husband repeatedly that I may not be here many years, but Marty will be, and his grandchildren."
- TIME, July 2, 1972

"I've given John an ultimatum. I'm going to leave him unless he gets out of the campaign. I'm sick and tired of politics. Politics is a dirty business."
Front Row At The White House - My Life And Times by Helen Thomas, Scribner, 1999

"This month the Gallup poll announced that fully 76% of the American population realizes who Martha Mitchell is, establishing her as a personality who is already better known than many politicians or entertainers—and is fast approaching the celebrity of Jacqueline Onassis (91%), who has been at it considerably longer and with some notable advantages."
- TIME, November 30, 1970

Eventually, Nixon and Mitchell tried to shut Martha up.
"They threw me down on the bed, five men, and stuck a needle in my behind. A doctor stitched my fingers after the battle with five guards." (She had bruises on her arms and thighs.)
-Mae Brussell, The Realist, August 1972

The decision was made to discredit Martha, and to portray her as delusional, a lonely housewife succumbing to an alcohol-driven fantasy. And they didn't just tell tales:

Telltale blunders, however, gave the caller away. Though the accent sounded Southern, the voice was too gravelly with whisky, and the speech too ungrammatical, for Martha. The impostor went on to confess: "I am half drunk—I do drink a little bit. Why shouldn't I drink a little bit?" Anyone who has received a call from Martha Mitchell knows that she consistently denies having downed a drop of alcohol before getting on the phone.
- TIME, July 2, 1972

From her biography on Wikipedia:
Dubbed "the Mouth of the South", Martha Mitchell began contacting reporters when her husband's role in the scandal became known. At one time, Martha insisted she was held against her will in a California hotel room and sedated to keep her from making her controversial phone calls to the news media. However, because of this, she was discredited and even abandoned by most of her family, except her son Jay. Nixon aides even leaked to the press that she had a "drinking problem". The 'Martha Mitchell effect', in which a psychiatrist mistakenly diagnoses someone's extraordinary but reasonable belief as a delusion, was later named after her. Nixon was later to tell interviewer David Frost (in September 1977 on Frost on America) "If it hadn't been for Martha Mitchell, there'd have been no Watergate."

I found one travel website talking about her stay at the Hyatt-Regency in Newport Beach, Ca.

"Martha Mitchell occupied one of the villas when she made her infamous Watergate-era phone calls to blow the whistle on the Nixon Administration and her husband"

I think the TIME article sums it up best:
"A lot of this takes a great deal out of me," she said recently, and these lonely low points are likely to generate some late-hour phone calls to friends, which the public never hears about.

But the next day, Martha is ready to face them all down again with her big laugh and pretty dimples and her yellow hair piled high—"little ol' Martha," as she likes to call herself, undaunted, silly, reveling in attention, and making the staid, Republican capital a livelier place."
- TIME, November 30, 1970

Martha Mitchell Calling will preview at the Miracle Theatre Nov. 28 and 29, open on Nov. 30 and will play through Dec. 23, 2007. Performances will be held Wednesday through Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Additional Wednesday Matinee Performances will be held at 2 p.m. on Dec. 5 and 19.

Tickets available online at the Actors' Playhouse website

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Halloween at the Miracle Theater

With Tropical Storm Noel nipping at our shores, Executive Director Barbara Stein of Actors' Playhouse invited Coral Gables to hold the annual "Halloween on the Mile" indoors this year.


Treat stations setup in the foyer.

Actor Rachel Jones and her daugher, Miranda, took part in the festivities.

More pictures of this event were posted at Camera Ephemera.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

And YOU thought it was just a MUSICAL...

In the musical URINETOWN, the desperate population fights the effects of a long term drought by collecting...well, you know. THAT.

In the near future, so will residents of Plantation and Sunrise.

According to this Sun Sentinel article,

"The record-breaking dry spell and projected population growth have propelled reclaimed water to the forefront as an alternative source."
Ahhh, sweet, refreshing water! The
thing that makes all life possible!

Why wait until it becomes a bitter truth? See Urinetown now, while it's still just a very funny show with an icky name.

Urinetown is playing at Actors' Playhouse through November 11.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Relevance of Theatre in the Modern World

{spoiler alert - this article reveals the ending of Urinetown, the Musical}

A common cry against musical theatre is that it's not relevant to our lives. Of course, no one makes that argument against AMERICAN IDOL, or SURVIVOR, but what can you do?

My first realization that theatre is actually relevant to our lives came in 1986. I was in rehearsal for a production of Arthur Miller's post-war drama, All My Sons. The play was written in 1947; so at the time the play was 40 years old. The play is a dramatization of a true story: an Ohio woman had turned in her father after learning that he had sold faulty parts to the US military during WWII.

In a climactic scene in the play, the father finally admits that the cylinder heads his company made were flawed: he ordered that cracks in the blocks be welded over, and sent the defective engine components on to be installed in airplanes. Ultimately, the engines failed under the strain of combat, resulting in the deaths of 21 pilots. He tries to defend the decisions, saying that failure to deliver would have forfeited his contract, and the business would have folded. He claims that he believed that the Military would discover the flaws, and he could replace them when the inspectors rejected them. By that time, he knew that they would have corrected the manufacturing process. Instead, the parts are installed and sent into combat.

The son is enraged: "Men's lives were HANGING on those engines!"

One week into rehearsal, the shuttle Challenger exploded during launch. The ultimate cause was poorly engineered seals on the engines. The problem had been identified by an engineer working for the manufacturer, but the company decided that it was up to NASA to determine if the engines were up to specification.

The lives of that shuttle crew were hanging on their engines, and they failed only because someone failed to act in order to save their company some money.

Right about now you're saying, "HEY. All My Sons isn't a musical! It's MUSICALS that aren't relevant! All My Sons is a drama, and dramas ARE relevant."

And that brings us to Urinetown, the Musical, which is now playing at Actors' Playhouse.

Urinetown is set in a place where there has been severe drought; no rain has fallen for twenty years.

And currently, the US is suffering from a drought. Maryland and Pennsylvania are under drought watches, and California is experiencing its driest year since 1878. The levels behind Hoover Dam have dropped 100 feet, leaving a huge "bathtub ring." Entire lakes have dried up in Georgia. Water restrictions have been set in many places, including South Florida.

Lake Lannier in Georgia
is currently 15 feet
below its usual levels

Lake Mead, behind
Hoover Dam, is
100 feet below its
normal level!

In URINETOWN, the solution is draconian: after years of fighting over the dwindling resource, a company proposes that the government take the drastic step of eliminating private plumbing altogether. The government hires this company, UGC, to run public amenities. Every citizen will have to use these amenities, and the UGC collects a fee for that use. The company's chairman promises "to keep the pee off the streets, and the water in the ground!"

Of course, the company is corrupt; the rich get richer, and the poor are struggling to collect every penny to pay for their relief. And those who can't pay, or won't pay; those who are caught 'peeing for free?" They are dragged off to exile in Urinetown. No one EVER comes back from Urinetown. Ever.

The play is also a scathingly funny parody of musical theater. From the very beginning, the Narrator tells us "this is a small town, not unlike any other small town [that you'd find in a musical.]" Choreography and stage direction is blatantly stolen from some of the most successful musicals in history.

From the Brechtian opening number to a revolution balanced between EVITA and Les Mis, Urinetown rips into the very fabric of musical mythology. The revolutionaries break into West Side Story as they threaten their captive: the protagonist leads them into a number from Guys and Dolls as he tries to 'save their souls.' Meanwhile, at UGC headquarters, the villain is aping Annie.

The people eventually break free of the tyranny of the UGC and its pay-to-pee system. In a Brave New World run by The People, everyone pees for free. And a short time later everyone single one of them dies when the last of the water disappears. Ironically, the draconian system of tyranny was in fact the only thing keeping them alive.

Urinetown2At the very end, Little Sally (the play's voice of innocence) says "I don't think that very many people are going to come to see this musical!"

"Why not?" retorts the Narrator, Officer Lockstock. "Don't you think that people want to be told that their way of life is unsustainable?"

"No!," she retorts. "Because it's so UNHAPPY! C'mon, the people WIN, and they all die anyway? What kind of musical is this, anyway?"

He reminds Little Sally - and the audience - that he warned us from the start that this musical isn't a happy one.

"But the MUSIC is so happy!" she wails.

Cherilyn Franco as "Little Sally
Jim Ballard as "Officer Lockstock
in the Actors' Playhouse production
of Urinetown, the Musical
Photo by Alberto Romeu

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