Monday, December 26, 2011

The Year in Review er, Review.

It's the end of the calendar year, which means it's time for the local arts media to reflect on the past year of theatre.  We're working on our own article, but in the meantime, we'll link to the other articles here.

Christine Dolen reflects on theatre in 2011 for The Miami Herald.
...though the economy still played the villain at too many companies, inventive artists delivered award-worthy work great productions, indelibleperformances throughout the region.
The biggest shock of 2011 was the sudden shutdown of the 24-year-old, award-winning Florida Stage in June. Crippled by $2.7 million in debt, the company declared bankruptcy, bringing to an abrupt end its impressive track record of developing new work.
To no one’s surprise, Miami’s Coconut Grove Playhouse is still closed. Nothing has happened at the historic theater since it shut down in 2006 ($4 million in debt was the culprit there), but the company’s remaining board members last month asked Miami-Dade County to accept the building and surrounding property.
She missed the closing of Rising Action, a story that came out after her deadline.  But she details all the theatres that have opened or moved.

She also listed all the noteworthy productions, too numerous to list again, but worth reviewing.  Dolen also touched on an accomplishment that she championed for several years;
In September, Liberty City’s Tarell Alvin McCraney finally came home not just to visit family but to demonstrate the talent that has made the Yale Drama School grad one of the hottest playwrights in the United States and Great Britain. McCraney staged a profoundly moving, minimalist production of his breakout hit The Brothers Size at GableStage, which (thanks to a Knight Arts Challenge grant) is collaborating with him and the Royal Shakespeare Company on a free winter outdoor Shakespeare festival in Miami.
Bill Hirschman reflected on what he calls a 'sea change' year, for Florida Theater On Stage:
...five years from now, you’ll likely look back on the past 12 months and recognize not a turning point, but an unmistakable moment within a slow sea change in South Florida theater.
Part of that shift is something he doesn't mention; the start of  Florida Theater On Stage itself.  Not only does it provide a source of excellent reviews, the online magazine has already broken several stories well ahead of the major dailies.

Of course, he notes the passing of Florida Stage, but he also notes that its legacy of new plays in Florida continues:
An incomplete list includes Michael McKeever’s Stuff at the Caldwell Theatre Company, the tragi-comedy about the ultimate hoarders; Paul Tei’s so my grandmother died blah blah blah at Mat Cat Theatre Company, a mashed up fantasia on pop culture; the Maltz’s original musical Academy; David Michael Sirois’ Brothers Beckett, a report from the trenches on Generation Y, and Christopher Demos Brown’s Captiva at Zoetic Stage, a chance for the audience to look in the mirror and see their own dysfunctional family dynamics.
This trend toward new work is not an aberrational blip. Mosaic, Caldwell, Zoetic, Mad Cat and New Theatre are among the companies planning world premieres in 2012.
He also noted that support for the arts is higher than the evening news might lead you to believe:
...for all the supposed uncertainty in the future of the performing arts, many theater artists, producers and even governments doubled down their bets. In the past two years, South Florida celebrated the opening of the South Miami Dade Cultural Arts Center in Cutler Bay, Aventura Arts & Cultural Center and Miramar Cultural Center/ArtsPark... These government-operated facilities may be joined by plans on the drawing boards for similar sites in Lauderhill, Pembroke Pines and Weston. Government money has also been pledged for the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, which has dovetailed its 20th anniversary with plans for a multi-million-dollar expansion and upgrade
He also enumerated Arsht's support of City Theatre, Mad Cat, UM, The M Ensemble, and Zoetic Stage, as well as the private/public partnership that moved Palm Beach DramaWorks into its new home.
These are unquestionably tough times for the arts and theater’s future is precarious to an unprecedented degree. But that’s pretty much what Will Shakespeare said to his buddy Richard Burbage. If the local theater community can capitalize on the momentum of this period to carry it through what will likely be another year of uncertainty, cultural historians will look back on this past season-and-a-half and dub this as that elusive watershed.
From your lips to God's ears, Bill.

Hap Erstein wrote for Palm Beach ArtsPaper:
It was a precarious year in theater in South Florida, with the sudden devastating demise of West Palm Beach’s Florida Stage, not quite offset by the expanded potential for Palm Beach Dramaworks in its new, larger space.
Well, time will tell. DramaWorks hasn't introduced new works, true; but it's been instrumental in introducing classics to a populace that has only read about them.  And we'll also point out that the company appeared in his list of best plays twice, while  Florida Stage only made it once.

Erstein also published is yearly best/worst list, The Hapsters.  Highlights:
Best Pulitzer Prognostication: Anyone can produce a play that has already won the Pulitzer Prize. Palm Beach Dramaworks does it all the time. The real skill is in selecting a script before it earns the prize. The Caldwell Theatre pulled off that nifty trick, mounting a top-notch production of Bruce Norris’s politically incorrect Clybourne Park in January, three months before it copped a Pulitzer.
Not to knock Caldwell's accomplishment, but we must remember New Theatre went one better a few years back; it actually commissioned a play that went on to win a Pulitzer; Nilo Cruz's Anna in the Tropics.  But Caldwell's Clybourne Park was an excellent production, and deserves the notice.  Either way, it underscores the excellent theatre we have in South Florida.
Best Glasses-Steaming Debut: Palm Beach State College coed Georgina Castens made her professional stage debut in Tennessee Williams’ Baby Doll as the nightie-garbed Southern nymphet title character in the Palm Beach Shakespeare Festival’s production. Artistic director Kermit Christman knew he had the right play when he read that the 1956 movie version had been condemned by the powerful Catholic League of Decency, and that Time Magazine called it the “dirtiest American-made motion picture that had ever been legally exhibited.”

Castens made a promising debut, but her production photos -- still floating around the Internet -- are sensational.
Huh.  We completely missed this one.

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