Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Scene for November 30, 2012

Well, it's official; the Hurricane Season has come to an end.

But the theater season is in full swing, as evidenced by all the shows we're listing below.  So many shows are opening this week that you might have noticed that we're a little behind in posting them.

There are shows opening up from one end of metropolitan South Florida to the other. We have a several musicals opening across South Florida; kid shows, family shows, old shows new shows, fun shows sad shows, shows of literally every description. Lots of reviews out, too, be sure to follow all the links.

Here's what's happening in this week's late edition of The Scene:


Maltz Jupiter Theater opens its fresh take on The Music Man through December 16. 

New Theatre opens Happy, part of the National New Play Network's Rolling World Premiere.

Miami Beach Stage Door Theatre opens Side By Side By Sondheim, although you'd never guess by visiting their website.  If you're wondering why no one's coming out, well, now you know.

Showtime Boca has launched its Adult Series with [title of show].  It plays through December 16.

you still haven't missed...

Outré Theater Company presents The Wild Party at Mizner Park Cultural Arts Studio through December 9, 2012.

Mosaic Theatre presents The Birds through December 9, 2012.

Three Sisters plays at Miami Theater Center through December 22, 2012.

Venus In Fur plays at GableStage through December 9, 2012.

Laffing Matterz is back at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts; new show, new chef, new seasons of laughs.

coming and going...

Idina Menzel  defies gravity for one night only Friday November 30 at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts.

It's a Fabulous Life plays through Sunday at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts.

Divorce Party, The Musical plays at The Parker Playhouse, through December 9.

conservatory & community...

Lake Worth Playhouse presents The 1940s Radio Hour, through December 2.

The West Boca Theatre Company
presents Women's Minyan at the Levis JCC, through December 16.

The Sound Of Music plays at the Delray Beach Playhouse through December 16.

for kids...

Area Stage Company offers James and the Giant Peach through December 16.

A Christmas Carol, The Musical returns to Actors' Playhouse, through December 23.

The House Theatre of Chicago presents The Nutcracker at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, through December 30 - this is not a ballet!!

The Wizard of Oz plays at the Showtime Performing Arts Theater through January 12.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Off Stage Conversations

Hello Everyone, it's Andie Arthur, executive director of the South Florida Theatre League, here again with this week's installment of Off Stage Conversations, where I look at what's happening in theatre nationally and internationally.

Katori Hall's TCG Keynote

The Wicked Stage links Katori Hall's TCG keynote speech and makes a great point on the challenge of diversifying America's theatres. Hall's speech is incredibly moving and I highly recommend listening to all of it.

A Neat Fundraising Campaign

Like so many theatres, the Goodman Theatre in Chicago is doing an end of year campaign. What makes this one special is that they're looking for donations to support new work. There are so many generalized fundraising campaigns right now that they all tend to get lost in the shuffle -- but if you have some part of what your mission that could use a little extra love, why not make a special campaign for it?

Accessible Art and Radical Hospitality

The Dallas Art Museum has created free membership and free admission on the premise that everyone should be able to access art. Could a theatre company pull off something similar? Mixed Blood in Minneapolis has been offering free tickets through their Radical Hospitality program -- where free tickets are available to ANYONE on a walk up basis. If you want a guaranteed seat, you can buy in advance.

I've heard the myriad of complaints about free seats each time I ask producers to join in Free Night of Theater (which is an entirely voluntary program). And I do hear the complaints about relative value -- if we don't value ourselves, how can we expect others to value us? Yet... we complain about being perceived as irrelevant and elite and often don't do much to combat that. I think what Mixed Blood and The Dallas Art Museum are doing is a public good and we do need to think about how to expand the public's interaction with art.

Is Your Organization Fun?

Chad Bauman of Arena Stage looks at how creating a fun experience is a great audience development tool and does not require the sacrifice of integrity.

Make Ticket Buying Easier: A Parable

A nice little fun marketing story that has a really great point -- do what you need to do to make ticket buying easier.

Art in the Age of Digital Reproduction

Andy Horwitz of Culture Bot has a review of Roman Tragedies that turns into a pretty compelling article on how to smartly handle theatre in a digital age. The bit on twitter being a tool and having different tools for different situations is particularly apt. It then broadens out to a larger copyright discussion, but there's a lot of little gems here for arts administrators and artists to take away.

Taking a Closer Look at Your Image

Joe Patti at Butts in Seats has a two-pronged look at what actually goes into your messaging. The first bit on buzz words is hilarious. The second bit is on the importance of how you represent the art. He gives the example of a picture of an all white, all male orchestra and how to market it to a more diverse audience. Now, my first thought was "well, then the artistic side needs to diversify or be content with their current audience," but that's not something a marketing director has the final say on. And it's a good question to ask.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Outré Theater Company: The Wild Party (4 reviews)

Outré Theater Company made its South Florida Debut with its production of Andrew Lippa's The Wild Party on November 23, 2012.
Based on Joseph Moncure March’s popular 1928 epic poem of the same name, The Wild Party features characters Queenie and Burrs, a passionate pair of 1920s vaudevillians. Queenie throws a party to put some fire back into their relationship, inviting a prizefighter, a hooker, a theater producer, the flamboyant and incestuous d’Armano brothers, and other sordid creatures of the night. Fueled by Prohibition booze, cocaine, and mad dancing, the party heats up and things get ugly as the two lovers test each other’s limits.
Skye Whitcomb directed a cast that included Sabrina Lynn Gore, Tom Anello, Christina Groom, Mark Brown-Rodriguez, Sharyn Peoples,  Ben Somor, Courtney Poston, Mickey Jaiven, Giordan Diaz, Luis E. Mora, Kaitlyn O’Neill, Emilie Papp, Julia Rodriguez-Buis and Trent Stephens. Musical direction by Kristen Long and choreography by Michelle Petrucci.

Mary Damiano reviewed for SFGN:
Style over substance rules in The Wild Party, the debut production from Outre Theatre Company. The musical, by Andrew Lippa, is set in the Roaring ’20s, the era of Prohibition, jazz, flappers and decadence.  But it takes more than evoking an era to make a good musical.
It’s a slight story, with zero character development and an interesting score.  It’s an ambitious project and clearly Outre wanted to make a splashy debut.  Unfortunately, the company took a dive into the shallow end of the pool.
The live band overpowers the performers to the extent that lyrics are unintelligible. Musical director Kristen Long needs to find a balance so the singers don’t have to compete with the musicians.  There were other sound problems as well, during the Sunday performance, including problems with mics and a general muffled quality.
At first, the lighting design by Devon Garbus feels sexy and atmospheric, but then devolves into dark.  Not the kind of dark that fits the mood of the play, but just dark.  Like, vaudeville must not be paying well because poor Queenie and Burrs can’t afford electricity.  Or candles.  That kind of dark.
There are some bright spots, figuratively speaking.  Sharyn Peoples is one of the few cast members who can be heard above the music, and she belts out “An Old- Fashioned Love Story” with panache.  Mickey Jaiven and Courtney Poston, playing a fighter and his flapper, are wonderful together on the duet, “Two of a Kind.”  Ben Solomor, as a pint-sized, mute dancer, packs more emotion into his lovely ballet solo, “Jackie’s Last Dance” than exists in the rest of the show.

Sabrina Gore as Queenie and Tom Anello do well individually—they have great voices and each have some spotlight moments---but they have no chemistry, so it’s hard to buy their tempestuous relationship. They are supported successfully by Christina Groom, as a boozy southern belle who wants her claws in Burrs, and less successfully by Mark Brown-Rodriguez, who finds a special connection with Queenie.
Bill Hirschman reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
Tragedy suffused opening night at Outré Theatre Company’s inaugural production of the dark musical The Wild Party, but it wasn’t the story of Jazz Age hedonists plummeting through a doomed love quadrangle.

It was so many hard-working artists’ work going down the toilet because of the worst sound of any production since Actors Playhouse’s infamous Hairspray last season.
Aggravating matters was Devon Garbus’ chiaroscuro lighting design, which was appropriately murky, but left people upstage singing in darkness and dancers plugging away in the foreground, also in darkness.
Through it all, the cast and musicians hung in there, giving everything they had in energy and commitment. But it’s nearly impossible to fairly review the show because you couldn’t hear what we assume are strong affecting voices let alone appreciate the lyrics of this sung-through musical.
Scraping away the sound problems, which may get better with time, the production has obvious virtues and additional problems.
Gore (terrific in Outré’s reading last May of tick…tick..BOOM!) created a credible figure insanely in love with a man who abuses her, but who has just enough ego left to want to punish him. Tall and lithe, Gore’s eyes betrayed a soul awash in sadness with little hope of escape – in part because she doesn’t want to. Gore made us believe Queenie’s anger that drives her to vengeance, then her surprise that Black might rescue her heart, then her agony over Burrs’ fate. Gore’s voice caressed or attacked a song as the score demanded.
We almost never heard Anello’s voice. But his smoldering Pagliacci performance had an intense brooding physicality that communicated a proclivity to violence borne out of self-disgust and a recognition of the dead end in his life. His serial killer eyes, pronounced widow’s peak and vulture’s hunched shoulders were a wonderful counterpoint to his maniacal grin and clown makeup in his big production number “Let Me Drown.”
Brown-Rodriguez cut a handsome figure, strapping and quietly sexy with hair in 1970s cornrows. He delivered an outsider who is restrained, almost a naïf in this den of debauchees, until he falls for Queenie. He’s the least persuasive of the principal actors, and while he had a decent voice, often you couldn’t hear him even when the orchestra was subdued.
The real standout of the night was the charismatic Groom as the party girl Kate, a magnetic presence with a Kewpie doll face, bowtie lips and the maniacal gleam of Chuckie from the Child’s Play movies. Supple and lissome, Groom slinked around like a ravenous female panther stalking her prey, a prey that she blithely changed from minute to minute before she settled on Burrs.  In her second-act curtain raiser “The Life of the Party,” she got a chance to show off her singing chops, but also a bent for movement that seemed carnality made flesh.
In its admirable ambition, Outré not only sprang for a large cast but a nine-piece band led by musical director Kristen Long, which provided the essential depth and texture...
Michelle Petrucci’s choreography captured the energy and intensity in rousing ensemble blowout numbers. Often forming the entire company in a V-formation, she had them dance at the audience with an aggressive ferocity...
The one unalloyed triumph was Sean McClelland’s set design of a two-tiered, dilapidated garret apartment... From the broken skylights to the fifth-hand furniture to the weatherworn slats, the environment reflected the moral rot of the characters.  Especially telling were two large clock faces as if the apartment was inside a clock tower (think Hugo or The Hudsucker Proxy), a fine metaphor for a world whose time will run out with the imminent stock market crash.
It’s hard to evaluate Skye Whitcomb’s direction. Sometimes he deftly placed his large cast around the set and sent characters into the audience to envelop them in the action. He also creates the requisite tone of a boozy, blurry nightmare, as well as deserving credit for having the courage to tackle the show in the first place as Outré’s artistic director.

But he was guilty of inexplicable missteps. For instance, Queenie has a major introspective ballad that is staged with her back to most of the audience. He also directed his secondary characters to constantly be interacting, laughing quietly, imbibing, petting and pawing each other. This would have worked better if the lighting designer had done a better job highlighting the characters who needed to be the center of attention at any given moment; instead, the crowd’s authentic busy-ness distracted from where the audience was supposed to be looking.
We were really pulling for this one, but Outré will have to solve the sound problems before we’d encourage folks to attend this party.
It seems that they did work on the problems with the sound system; while Christine doesn't mention it, Richard Cameron specifically states that the sound system was largely replaced after the opening night. - ed.

Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
In picking that musical, Outré Theatre Company and artistic director Skye Whitcomb are making a statement about what this troupe intends to be: a company willing to embrace challenging material, large-cast shows and young talent.
On the plus side are the way The Wild Party showcases certain musical theater actors who ought to be seen more often on the region’s stages, most notably Sabrina Gore as the restless showgirl Queenie and Christina Groom as the troublemaker Kate. Outré has also invested in an artful nightmare of a set by the talented Sean McClelland, and it isn’t relying on recorded musical tracks...
On the minus side are the sound design, which renders too many lyrics completely unintelligible; the lighting design, which sometimes leaves key actors shrouded in darkness while supporting characters who are doing nothing can be seen perfectly well; and that band, which drowns out the singers whenever it plays at top volume. The best musical in the world (not that Lippa’s Wild Party rises to that lofty level) can’t connect with an audience unable to see or understand what’s going on.
Whitcomb and choreographer Michelle Petrucci keep the 15-actor cast moving, hoofing, frolicking and, in an orgy scene that implausibly eschews nudity, hooking up.
The leads blend well in duets, trios and, on Poor Child, as a quartet. Gore’s voice on Out of the Blue, Maybe I Like It This Way, Tell Me Something and How Did We Come to This? is lovely, though occasionally she sings so softly that she’s hard to hear, and a few of her notes are a shade flat. Groom makes Kate a mini Ethel Merman, tearing it up on The Life of the Party. Brown-Rodriguez injects the jazziest notes into his solos and duets, and his I’ll Be Here is haunting. Anello, who has a powerful voice, does his job in making Burrs a thoroughly despicable human being who slips into madness, though he and Gore never seem credible as a couple, even in the fleeting lust the two share at the beginning of the show.

With the departure of several key South Florida companies, particularly over the past year and a half, Outré is a welcome addition to the theater community. Here’s hoping its learning curve is a brief one.
Richard Cameron wrote for The Examiner:
The production now has all new sound equipment. Congrats to David Hart for working with the issue of the venues old system, now everyone will be able to hear the wonderful performers. Remember this is their first show at this venue, and they corrected the sound quickly after the first night. Outre Theatre is still building a company from scratch.
The sky is the limit for this creative production team and The Outre Theatre Company. They are the founders for a new generation of theatre. Florida patrons should do all they can to support their incredible efforts. The live band with "Nine" instruments was equal to a Maltz Jupiter production, the choreography by Michele Petrucci creative, and the dance solo by Ben Solmor brilliant.
"An old fashioned love story" by Sharyn Peoples (Madelaine) is one of the best in the show. It was fun to see the growth from Alvaro D'Amico (Phil) who just a few years ago was performing in South Plantation High School's musicals and now has a few professional productions under his belt. Christina Groom has a wonderful voice a with a pop nasal quality and is effective in her role. Sabrina Gore (Queenie) is the star and lives up to the part. Tom Anello (Burrs) plays the menacing lover of Queenie his voice and acting are wonderful, however his choice in physicality is a bit distracting. Tom would be more effective in the role if he stood tall with a menacing presence not an affected stance with his head.

The direction from Skye Whitcomb is admirable. Perfecting this difficult material with an unbalanced level of talent was his biggest challenge. Most times the direction was pure joy.
Outré Theater Company presents The Wild Party at Mizner Park Cultural Arts Studio through December 9, 2012.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Mondays are Dark

Man, not a lot of articles this week.  Everyone took some time off for the Thanksgiving holiday or something.  Well, we did find a few articles,  and look for some reviews to hit in the next day or so.

This week's "dark" theater is Miami Beach's Byron Carlyle Theater, currently the beach home of the Stage Door Theater.  This 304 seat theater opened as a movie house in 1968, and was converted to a performing arts venue in 2004.  They're opening a show soon, but apparently they don't want anyone to know or they'd have put it up on their website.  Which is an odd marketing choice, to say the least.

Traditional Christmas Show
BroadwayWorld reports that Actors' Playhouse will be reviving its original adaptation of A Christmas Carol this Saturday, December 1.

Not A Traditional Christmas Show
South Florida Gay News tells us about It's a Fabulous Life, opening next week at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts.

Song and Dance Man
The Palm Beach Artspaper reports that Jupiter Theater has added something new to the venerable Music Man; dance.
Known for Willson’s syncopated rhythms and trip-hammer lyrics, the show has never been considered a strong dance show. But, says choreographer Shea Sullivan who is collaborating again with director Mark Martino (Crazy For You) at the Maltz Jupiter Theatre, “It is now. It makes perfect sense to me that the music man moves this town through music and dance and movement.”
Checking In
BroadwayWorld is still collecting votes for the 2012 BWW South Florida Regional Awards.  It's a little weird because they're included Vero Beach as part of South Florida.  It's actually distorting results under Best Original/New Work.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

The Scene for November 23, 2012

We hope you're enjoying a relaxing Thanksgiving weekend with family and friends. 

Of course, following the holiday is Black Friday, and a lot of shops are offering what they are claiming are their best prices of the year (even though we really know that that has to be the first week in January, when stores have to get rid of not only the excess merchandise they didn't sell in time for the holidays, but the gifts that were returned, as well).  Perhaps you're avoiding the stores and their sales.  Perhaps you're protesting the poor workers who were Scrooged into coming in after their turkey dinner to make sure inventor was in order.

But don't let that stop you from enjoying a play! It's a great activity for the entire family, and something that you can do while digesting all that turkey.

Here's what's happening this week on The Scene:


Outré Theatre Company debuts with the opening of The Wild Party at The Black Box Studio at Mizner Park Cultural Arts Center.  Florida Theater On Stage fills us in on it.

you still haven't missed...

Mosaic Theatre presents The Birds through December 9, 2012.

Three Sisters plays at Miami Theater Center through December 22, 2012.

Venus In Fur plays at GableStage through December 9, 2012.

Laffing Matterz is back at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts; new show, new chef, new seasons of laughs.

last chance to see...

The Alliance Theatre Lab production of roomies winds up its run at the Main Street Playhouse this Sunday, November 25, 2012.

conservatory & community...

The Curtain Call Playhouse presents Auntie Mame at the Herb Skolnick Center through November 25.

Lake Worth Playhouse presents The 1940s Radio Hour, through December 2.

for kids...

The Wizard of Oz plays at the Showtime Performing Arts Theater through January 12.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Miami Theater Center: Three Sisters (3 reviews)

Miami Theater Center debuted with its own adaptation of Chekov's Three Sisters on November 16, 2013
The startling family drama commissioned by the Moscow Art Theatre in 1899 launches Miami Theater Center in 2012. Experience an intimate new version of this influential Russian masterpiece.
Stephanie Ansin directed a cast that included Yvgeniya Kats, Emily Batsford, Diana Garle, Christian T. Chan, Wayne LeGette, Troy Davidson, Art Garcia, Theo Reyna, Nicole Lowe, Ana Mendez, Steve Gladstone, Linda Bernhard, and Howard Elfman.

Roger Martin reviewed for miamiartzine:
This Three Sisters is sensual in every sense, a pleasure for the ear and eye. The click of the camera and the flash to herald the fourth wall breaking monologues, the original music and sound design of Luciano Stazzone and Urban Tribal Project, the scampering maid, the gorgeously painted back wall, (or was it silk?), the thirteen ill-matched chairs at the dining table, the dressing screens, the armoire, the lighting and costumes of Calzadilla, the recorded playing of the instrumentalists, violinist Beatriz Vera with Luciano Stazzone on balalaika, cello, bass, piano and percussion, the vocals of Kata Decastro and Tatsiana Yarasevich, the choreography of Octavio Campos; an almost endless list.
...sixteen actors and if you think you'd need a score card to keep all these characters and stories straight, you'd be wrong, for Stephanie Ansin has directed this two hour piece well...
The acting was uniformly good in Three Sisters, with Wayne Legette and Howard Elfman leading the way.

An entertaining show, in all, with its terrific production values, unusual staging and good performances from the large cast.
Bill Hirschman reviewed for Florida Theater on Stage:
Let’s get it out there right at the top: Miami Theater Center’s inaugural adult project, a fresh vision of Chekhov’s Three Sisters, is not a smoothly gelling work of art, let alone entertainment. The flaws are considerable, persistent and cannot be discounted.

But they are outweighed by sustained bursts of dazzling imagination, passion, skill, craft, ingenuity and a commitment to creating a unique theatrical experience. MTC should not be paternalistically patted on the head for its ambition, but rewarded with the patronage of audiences yearning to see theater that strives to more than the status quo. With all its missteps, there is little else like this being produced by a large professional house anywhere in the region and probably the state.
The staging is both inspired and annoying, especially the location of the audience. One tactic to increase the intimacy was to build bleachers that only hold 49 patrons and place them on MTC’s vast stage. The risers then pivot toward different parts of the stage where different parts of the Prozorov household have been created. In addition, a large expanse of deck was built out from the lip of the stage into the first rows of seats in the auditorium to represent the garden for the last scene of the play.

This technique works marvelously in the third act and for much of the first two. Unfortunately, the intimacy vanishes in that last scene played out on the huge deck, located many yards from the audience... Yet Ansin is nothing if not a gifted visual director with a passion for precision timing. She moves her cast around the massive stage with a swirling fluidity as well as posing them in meaningful tableaus. The pacing is stately but not sluggish... 
One of the best is Howard Elfman’s portrayal of a recovering alcoholic doctor who has fallen off the wagon and is literally shaking with self-disgust in front of us after realizing that his withered medical skills have killed a patient.  Or watching a cuckolded husband played by Christian T. Chan tell himself that he’s happy when we can see his tortured face belie his self-deception.
With his posture, warm baritone and exchanged glances with other characters, LeGette limns a cultured, gracious man who optimistically dreams of a society in which a tiny minority of intelligent and sensitive souls like the sisters will multiply until they dominate the world.
The actresses playing the sisters (who must have had different mothers) are unassailable if not riveting. The tall willowy Yevgeniya Kats delivers the sense of Olga’s hatred of her job as a schoolmarm although the streamlined script leaves Olga more of a cipher than her siblings. Diana Garle is engaging as a Hispanic Irina who initially is suffused with the ecstatic enthusiasm of youth but whose spirit is chastened by the erosion of time. Best among equals is Emily Batsford whose grim-faced Masha has been disillusioned by her marriage until Vershinin’s forbidden love elevates and then destroys her.
But shed no tears for this production. MTC’s Three Sisters is a celebration of theatrical imagination that needs no excuses.
Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
As adapted by director Stephanie Ansin and designer Fernando Calzadilla, the newest take on a Russian theater classic aims to be inclusive and clear, welcoming and intimate. Intricate in its conception and benefitting from the work done over a long rehearsal period, MTC’s Three Sisters realizes its high ambitions on almost every level – script, design, performances, movement, music and sound. Is it flawless? No, but it is an enchanting, unique South Florida theatrical experience.
For this Three Sisters, the audience sits on a moveable onstage riser, at first facing the elegant public area of the Calzadilla-designed home and, beyond that, the dining room with its impossibly long table. Then, as the action shifts to a shared bedroom, we shift in that direction. After another turn, tragedy unfolds on a vast porch, then a hopeful note is sounded as the play ends where it began. Sounds dizzying, but moving the riser actually enhances the actor-audience connection.
Honed over two months of rehearsal, the performances are uniformly strong. Kats is a calm, level-headed Olga, a 28-year-old “spinster” who mothers the younger Irina. Batsford creates a tempestuous, deeply unhappy Masha, a woman dismissive in her dealings with her devoted husband Kulygin (Christian T. Chan), shameless in her surrender to the seductively charming Lt. Col. Vershinin (Wayne LeGette). Garle’s radiant Irina juggles disparate suitors, in particular the elegant Baron Tuzenbach (Troy Davidson) and the surly Captain Solyony (Art Garcia), but neither can compete with the imagined true love who awaits her in Moscow.
Utilizing multicultural casting and deliberately embracing such anachronistic touches as a tender snippet of a duet by LeGette and Batsford on Embraceable You, Ansin and Calzadilla have crafted a Three Sisters that has as much to say to 21st century Miami as Chekhov’s original did to Irina’s beloved Moscow more than 100 years ago.
Three Sisters plays at Miami Theater Center through December 22, 2012.

Off Stage Conversations

Hello, it's Andie Arthur, Executive Director of the South Florida Theatre League, with this week's Off Stage Conversations, where we check in with what's happening in the national and international theatre community.

Landesman Leaves

Rocco Landesman announced that he's leaving he NEA. Lanesman has been a somewhat controversial chair, suggesting that the arts have a supply/demand problem -- that there are too many arts organizations. He also has knocked art in rural areas. It'll be interesting to see who President Obama appoints to replace him.


Lee Liebeskind has a really lovely article on the importance of magic in theatre.

It really resonated with me -- how often do you really feel completely connected to the magic of the medium? And what can we do to make every audience engage in that thrill of the suspension of disbelief?

Testing Ideas

Over at 2amtheatre, Devra Thomas talks about how theatres need to invest in their own research and development, a topic of consideration at the National Arts Marketing Project this year.

The Nate Silver of Arts Marketing

The Globe and Mail has an article on TRG (Target Resource Group) and what they're doing to collect useable data for arts organizations and turning it into dynamic pricing options that allow organizations to make better profits.

What's not mentioned in the article is that TRG creates regional databases that can be extremely useful for arts advocacy, allowing arts service organizations to show elected officials just how many voters are patrons of the arts and how diverse of a group arts patrons are. (To make the Nate Silver analogy ring a little clearer.)

Speaking of election related things...

Daniel Jones writes on the lack of conservative voices in theatre.

Giving Tuesday

Can non-profits rebrand the Tuesday After Thanksgiving as Giving Tuesday?

I'm personally unsure if we need another post-Thanksgiving branded day, but I admire the idea. Perhaps a campaign centered around giving to organizations you're thankful for instead?

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Mondays are Dark

This theatre season is racing by - it's already Thanksgiving!  And yes, there will be shows this coming weekend, so The Scene will be out on schedule.

This week's "dark" theater is the venerable Lake Worth Playhouse.  While not the oldest community theatre group in South Florida - or even in Palm Beach County -their home is " the oldest building on the register of the Art Deco Society of Palm Beach County."  They do an amazing array of work; in addition to the usual community theatre fare, they have a black box studio in an adjacent building where they produce edgier work.

And now, here's your Monday reading list;

Exiting the Stage
Last week's big news was sad; Don "Bunny" McArt, actor and brother of impressario Jan McArt, passed away.  Florida Theater On Stage traced his career back to his debut in 1943, The Miami Herald included some personal reminisces from his sister, Jan, and The Palm Beach ArtsPaper spoke with Rupert Holmes, who wrote the last play McArt performed, Say Goodnight, Gracie, the one-man biography of George Burns.  But it was The Boca Raton Tribune that posted the most extensive review; McArt had spent the last few decades as a resident of Boca Raton.

News Roundup
Florida Theater On Stage tells us why Stage Door's production of Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks was pushed back a week, and that the staged reading of Christopher Demos Brown's Our Lady of Allapattah at GableStage will occur Tuesday instead of tonight.

The Miami Herald also mentions the reading of Our Lady of Allapattah, which is being produced by Zoetic Stage.

They Brought Down The House For Nutcracker
BroadwayWorld fills us in on THE NUTCRACKER, A MAGICAL NEW PLAY.  It's another invention of Chicago's House Theatre, presented in partnership with The Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts.  The production includes local favorites Renata Easltick and Mary Sansone in featured roles, and Anne Chamberlain and Mark Della Ventura in the ensemble. And it's NOT a BALLET.  There may be sugar-plu fairies, but it's a fair bet they won't be on pointe.

Much Ado about a Miami playwright
Miamian Tarrel Alvin Mcraney has been mentioned a few times in the last month or so, but we've been remiss in reporting those stories. The Drama Queen reported that his Choir Boy was a hit in London, and that we can look forward to his take on Hamlet at Gablestage this January.  Florida Theatre On Stage reports that he will have his adaptation of Shakespeare's Anthony and Cleopatra produced at GableStage NEXT January. Now TheaterMania reports that The Public Theatre and The Royal Shakespeare Company are collaborating with Gablestage to present Anthony and Cleopatra at Stratford-upon-Avon before it plays Coral Gables.

The Future of Arts Marketing
Well, maybe.  Mission Paradox takes a look at a new approach to marketing being taken by Coca-Cola that may be worth considering.

... in Palm Beach, the Royal Poinciana Playhouse is still closed, but The Shiny Sheet reports that the Town Council is talking about it. And talking about it.  And talking about it.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Mosaic Theatre: The Birds (5 reviews)

Mosaic Theatre opened its production of Connor McPherson's The Birds on November 15, 2012.
From the writer of Mosaic's Award-Winning hit, The Seafarer, and the plays Shining City and The Weir, Mosaic is pleased to present the Southeast Premiere of The Birds by Tony Award nominee Conor McPherson. The Birds is a chilling psychological portrait inspired by Daphne Du Maurier's short story (on which Hitchcock's famed thriller was loosely based). Set in an isolated, abandoned house, strangers with no electricity and little food, take refuge from the unnerving masses of birds that attack everyone around them.
John Manzelli directed a cast that included Kim Cozort, Kenneth Kay, Kevin Reilley, and Vera Varlamov.

Roger Martin reviewed for miamiartzine:
On the surface, Irish playwright Conor McPherson did not do the theatrical world any favors when he wrote sixteen scene changes into his eighty-five minute play, The Birds. My handy dandy calculator tells me that means every 5.3125 minutes there's a dimout/blackout on stage during which time the set/props may be changed, costumes changed and a time line established. Can you think of a better way to slow down a performance? No, neither can I. But Richard Simon of Mosaic Theatre and his director John Manzelli, with the help of their terrific cast, solved the problem brilliantly ...
Of course, the fact that Kim Cozort, Kenneth Kay, Vera Varlamov and Kevin Reilley are the people battling the scene changes and the birds means an awful lot. Veteran actors Cozort, Kay and Reilley, with newcomer Varlamov more than keeping pace, turn in riveting performances as damaged goods facing a terrifying death.
John Manzelli's smooth and imaginative directing of this fine cast ensures a first class production of a difficult piece. Well done, Mosaic.
Hap Erstein reviewed for Palm Beach ArtsPaper:
Although the Mosaic production runs only 85 intermission-less minutes, it feels longer for the play is by necessity an inert waiting game. A waiting game where the menace is apparently going to remain outside the cottage, just out of sight. Most of the effort to conjure up the birds falls to sound designer Matt Corey and lighting designer Suzanne M. Jones, who do a great deal with the flapping of wings and darkening sky.

McPherson has long specialized in tales of things going bump in the night, and his approach to Du Maurier’s tale has a similar spectral eeriness to it. His adaptation is skilled, but he leaves most of the suspense responsibilities to his cast members, who project frayed nerves and tension, orchestrated deftly by director John Manzelli.

Much is left to the audience’s imagination, both in the swarms of birds and the back story of the characters. Those expecting the jolts that Hitchcock delivered may be disappointed, but McPherson’s The Birds satisfies as thinking man’s melodrama.
Ron Levitt reviewed for ENV Magazine:
...John Manzelli, the guest director at Mosaic Theatre for Conor McPherson’s The Birds should take some of the bows for this psychological thriller.
While it is true that this 2012 play  is less scary than its earlier versions. the play is tense enough to induce some psychological soul-searching... A dynamic Kim Cozort is a writer who narrates this story.  Her real-life husband Kenneth Kay (as a volatile individual) shares this safe-zone with her until others intrude in their space— Vera Varlamov as an alluring younger woman with an agenda of her own and a creepy farmer (Kevin Reilly) – who has indecent proposals on his mind.  All four actors are memorable, obviously taking their scary cues from director Manzelli,
Set designer Douglas Grinn’s provides a perfect location to wait out the feathered  killers but it is sound designer Matt Corey who adds to the psychological illusions with his cooing sounds and flapping seagull wings (the scariest moments in this show) while lighting designer Suzanne M. Jones adds to the consistent mystery.
Bill Hirschman reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
Cannily, there is not a feather in sight during the entire 85-minute The Birds at the Mosaic Theatre — appropriate because the subject is not an eerie avian apocalypse, but how humanity reacts under extreme pressure.
As good as these folks are selling the overall premise and the tragic devolution of their ad hoc family unit, something indefinable about the script doesn’t land as solidly as you hope. The psychological dread, the quickening pulse of a thriller is absent... It’s difficult to be riveting when depicting a slow dissolution.
The acting is always persuasive if not especially subtle, given the script’s reliance on looks of wide-eyed fear and ominous pronouncements. It’s a pleasure to have the married Kay and Cozort, once the backbone of the Caldwell Theatre, back home from North Carolina exhibiting their talent for merging seamlessly with their characters. Among their achievements here with Manzelli is creating, from the moment the lights come up, that these characters are genuinely petrified and the survivors of a horrific reality.
Another plus is the mostly invisible work of Manzelli, producing artistic director of City Theatre and cofounder of The Naked Stage, who spends a good portion of his life teaching at Barry University. A talented actor himself, Manzelli has a feel for staging actors with physical body language.
No assessment of the production could omit the essential contribution of (Matt) Corey’s sound design. It’s not simply the ingenious permutations of wings flapping. In one brilliant cue, the flapping grows and grows until it sounds like the deafening hammering of the air by a helicopter rotor directly overheard, and then it’s cut off with what sounds like the clanging slam of a heavy door. But equally impressive were the almost imperceptible sounds he lay in that give you a sense of reality even if your conscious mind doesn’t notice them, such as drip of water.
Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
...while Hitchcock’s film was scary enough to induce panic attacks in bird-phobic moviegoers, McPherson’s The Birds is pitched at the cooler temperature of a psychological thriller, though more heat would make for a better play.
Staged by John Manzelli, the play turns to the time-tested formula of throwing strangers together in a tense situation and having them unravel.
...despite the strong performances of all four actors and the masterful work of sound designer Matt Corey (the bouts of flapping wings are his doing) and lighting designer Suzanne M. Jones, McPherson supplies not much more than a sketchy version of an apocalyptic world. The most terrifying, dramatic incidents all take place somewhere else, and we just get to hear about them. Waiting for the play to take flight is, finally, much like the strangers’ quest for a resolution to their nightmare – an exercise in futility.
The Birds plays at Mosaic Theatre through December 9, 2012.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Scene for November 16, 2012

Hard to believe that it's almost Thanksgiving; wasn't it just Labor Day?

Well, the 24 Hour Theater Project has come and gone; you can read about it on Florida Theater On Stage or The Drama Queen. It's back to an old formula since the Caldwell Theatre closed; the Amadeos producing, and Joe Adler once again making his stage available for the benefit of others.  He's a real mensch, that Joe.  Kudos.

A lot of shows closing this week; if you haven't decided, let's make Saturday "South Florida Theatre Scene" night at the Plaza Theatre for Driving Miss Daisy; you don't want to miss this dream cast performing a great play on such an intimate stage. We'd watch any of those three actors read a phone book.

Here's what's happening this week on The Scene:


Mosaic Theater opens Conor McPherson's The Birds, through December 9.

The Miami Theatre Center kicks off a new era with its original adaptation of Chekov's Three Sisters.  But I hope they fix their lousy website, soon.  It's almost as bad as Area Stage's.

Laffing Matterz is back at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts; new show, new chef, new seasons of laughs.

you still haven't missed...

Venus In Fur plays at GableStage through December 9, 2012.

The Alliance Theatre Lab production of roomies plays at the Main Street Playhouse through November 25, 2012.

The Women's Theatre Project production of Delval Divas plays at the Willow Theater through November 18, 2012.

last chance to see...

M Ensemble's production of August Wilson's King Hedley II at The Light Box at Goldman Warehouse closes November 18, 2012.

The Naked Stage winds up its premiere production of A Man Puts On A Play at the Pelican Theater this November 18, 2012.

The Women's Theatre Project production of Delval Divas ends its run at the Willow Theater on November 18, 2012.

The critics are raving about the strong performances in Driving Miss Daisy, playing at The Plaza Theatre through November 18, 2012.  A reminder; the bridge in Lantana is out,you have to cross either down in Boynton Beach and head up A1A, or cross up in Lake Worth and drive down A1A.  Pretty drive. Worth the trip. Promise.

Thinking Cap Theatre's production of The Drawer Boy plays at Empire Stage on November 18, 2012.

Girls vs. Boys plays at the Arsht Center through November 18, 2012.

passing through...

Million Dollar Quartet winds up its run at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts this November 18, 2012. 

Catch Me If You Can dashes through the Kravis Center through this Sunday.

conservatory & community...

Friday only, Miami-Dade College's Prometeo Theatre presents Pancha Garmendia y Elisa Lync.

The national tour of Titanic the Musical plays this weekend at The Crest Theatre.

Florida Atlantic University offers Summer and Smoke through November 18.

Annie plays at the Pembroke Pines Theatre of the Performing Arts through November 18.

The Curtain Call Playhouse presents Auntie Mame at the Herb Skolnick Center through November 25.

Lake Worth Playhouse presents The 1940s Radio Hour, through December 2.

for kids...

Aventura Arts & Cultural Center presents Charlotte's Web as part of their Family Fun Series.

The Little Mermaid plays at Showtime Performing Arts Theatre, through November 17.

Peter Rabbit plays at Actors' Playhouse at the Miracle Theater, through November 17, 2012.

Area Stage offers Sleeping Beauty Kids this weekend only.

Miami Children's Theater presents Violet at the Alper JCC, through November 18 .

Friday, November 16, 2012

Kravis Center: Catch Me If You Can (reviews)

The national tour of Catch Me If You Can; The Musical opened at the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts on November 16, 2012.
Based on the hit DreamWorks film and the incredible true story that inspired it, CATCH ME IF YOU CAN is the high-flying, splashy new Broadway musical that tells the story of Frank W. Abagnale, Jr., a teenager who runs away from home in search of the glamorous life. With nothing more than his boyish charm, a big imagination and millions of dollars in forged checks, Frank successfully poses as a pilot, a doctor and a lawyer — living the high life and winning the girl of his dreams.
Mat Lenz recreates Jack O'Brien's direction, with a cast that included Stephen Anthony, Merritt David Janes, and Dominic Fortuna.

Bill Hirschman reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
Who knows what initially made these folks think this was a property that begged to be musicalized – besides the potential fiscal rewards of a show set in the hot Mad Men era and the pre-sold buzz based on the film title. 

But there is something askew and ultimately unsatisfying despite Marc Shaiman’s breezy pastiche of a score, the off-and-on wit of the lyrics by Shaiman and Scott Wittman, the wry recreation of the period’s choreography by Jerry Mitchell, a book by Terrence McNally that layers a bit of emotional depth, and a winning lead performance by the young Miamian Stephen Anthony.
The blame likely lies with the artistic premise nursed by director Jack O’Brien that doesn’t take its story seriously.... The entire show also feels like McNally and company are sketching out plot and character points from an outline.
One of this production’s several virtues is Anthony (not to be confused by the local actor Steve G. Anthony who is old enough to be this one’s father). ...his energy made him stand out among an equally impressive corps of 24 actors, dancers and singers.
Merritt David Janes is appropriately straight-arrow nerd as Hanratty, whose devotion to his unsexy area of crime expertise has cost him a wife and much of an outside life.
Dominic Fortuna, with his mellow baritone, may be the most effective actor on stage with his portrayal of Frank”s father...
Special credit is due Music Director Matthew Smedal and a razor sharp on-stage band in snappy tuxedos who handle Shaiman’s eclectic score from swing to blues with the skill of a veteran bartender mixing a fine martini. producers Troika Entertainment for spending some cash on the splashy look of the show as well as a large cast. (We’ll guess the weekly payroll is made feasible by non-Equity contracts).

In the end, Catch Me If You Can is an eminently likeable, finger-snapping evening that will please you while you’re in the audience, but won’t stick in your brain or heart longer than it’ll take you to drive out of the parking garage.
Hap Erstein reviewed for Palm Beach Artspaper:
The concept musical was an invention of the 1970s, typified by Chicago, which couched a tale of murders in Cook County as a series of vaudeville turns. When it works, the results are dazzling. When it doesn’t, you have a dull misfire like Catch Me If You Can, currently on view at the Kravis Center in West Palm Beach.
The idea seemed to have promise, but the show’s creative team ― almost all of whom turned Hairspray into Broadway gold ― paints itself into a corner.
Matt Lenz recreates Jack O’Brien’s staging and while his cast is mostly new to national tours, they certainly have the vocal and acting skills to put the material across. The same goes for Nick Kenkel’s recreation of Jerry Mitchell’s choreography, primarily setting in motion a chorus of leggy chorines, shades of Dean Martin’s Golddiggers
Recent FSU grad Stephen Anthony takes the show’s reins as Frank Jr., radiating sufficient charisma to endear himself to the audience, despite the character’s larcenous ways. Stopping him from running away, and running away with the production, is Merritt David Janes as Hanratty, also a source of theatergoer sympathies is hard to deny that a team of Broadway veterans like this show has should have come up with something that packs more theatrical wallop. The cast is fine, the electronic design is a wonder. The only catch is Catch Me If You Can really isn’t good enough to bother with.
Jan Sjostrom reviewed for The Palm Beach Daily News:
Stephen Anthony’s skill in communicating Abagnale’s innocent playfulness is the grease that makes the wheels spin in this flashy high-spirited musical...
Dominic Fortuna nails Frank’s smarmy father and his baritone voice glows in Butter Outta Cream and The Pinstripes are All That They See...
The ingenious set design is almost a character in itself. A screen at the back of the stage displays eye-popping three-dimensional projections that establish the technicolor world where Frank skips through his crimes. Hanratty’s crime-fighting universe is painted in claustrophobic black and white.
With its strong casting and outside-the-box presentation, Catch Me If You Can gets the Kravis’ Broadway series off to a running start.
Catch Me If You Can ends its brief engagement at the Kravis Center on November 18, 2012.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Plaza Theatre: Driving Miss Daisy (4 reviews)

The Plaza Theatre opened its production of Driving Miss Daisy on October 18, 2012.
A 1988 Pulitzer Prize winner, and the Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Off-Broadway Play, DRIVING MISS DAISY affectionately covers the 25-year relationship between a wealthy, strong-willed Southern Jewish matron Daisy Werthan, and her equally indomitable African-American chauffeur Hoke Coleburn. This heartfelt story transcends the boundaries between them with its sparkling humor, honesty and dignity. This quietly powerful American classic has touched the hearts of millions.  A long-run Off-Broadway success and an Academy Award-winning film.
Michael Leeds directed a cast that featured John Archie, Harriet Oser, and Ken Clement.

Jan Sjostrom reviewed for The Palm Beach Daily News:
Alfred Uhry’s one-act classic play isn’t tough material, but it requires delicacy and exquisite comic timing. This Michael Leeds-helmed production delivers on all counts.
Harriet Oser embodies fierce independence and stubborn pride as Daisy Werthan, who resists son Boolie’s decision to hire Hoke Coleburn as her chauffeur after she totals her car.
John Archie overplays Hoke’s subservience, but fortunately retains enough dignity for the character to command our respect. Ken Clement’s affable Boolie ably serves as catalyst and buffer between the two contenders. All three performers land Uhry’s dagger-sharp one-liners with precision.
Paul Thomas’ set design efficiently establishes the world of Daisy’s home, the car and Boolie’s office on the theater’s small stage. Jerry Sturdefant attires Daisy in a fetching succession of period dresses.
Hap Erstein committed a meta-review for Palm Beach Artspaper (you may need to scroll down):
Like the Maltz, Manalapan’s Plaza Theatre usually sticks to musicals, often low-concept revues. But it too is launching its season with a play, the Pulitzer Prize-winning comic drama, Driving Miss Daisy, a step up from its usual fare that can only help the new company’s reputation.
The Plaza has attracted first-rate talent for this production, starting with Michael Leeds, one of the most reliable freelance directors in the region. He, in turn, has brought in an impressive cast, particularly John Archie in the pivotal role of Hoke, plus a touching Harriet Oser in the title role and Ken Clement ― the self-described “luckiest son-of-a-bitch he knows” ― as Boolie.
As Hoke, Archie radiates dignity... Oser adds Daisy to her gallery of roles of women of a certain age, initially cantankerous, but over the arc of the play, the character is left frail and disoriented and Oser manages the transitions along the way deftly. And Clement takes the often two-dimensional, thankless role of Boolie and makes us care about him and his efforts to become parental towards his mother.
Bill Hirschman reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
The most affecting moments in the Plaza Theatre’s solid, entertaining production of the venerable Driving Miss Daisy are the fleeting grace notes that have no dialogue, moments that result from being in the capable hands of old pros.
That’s not to say that this edition is the deeply moving comedy-drama that Alfred Uhry’s warhorse can be, but when you’ve got first-rate talent such as actors Harriet Oser, John Archie and Ken Clement led by the experienced director Michael Leeds, you’re pretty much guaranteed a production that delivers all the charm and chuckles if it never quite reaches the category of magical.
Leeds has done a commendable workmanlike job moving the story along and guided the pros in discovering their performances. Besides the aforementioned grace notes, the moments that work best are when the protagonists’ true feelings peek uncontrollably through the roles that society has dictated for them: Daisy’s unguarded joy when Daisy gives Hoke one of her fifth-grade textbooks to help him learn to read and he sounds out the title, or Hoke’s sly smile when he negotiates a raise from Boolie by leveraging a job offer from another family.
Archie has been a mainstay of the region’s acting core... His Hoke echoes those roles with that high scratchy voice and – in this case—an era-appropriate if unnerving attitude that sounds like smart-enough-to-sound-subservient Eddie “Rochester” Anderson in the old Jack Benny show. Archie carefully walks that line of a 1950s minority who must “know his place” to avoid a lynching, yet who nurtures a pride that can be violated only so often and so far. Archie closes off more than a few scenes with a dry, droll Stepin Fetchit  “Yes’m” that barely conceals a verbal middle finger.

Oser’s portraits hanging in the gallery of theatergoer’s memories are finely-detailed trompe l’oeil paintings that look like reality but are carefully crafted creations...  Oser sidesteps all the potential pitfalls for a stereotypical performance, starting with an energy and spirit that delivers Daisy’s flintiness and pride. She also excels at portraying Daisy’s gradual aging and the encroaching infirmities. The Plaza’s senior audience will likely be unnerved by Oser’s sole emotional outbreak when Daisy’s mind first cracks.
...Clement never gives a half-performance and he has an unheralded talent that many, many actors lack for quietly inhabiting secondary characters so that they have a full-fledged persona rather than simply serve as a plot device...
Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:

South Florida has its own revival of Driving Miss Daisy, and this one is also powered by fine acting. The Plaza Theatre in Manalapan, which has brought the former Florida Stage space back to life, has thus far concentrated on musical revues. But for this foray into Miss Daisy’s funny, poignant world, producer Alan Jacobson has hired three strong actors and director Michael Leeds, all of them pros who know how to deliver all the emotional colors of Uhry’s play.
Leeds draws strong, engaging work from all three actors, each of whom is among the region’s best performers.
The slender, elegant Oser... barks orders to Hoke and lets both him and Boolie know that she’s going to keep pushing back against the turn her life has taken. Yet Oser also communicates the fear Daisy feels as control slips away.
Archie makes Hoke a warm man whose sense of humor and thick skin allow him to shrug off most of Daisy’s demanding ways. His sharing of past trauma becomes one of the production’s most memorable moments, and his final scene with Oser is one of bittersweet tenderness. As Boolie, Clement makes it clear that despite Daisy’s bristling manner, her son genuinely loves her and will always make sure she is cared for.
Driving Miss Daisy play at The Plaza Theatre through November 18, 2012.

Off Stage Conversations

Hello Everyone, this is Andie Arthur, executive director of the South Florida Theatre League, checking in on the national conversation and how it might affect our little corner of Florida. While many of us were wrapped up in the 24 Hour Theatre Project, a lot of really fascinating discussion happened online – covering topics to really nifty theatrical events, the death of subscriptions, and fighting racism. So this is going to be one of the longer entries in my column.


LA-based Odyssey Theatre Ensemble is doing a play entirely in the dark.

However, abandoning the proscenium does involve risks and CultureBot has an in-depth article on Punchdrunk Theatre (creators of Sleep No More) and the relationship between audience and artist and commerce.


The LA Times has a piece on the 20th Anniversary of Angels in America, asking if a play like that could happen today with the current state of new play development support systems. Isaac Butler weighs into the discussion, noting that until Angels, Kushner’s works were mostly unknown and unliked.

Before any playwrights indulge in cliff jumping – TCG has an uplifting article on what’s happening at the National New Play Network and Travis Bedard shares some creative wisdom on perseverance.


Six Things Republicans and the Arts Have in Common.

Arts Branding Sucks.


TCG asks that perennial question.


There are a lot of opportunities out there on creative place making. This blog from Ann Markusen gets into the details of how you can evaluate the effectiveness of creative place-making. How can we find the best measurements in a field that is only developing and is mostly intuitive without obvious hard data?


Playwright Ken Ludwig talks about what makes a good mystery play.


A lot of racism in the field is institutional racism, and theatre bloggers across the country asked some provocative questions on how to combat that. Tony Adams of Halycon Theatre asks what would happen if all theatres interviewed at least one non-white candidate for administrative positions. RVCBard asks more detailed questions on how women and people of color are involved in all levels of decision making and discussion about mission. And Danny Bernado addresses issues of color blind casting as an Asian American actor.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

GableStage: Venus In Fur (6 reviews)

GableStage opened its production of David Ives' Venus in Fur on November 10, 2012.
A young actress is determined to land the lead in a new play based on a classic erotic novel about a 19th-century dominatrix. When she meets the writer-director, her audition becomes an electrifying game of cat-and-mouse, blurring the lines between fantasy and reality, seduction and power, love and sex.
Joseph Adler directed Matthew William Chizever and Betsy Graver.

Hap Erstein reviewed for Palm Beach ArtsPaper:
...Graver... completely embodies this enigmatic creature, just as she wears the alluring costume like a second skin. Graver has been director Joe Adler’s go-to girl for callow young pawns in the past, but here she shows exceptional skill in a central role, switching gears from actress to role with whiplash speed and clarity.

The play belongs to Vanda, but it is a duet and it requires a dance partner for her of sufficient ability to make the skirmish sizzle. Chizever makes his GableStage debut as Thomas, a teddy bear of a man, insecure and quickly in over his head with this vixen, yet able to turn the tables as needed.

The sparks fly between them in this brief, yet satisfying pas de deux. Do not be surprised if you have the urge for a cigarette afterwards, even if you do not smoke.
After an interminable exposition of the play's story, John Thomason eventually got around to reviewing for The Miami New Times:
Both of the central roles are unusually demanding, but all eyes will be on Graver first and foremost. She's playing the role popularized on Broadway by Nina Arianda, whose Tony-winning performance catapulted her to overnight stardom. These are impossible shoes to fill for any regional actress, so Graver eschews emulation, instead making the character her own. In Graver's portrayal, under Joseph Adler's direction, the laugh lines are fewer, their delivery less comic than disquieting...
The revelations that ensue represent a breakthrough for both our perception of Graver and Thomas's perception of Vanda...  I never knew she was capable of such transformation and abandon.
Chizever, in his GableStage debut, deserves credit as well. It seemed that on Broadway, Arianda rendered costar Hugh Dancy all but meek dust and bones. Here, Chizever is slower to acquiesce to Vanda's charms. He has genuine presence, and his transition from flustered creator to smitten slave is gradual and authentic.

Both his and Graver's readings were flawless on opening night. If anything could be improved, their sexual power plays in the end could use a bit more smoldering intensity, which might increase as Venus in Fur's run continues and the actors grow more comfortable performing uncomfortable acts in front of a discomfited audience.
Since most of us didn't see the Broadway production, it's pointless for Thomason to keep referring to them.  He should be reviewing this production on its own merits, and not propping up his review with empty comparisons.

Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
David Ives’ Venus in Fur, a Broadway hit with roots in Leopold von Sacher-Masoch’s 1870 novella Venus in Furs, has kicked off GableStage’s 15th season in a production full of thunder, lightning and sexual tension.
Venus in Fur is an intricate, complex dance for two actors, one that has been choreographed exquisitely by director Joseph Adler...
Chizever, making a long overdue GableStage debut, uses his seductive voice like a virtuoso musician. The most erotic moment of the play belongs to him, as he relates the life-altering experience that linked the sensuality of fur and the pleasure of pain in Kushemski’s erotic DNA. Because Vanda is the showier part in Venus in Fur, actors playing Thomas can be overwhelmed by the force of a bravura female lead. That never happens with the artful Chizever.
Thanks to costume designer Ellis Tillman, the beautiful Graver certainly looks the part of Vanda, domineering in black lingerie, boots and a dog collar, more demure yet still provocative in that white gown. Her character is all about deception and a concealed agenda, so that when it turns out that this crude and scattered young woman really can act, the audience is as surprised as Thomas. Though her dual versions of Vanda eventually coalesce into a more-than-worthy opponent for Thomas, Graver at first plays Vanda as if the actress is a valley girl airhead who has overdosed on energy drinks. Dialing that initial iteration of Vanda back a few notches wouldn’t hurt a bit.
...Chizever and Graver eventually achieve all that dramatic thunder and lightning (with a major assist from sound designer Matt Corey and lighting designer Jeff Quinn), and Venus in Fur becomes in intellectually and emotionally provocative experience, despite the fact that nobody gets naked and no one gets hurt. There’s a lesson in that, E.L. James.
Bill Hirschman reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
Venus In Fur, the only thing to be certain of is the stunning performance by Betsy Graver. She creates a mysterious actress who seems a bubble-headed bimbo one moment. In the next, the same character preternaturally inhabits the part of the cultured noblewoman that she is auditioning for. Then the ditz is back again, literally in the space a few seconds.

It is a star-making role for Graver who has worked hard for the past few seasons in supporting parts in The Motherf**ker With The Hat, Blasted and Time Stands Still at GableAStage.
Just savor the work of director Joseph Adler, actor Matthew William Chizever as the playwright/director auditioning Graver’s character and GableStage’s familiar team of crack designers.
As her partner in the dance, Chizever exhibits that smooth, seamless leading man quality that mirrors his warm baritone voice. The fact that Ives has given him a less showy role does not detract from Chizever’s solid depiction of a man headed for a serious fall... Unlike the hunks who performed the role in New York, Chizever makes the descent even more credible and relatable because while he is certainly handsome, he is not movie star dazzling.
... Venus In Fur is a solid way to kick off GableStage’s 15th season with a kaleidoscope of sexual power in which we’re not sure who is on top, literally or figuratively.
Or maybe a cigar is just a cigar.
Roger Martin reviewed for miamiartzine:
...Betsy Graver and Matthew William Chizever can mesmerize an audience pretty much by just standing center stage. Don't believe me? Then go to see Joe Adler's production of Venus in Fur at GableStage.
This is a funnily erotic evening, nothing too crass, but with enough Betsy Graver exposed to lighten the load of an intellectually charged script. Let me hasten to add that Chizever and Graver dressed in sackcloth and ashes would keep us entranced. Graver switches back and forth from dumb bunny actress to well bred dominatrix with wondrous ease. Chizever has a quietly charming stage presence. The assertive director becoming tail wagging puppy is impressive stuff.
Ron Levitt wrote for ENV Magazine:
The GableStage version is so well directed  by Adler and so perfectly acted that it  will certainly get the attention of local acting awards. Graver is outstanding and Chizever is a wonder  -always on the top of his game. ( In this gig,  never better!)

Lyle Baskin delivers a realistic set, Jeff Quinn adds with his lighting skills and Matt Corey provides electrifying thunderstorm sounds to heighten the drama.  Ellis Tillman adds to the erotic sense of this production as he costumes Graver.
Venus In Fur plays at GableStage through December 9, 2012.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Mondays are Dark

This Monday isn't as dark as most; tonight is the culmination of the 24 Hour Theater Project. Last night, the playwrights selected the theme of the play they would write.  By the time this article posts, they should be turning over a complete script to their directors for production and rehearsal.  The curtain goes up tonight at 8pm at GableStage.

Today's dark theater is a repeat; it is the newly renovated Au-Rene Theater at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts.  We last saw it September 10, while it was in mid-renovation.  Now it's open to rave reviews.  You're looking at 2,660 brand new seats, new theater lighting, an orchestra pit/thrust lift, and the Club Level Lounge in the middle of the Mezzanine.  You can't see the audio enhancements; you'll have to come out and experience them.

And now, your Monday reading list.

Club Level A Hit
While it's a bit of a trick to sort out what's article and what's advertising, The Examiner has nothing but positive things to say about the new Club Level at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts.
Private boxes have always been a huge sell for the arts, opera, theatre and concerts. Broward Center for the Performing Arts is cashing in on that idea but taking it to the next level, like many profit making sports arenas. Club Level opens 60 minutes prior to curtain, throughout the performance and for 45 minutes after the final bow, allowing guests to relax, linger and chat after the show. Enjoy a night cap, evening coffee, dessert and maybe a star two will make a VIP Club Level back stage appearance. This truly is a one of a kind VIP experience.
There are also sentences in quotations attributed to "Broadway Global" that take you to a web page that doesn't have any material to quote.  Very strange.  Anywho, the article includes a slideshow of the Club Level, with at least two photos of the complimentary ceviche they serve up there.  Yum!

Enter Stage Left
The Palm Beach Post reports that Boynton Beach just approved a plan that would allow a theatre to operate out of the city's Madsen Center.  Stage Left Theatre, formerly the Royal Playhouse, would produce 5 shows a year.
Enter the Center
The Playground Theatre has grown from a quality children's theatre operation into the Miami Theater Center, a multifaceted organization that kicks off with their own original adaptation Chekov's The Three SistersThe Miami Herald talks with Stephanie Ansin, the company's founder, as well as several actors involved with the production.  And there's an interesting difference in perception between Ansin and Howard Elfman, a local actor working at MTC for the first time:
“This is the fastest we’ve created a show,” says Ansin, the adaptation’s coauthor and director.
“It’s incredible. I’ve never rehearsed this long, ever,” says Elfman. “They have a different process here, involving some physical training, some improvising. … Normally, you get 2 1/2 weeks of rehearsal. Some details don’t even register until the end of a show’s run.”
MTC does spend a luxurious amount of time on their productions; a practice common in Europe, but almost unheard of in American regional theatre.

Florida Theatre On Stage starts off by discussing the innovative staging of The Three Sisters:
What will likely have people talking as they walk into the Miami Theater Center this weekend for its new adaptation of Chekhov’s Three Sisters is where they’ll sit: a black riser taking up a third of the stage itself.

What will likely result in squeals of surprise is how, between scenes in the four-act play, the riser will pivot with the audience still in their seats to face a different part of the set
All's Right at the Colony
The Examiner reports that Avery Sommers will be kicking off the cabaret season at The Colony Hotel's posh Royal Room Cabaret in toney Palm Beach.

Will the Flop Flip?
The Palm Beach Post takes a look at Catch Me If You Can, the musical adaptation of the Spielberg film that flopped on Broadway.  The creative team re-tooled the show for the national tour, which stops at the beleagueredKravis Center this week.

Am-Dram steps up in UK
The Independent reports that some British community theatre groups are giving professional companies a run for their money.
There are more than 2,500 such groups in the UK, putting on a staggering 30,000 productions every year. That's no niche interest; that's a huge swell of creative endeavour, important to people from all walks of life.
Got a Vote? is holding an election; the 2012 BWW South Florida Awards. It's an... interesting list of nominees. Some names we expected to see, and some names that we expected to see, we don't.

Butts in Seats has a perspective of last week's elections that any producer would envy:
Now that the election is drawing to a close, I think all non-profit arts organizations, especially those in battleground states, should go out tomorrow and ask media companies for donations. There has been so much money spent on advertising during the campaigns, those companies are going to have a big tax burden this year if they don’t find some worthy cause to donate to!
A Look Back
The Minnesota Playlist was also moved to reflection by the recent election, and recalls the Federal Theatre Project:
A generation of actors, directors, writers, composers and designers got their start with the FTP - Orson Welles, John Huston, Joseph Cotten, Arlene Francis, Will Geer, Canada Lee, Virgil Thomson and George Izenor among them.
Government can indeed create jobs, and those who hold them can go on to influence a generation.

Meanwhile... Palm Beach, the Royal Poinciana Playhouse is still closed, and the Palm Beach Daily News says it's time for the town council to take stand.
All that should come to an end Thursday when the council - at the behest of member Bill Diamond - is scheduled to finally answer the question that seems to be on the minds of everybody interested in the theater: Does the agreement require the plaza’s management to lease and maintain the Playhouse as a theater, or does it mean the Playhouse’s only permitted use is as a theater but doesn’t bar leaving it vacant?

It’s a question that should have been answered a long time ago...
We can only point out that there's not a lot of point to having a vacant theatre; empty theatres do not draw audiences, and thus do not boost the economy.  The PB Theatre Guild wants to lease the space; let them prove that they can make it work, or let them try and fail.