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Getting into a true holiday spirit can be tough in South Florida, where palm trees, expansive beaches and balmy skies signal perpetual summer. Ever-earlier store décor and the incessant push to buy presents – more about commercialism than celebration – can make many of us feel more anxious than festive. Not to worry. Just squeeze in a trip to Miami’s Arsht Center, where City Theatre h..

One of the centerpieces of this year’s Art Week is not a static art work, and it is also one of the most sensuous and disorienting. Lebanese performance artist Tania El Khoury is producing her “Gardens Speak” for the week, courtesy of MDC Live Arts, a piece that has been applauded in cultural capitals throughout Europe and the United States. “It is a work,” she says, “that can only co..

Since its founding in 1996, City Theatre has been an important part of South Florida’s theatrical landscape, though the company’s visibility has always been highest in the month of June. That’s when its popular Summer Shorts festival takes place; for more than a decade, its high-profile venue has been the Carnival Studio Theater at Miami’s Arsht Center. Though the company founded by S..

If you were to predict who might become a nationally famous – OK, world-famous – multiplatform sex therapist, Dr. Ruth Westheimer would probably not be your first choice. Born in Germany in 1928 as Karola Ruth Siegel, the 4’7” Dr. Ruth seems more like the doting Jewish grandmother she is than a woman who used her nationally syndicated radio show, TV shows and 40-some books to help hun..

Actors’ Playhouse has been a musical powerhouse for much of its history. Launching its 30th anniversary season at the Miracle Theatre in Coral Gables, the company is revisiting some of that history with a new production of a made-for-South Florida favorite: Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s “Evita.” As it did in 2000 when recent Tony Award winner Rachel Bay Jones starred as Eva Duart..

Playwright Suzan-Lori Parks won the Pulitzer Prize for “Topdog/Underdog” in 2002. But as Zoetic Stage’s superb new production of the play at Miami’s Arsht Center demonstrates, her funny, shocking tale of two brothers struggling to survive is as potent today as it was 15 years ago. Maybe more so, given the country’s deepening divide. Parks’ harrowing drama examines the complex relation..

We are born. We live, have families, grow old. We die, leaving those who loved us to mourn. Playwright Thornton Wilder brilliantly captured the eternal verities of our journey through life in “Our Town,” his 1938 Pulitzer Prize-winning play about life, love and death in a small New Hampshire town at the turn of the 20th century. If you’re at all drawn to theater, you’ve probably ..

“Miami Motel Stories: Little Havana” written by Juan C. Sanchez, directed by Tamilla Woodard, and produced by Juggerknot Theatre Company, is a site-specific, immersive theater experience that interweaves narrative, performance, history and architecture. Nine short plays take place in nine hotel rooms on the second floor of the Tower Hotel, right off Calle Ocho on Seventh Street. Sanchez, ..

Artistic director and founder of Juggerknot Theatre Company, Tanya Bravo, had her first brush with immersive theater in New York City when she met director Tamilla Woodard. Working on the play “Broken City,” Bravo and other actors led audience members on a theatrical journey through the streets of the Lower East Side. “I was so blown away by the concept and the lines that were crossed between ..

We humans do love our rituals. When an extended family gathers for the holidays, familiar traditions promise a comforting respite from an increasingly complex, chaotic world. Still, realistically, troubles and fears refuse to be left behind. They surface like unwelcome guests. So do resentments and stinging remarks born of deep knowledge. With Thanksgiving on the horizon, you wonder: ..

A Halloween Dance interpretation of Edgar Allen Poe


Photo: Juliana Trivino as 'Montresor' and Sasha Caicedo as 'Fortunato.' Photo: Carlo Javier
Written by: George Fishman
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Reflecting on the brutal treatment she receives at the hands of Juliana Triviño, who plays her torturer in the October 28 Alma Dance Theater (ADT) production of “Cask,” fellow principal dancer Sasha Caicedo said, “Juliana is my very best friend. It's so hard knowing that I love her so much, and we have to act the opposite. The easy part is how comfortable we are.”

That “comfort” makes it possible for her to accept being pushed, swung, thrown and dragged around the stage in choreographer Marissa Alma Nick’s deeply disturbing interpretation of Edgar Allen Poe’s, “The Cask of Amontillado.” Physically, for Sasha this is a “brutal, brutal, brutal role to play,” said Nick. Indeed, the thuds and squeaks of flesh on wood are unsettling to a rehearsal visitor.

During Nick’s senior year at the University of South Florida, “while exploring her dark side,” she became captivated by Poe’s grim short story. Its macabre narrative of betrayal, rage and revenge became the vehicle for her thesis project and complemented her study of Carl Jung’s theory of the shadow persona.

“Cask”’s themes were personally familiar from abusive love relationships Nick had endured. “We’ve all felt pain; we’ve all felt hurt by someone we loved,” she reflected in a recent interview. “I thought I could honestly connect to both characters, feeling so disconnected from reality and then realizing the consequences only at the final moment.” In Poe’s story, set in an unnamed European city centuries ago, nobleman Montresor (Triviño) had been grievously affronted by his fellow wine connoisseur, Fortunato (Caicedo). The unspecified offense drove Montresor so mad that he determined to secretly murder Fortunato after luring him into his wine cellar – purportedly to sample a cask of rare Amontillado sherry.

Nick has presented this sinister theater piece five times, each with changes of venue, staging, choreography, costuming and music. Among her latest innovations is the use of aerial silks, a type of acrobatics, executed while hanging from long strips of fabric, secured to overhead rigging. They serve as a versatile and expressive vehicle of potential escape and of bondage for Caicedo’s ironically named Fortunato character. Practicing and performing with the silks demand prodigious strength and flexibility. Her slender physique, minimally costumed, clearly reveals the punishment meted upon her by the malevolent, but inwardly tortured Montresor, whose regal gown reinforces her dominance, pride and vanity in what may be a sadomasochistic relationship.

Nick impressed on her two principals that, while quintessential antagonists, they’re almost two sides of the same person. “We all have the potential to hurt and be hurt,” she said. “It’s an exaggerated story, but it’s toying with the scenarios that play out in all of our minds.

Montresor’s suffering mirrors that of her victim. Anguish is revealed in the contortions of her initial solo and amplified by the recurring appearances of three dancers, called “Tenebris” (darknesses), who embody and externalize multiple facets of her inner life. They form knots, swooping, writhing, mirroring and contrasting with one another.In a key sequence, they move to center stage like one multi-jointed creature. Fortunato is draped across their backs until they unceremoniously dump her.

Revenge may be best served cold, but it’s never a true resolution without the inner work of forgiveness. Gestures of apparent tenderness are trigger points that only increase Montresor’s pain, madness and aggression. As Nick explained, “There’s no question of forgiveness, but there are moments of intimacy, reminding us of how much they loved one another.” Caicedo reflected, “You go through anger, denial, pleading. Why do I deserve this? Why is this person I love doing this to me?” Her specific malfeasance is never explicitly illuminated, but we comprehend its depth and intimacy through both their choreographed introspections and Montresor’s physical assaults.

Nick melds the cool video aesthetics with the immediacy of theater-in-the-round and Japanese Butoh theater to her experimental practice. This strategy pushes audiences to focus not only on the “big picture,” but to zoom in on the nuances of skin texture, subtle flexing of joints, angles of limbs. “There is somebody facing every direction of your body at all times,” said Nick, “so there’s not one part that doesn’t count.”

Music is integrated in a distinctive fashion. Composer Hope Littwin, who attended Miami’s New World School of the Arts with Nick, remains a favorite collaborator. After initial conversations and exchanges of musical samples, Nick left Littwin to her own process and used Philip Glass’ minimalist Koyaanisqatsi during rehearsals. In fact, Littwin’s music won’t arrive until the final week, intentionally keeping things fresh and vital for the dancers now entering their final week of rehearsal before the Halloween weekend performance.

‘Cask,’ Friday, 8:30 p.m. sharp, doors and bar open at 7:30, Miami-Dade County Auditorium, On.Stage Black Box Theater, 2901 W. Flagler St., Miami; Tickets $25–$50; 305-547-5414;

http://www.almadancetheater.com.

 



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About The writer

Artist, performance arts and music writer

George Fishman is a writer and mosaics artist who has also worked with audio projects. He has worked in traditional mosaics for 20 years, mostly c..

About the Writer

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