Though the Miami New Drama-commissioned “Queen of Basel” will have its official world premiere at Studio Theatre in Washington D.C. next season, you don’t have to wait or travel to discover how playwright Hilary Bettis has reimagined August Strindberg’s controversial 1888 classic “Miss Julie.” With three powerful actors and a small audience sharing the stage space at Miami Beach’s Co..
Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, now 33, was named a MacArthur “genius” grant winner in 2016, the same year his play “Gloria” was chosen as a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for drama. Earlier, his provocative, stylistically diverse, subversive plays “Appropriate” and “An Octoroon” (the latter was produced by Coral Gables’ Area Stage last fall) each won best new American play Obie Awards. ..
"The Other Mozart" is a suitcase play – one of those shows where a single actress can pack the entire contents that creates the setting – costume, wig, and props, and go anywhere in the world. It is the way Samantha Hoefer will arrive in Miami to present Sylvia Milo's one-woman play about Maria Anna Mozart, the not nearly as famous older sibling of that 18th century rock star Wolfgang Ama..
Early on in the Argentinean film “El Último Traje” (The Last Suit), which makes its U.S. theatrical debut this week, a deceptively quaint and humorous scene takes place between the film’s protagonist, 88-year-old Abraham Bursztein and his young granddaughter. The little girl refuses to join in a family photo with Abraham surrounded by his many grandchildren. When he cajoles and insists, ..
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Mark St. Germain has achieved ongoing success with small-cast plays involving historical figures in fictional scenarios, and South Florida has been as welcoming to his work as the rest of the country. St. Germain’s “Camping With Henry and Tom,” about a 1920s camping trip involving Henry Ford, Thomas Edison and President Warren G. Harding, was produced in 1996 by New Theatre in Coral Gables..
Mexico City-based theater collective Teatro Ojo's works are constantly evolving. Nothing is ever really finished. That's because they take from every performance. Whatever the audience experiences, observes, feels, and offers feedback, which they highly encourage, all is used, considered, and included in the evolution of the same piece, or introduced into another new work. Two of the ..
“America’s Greatest and Least Known Playwright.”This is how the Cuban-American playwright Maria Irene Fornes is referred to several times throughout Michelle Memran’s documentary “The Rest I Make Up,” which makes its Florida debut this Saturday as part of Miami-Dade College’s Miami Film Festival. Fornes has been called the “Mother of Avant-Garde Theater.” Theater giants like Edward A..
“Once” has always been touched with magic. And as anyone who has seen the sublime new production of the show by Actors’ Playhouse in Coral Gables would tell you, the musical’s spellbinding pull is as powerful as ever. When Irish director-screenwriter John Carney first told the tale of a heartbroken Irish street musician and the spunky Czech pianist who reignites his passion, a 200..
Consider the idea of land in Palestine, and conflict may be the first thing to come to mind. But for Jumana Emil Abboud, the Palestinian landscape evokes other, older, associations – with mythological creatures like water spirits and ghouls. “These stories were told way before 1948,” says the Galilee-born artist, speaking by phone from her home in Jerusalem. She suggests looking back ..
Here’s a riddle – name the 1892 box office flop panned by critics for lack of seriousness and for casting too many kids, which has now transformed into a force of nature timed to occur yearly around the winter solstice?
The answer, of course, is “The Nutcracker,” and though many a balletomane might inwardly groan at the first of December, the Scrooges can’t deny that this classic ballet gave many of them their first exposure to the dance and that a successful “Nutcracker”is as important to a contemporary ballet company as a successful black Friday is to Macy’s.
And Miami City Ballet’s production of the holiday favorite is no different. For 27 years South Florida audiences have adored the company’s version, so why a new production and why now?
According to MCB artistic director Lourdes Lopez: “Our production was showing its age. Even the costumes and sets were looking ragged.”
Also the scale of the old production was all off. MCB’s “Nutcracker” was set when Miami was a very different city with theaters much smaller than the Ziff Ballet Opera House at the Arsht, now one of the largest performing arts venues in the country.
“Also stage craft has advanced in the last 10 to 12 years. You can create a very different magic now than what you could do 27 years ago,” added Lopez.
For the new production’s magic, Lopez relied on an artistic relationship she forged while still in New York – the husband and wife design powerhouse, Ruben and Isabel Toledo. In previous collaborations Lopez discovered in this couple a special knack for negotiating the difficult demands of honoring tradition and infusing freshness.
“Ruben and Isabel respect tradition and so they have really researched the original costumes by Barbara Karinska and the set design of Rouben Ter-Arutunian, and have used these as their points of departure. They have examined the palette of our old ‘Nutcracker’ and they have added their own touches — from the elegance of Isabel’s costuming to the quirkiness and out-of-scaledness of Ruben’s art,” said Lopez.
For Isabel Toledo’s approach to design, think back to Michelle Obama’s knockout two-piece lemongrass outfit the former first lady wore to the 2009 Inauguration.For Toledo, the challenge of designing for dancers is that ballet is not so much an art object as it is an art action where the costumes tell a silent story: “All of the design elements I used in Act One are later repeated and amplified in Act Two,” said Toledo. “When Marie is dreaming of her future in Candyland, all of the visual clues from the Act One Party Scene are enhanced and transformed into the costumes for Act Two. I love this kind of visual poetry, this kind of design transformation.”
Whimsical, sometimes cartoonish, at others borderline goth, Ruben Toledo’s designs strike the eye like a visual tickle. For him, the “Nutcracker”project was not about contrasting the old with the new but to draw juices from Balanchine’s already perfectly formed fruit: “I wanted to paint a world that would make you want to enter into – a painting you can walk into and around,” mused Toledo. “I wanted to make the stage an installation that the dancers will want to inhabit. I hope the visual world created for this ‘Nutcracker’ will help inspire the next chapter of ‘Nutcrackers.’”
And what about the dancing – will all these changes alter the performance of the Balanchine classic in any way? According to MCB principal dancer Jennifer Lauren, South Florida audiences will still see performed the classic Balanchine choreographies. However, the new sets and costumes may change the feelings the ballet inspires. “I do think the sets and costumes will spark a new idea of how the audience sees the show as a whole.”
For Lauren the biggest change for the dancers with this new production is the live music accompanying each performance. When dancing to the Opus 1 orchestra, “my dancing becomes more spontaneous and more genuine,” she said.
For a holiday to-do list, MCB’s new “Nutcracker” promises us something out of the box.
Miami City Ballet’s ‘Nutcracker’ runs from December 15through December 24, the Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, Ziff Ballet Opera House, 215-263 NE 13th St., Miami. Tickets $30-$125; 305-929-7010 or https://www.miamicityballet.org/new-nutcracker .
Sean Erwin is a writer and assistant professor of Philosophy at Barry University, with a focus on aesthetics and contemporary french philosophy.
Sean Erwin is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Barry University and received his Masters and Doctorate in Philosophy from Vanderbilt. He has presented and published on topics in political philosophy, Italian and French philosophy, and technology and performance studies. He currently serves as the senior editor of the Humanities and Technology Review.
Erwin is also a performance critic for Artburst, with performance previews and reviews appearing regularly there and in other South Florida publications. Artburst gives him the platform to critique the aesthetic principles he writes on as a professional philosopher through analysis of the concrete movements embodied by performers.
He is also an accomplished dancer and teacher in the Argentine Tango community. In 2000 he founded and served as editor of the Chicago webzine, Tango Noticias, a specialty dance periodical dedicated to examining Argentine Tango as a set of social practices rooted to the Southern cone’s history, politics, and culture.
Since his move to South Florida, he has both taught philosophy and served as a principal tango instructor for the Miami-based, Shimmy Club, a non-profit program that teaches Argentine Tango to vision-impaired teens. Through his involvement with the program, Erwin has been featured in articles and several news outlets including Univision, Telemundo, NBC News, KPFK Los Angeles, and the Miami Herald. For more information, see erwinsean.com.
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