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Pearl Cleage’s play “Flyin’ West,” an M Ensemble production currently on stage at the beautiful new performing arts center in Liberty City, the Sandrell Rivers Theatre, is set in humble Nicodemus, Kansas, the only remaining western town established by African Americans during the reconstruction period following the Civil War. Set in 1898, the play focuses on the lives of Sophie (Brandiss ..

Esteban, (http://estebanlapelicula.com/en/) the debut of Cuban director Jonal Cosculluela being premiered at The Miami Light Project tells the story of a 9 year old, living in Havana with his mother, who’s raising him as a single parent, and his perseverance following his dream of becoming a musician. The challenges seem overwhelming. Esteban and his mother struggle to make ends meet (htt..

Desperate times call for desperate measures. For some, that might mean taking a second or third job. Or robbing a bank. Or moving in with family. For Casey, a straight lip-syncing Elvis impersonator in a Panama City bar, desperation means forsaking the King’s rhinestone-studded jumpsuit for leg hair-hiding pantyhose, fake boobs and big-hair wigs, the better to sell himself as a fa..

Writing about “Broken Snow,” the Ben Andron thriller now getting its world premiere at the J’s Cultural Arts Theatre (JCAT) in North Miami Beach, is a proposition almost as tricky as the play itself. The intricately structured 90-minute drama is loaded with surprises, twists and turns, all revealed at precisely the right moment so that the play builds to its shattering conclusion..

As this steamy spring melts into a sweltering summer, Actors’ Playhouse is inviting theater lovers to a wedding – a big, fat Jewish-WASP wedding, otherwise known as the Broadway musical “It Shoulda Been You.” Though the show seemingly takes place in the present, the piece by book writer-lyricist Brian Hargrove and composer Barbara Anselmi is an old-fashioned, stereotype-filled throwba..

'Death & Harry Houdini' Makes Another Magical Moment at ArshtDennis Watkins knows how to make an entrance. In the House Theatre of Chicago’s “Death & Harry Houdini,” now back at the Arsht Center’s Carnival Studio Theater five years after it first wowed Miami audiences, Watkins arrives onstage with the help of theater technology unknown in Houdini’s day. Dangling upside dow..

Director Carlos Lechuga’s masterful unspooling of time in his second feature film “Santa y Ándres” constructs a uniquely Cuban mix of tedium and despair, resulting in an emotionally intense experience that sneaks up on the viewer in plain sight. The film opens with the stillness of a landscape painting: the eastern Cuban countryside of 1983 – rugged, lush, and verdant. The statuesque..

Memory – deep-seated, fragile, slippery, mutable – is at the heart of Jordan Harrison’s “Marjorie Prime.” A Pulitzer Prize finalist in 2015, the play is a family tragicomedy given a sci-fi makeover; in other words, this thought-provoking theater piece charts its own, fresh path. Now getting its South Florida premiere as the second professional production from the Main Street Players, ..

The stage is a fixed space. It is the axis around which story, conflict, and character revolve. When that fixed space shifts, new possibilities emerge. Starting Wednesday, April 23, a shifting site for theater emerges at Deering Estate, a 444-acre environmental, archeological, and historical preserve along the edge of Biscayne Bay in Palmetto Bay. Four local playwrights have collaborated ..

Nearly two years ago, Miami’s Zoetic Stage took its first trip into the world of Harold Pinter with an intense, superbly acted production of the Nobel laureate’s 1978 hit “Betrayal” in the Arsht Center’s Carnival Studio Theater. Now Zoetic is delving further back into the Pinter canon with a riveting production of “The Caretaker.” This 1960 work is, like “Betrayal,” a three-character ..

Baba Israel and MDC Live Arts Summer Lab


Photo: Baba Israel
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It’s 10:00 a.m. on a Saturday morning and 12 artists are being led through a warm up by New York-based theater artist Baba Israel. They reply to his command with twists and bends, finding complimentary motion in a partner across the room. An organic call erupts from one, and the others answer in response.

Such is the process during MDC Live Arts second annual month-long Live Arts Lab, created to offer Miami-based artists the opportunity to deepen their craft through rigorous study with master artists.

“Education is such a big part of MDC Live Arts, especially being based at Miami Dade College,” says Kathryn Garcia, MDC Live Arts Executive Director. “We wanted to expand on the education opportunities we already offer with something deeper. Something that would provide opportunities for our local artists to have experiences that challenges themselves and experiment with the creation of new work.”

In its first year, choreographer Nora Chipaumire explored the process of creating work -- asking participating artists: What is your voice as artists, what are you telling me and why should I care?

This year, Israel focuses on personal narrative and archive in performance. “We explore writing, spoken word, verse, as well as creating text through improvisation, recording, and collaboration,” he explains. Classes have seen the participants mixing physical exercises, working with original writings and bringing a theatrical element to dramatizations of stories from their lives.

“We are focused on developing a personal ethic when working with personal narratives, a philosophy on what each artist’s intention is around real stories and real life,” Israel says. “There’s been a lot of group development work, it’s a good chance for them to look at creating solo journeys.”

The artists participating in the Lab are a diverse representation of the creative voices that are defining Miami’s artistic narrative. Not limited to performing artists, the class includes visual artists with limited previous performance experience.

“I enjoy the diversity,” says Israel, who, when not teaching the Lab, has been developing a new theater piece, The Spinning Wheel, which premieres in London this November. “Having a class full of artists with such a broad range of disciplines and experiences removes any preconceived notions; there’s a freedom here. Everyone is willing to take chances, because it’s all slightly out of their comfort zone.”

One such artist stepping out of her comfort zone for this program is Miami-based dancer/choreographer Ivonne Batanero, who agrees. “From day one, I knew this was going to be good. I have taken many workshops and many times I find myself only learning a couple of new things; but in this program, I have been learning so much about so many other aspects of performance and theater that my experience has been one of the best ever.

“This was an opportunity to explore and find out if I have it in me to be able to create something like a one-woman show, a way to see what it felt like to be Ivonne the poet, spoken word artist and one-woman theater performer. Everything I learn is only going to enrich my work as a performer, dancer and choreographer.”

This year’s Live Arts Lab culminates with a free work-in-progress showing on Thursday, Aug. 28. All of the class participants -- including Israel -- will present work in an evening that will include samples of the solo performances they have been developing during the four-week intensive, as well as a bit of group imrov.

In addition to their annual summer Lab, MDC Live Arts plans to offer mini-labs during their performance season. For the 2014-2015 season, they are planning to offer two programs, a Wordpress workshop on Sept. 20, which will allow artists to learn about the popular blogging system and how they can utilize it for their own Websites and creative enterprises, and a week-long workshop on concepts of devised theater with the Texas-based theater company, Rude Mechanicals, in February 2015.

MDC Live presents Live Arts Lab Open Studio with Baba Israel, 6:00 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 28; Prometeo Theater, MDC Wolfson Campus, downtown; 300 N.E. 2nd Ave., Miami. For more information, 305-237-3010, or www.mdclivearts.org.

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