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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: ..

After a tryout run in Chicago, 34 previews and 746 performances on Broadway, and a tour launch in Buffalo, “On Your Feet!” has finally opened in the place where Cuban-born music superstars Gloria and Emilio Estefan made their dreams come true: Miami. At Friday’s red carpet opening at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, with the Estefans and their extended family in atte..

Whether the comedy is high or low, performer-writer Steve Martin has been making moviegoers, “Saturday Night Live” fans and theater lovers laugh for more than half a century – hard to believe it’s been that long, but he started early. Martin’s way with both cerebral jokes and physical comedy is abundantly on display in “The Underpants,” his 2002 adaptation of Carl Sternheim’s once-ban..

Robert Schenkkan’s “Building the Wall” begins as a wary conversation between two strangers: Rick, a white male convict awaiting a likely death sentence, and Gloria, a black female historian and college professor. For 90 minutes, the two talk. She probes; he explains and justifies and slowly paints a picture of a man-made Seventh Circle of Hell. By the time the play ends, the audience ..

Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’ award-winning play “An Octoroon” layers an antebellum melodrama with 21st-century parlance and perspective. The result is an innovative play-within-a-play that skillfully reminds us of slavery’s horrible past and its ever-present legacy. Area Stage Company’s production, thoughtfully directed by John Rodaz, brings together a talented cast to ensure this melodra..

MDC Live Arts Unveils the Season of Ojala/Inshallah: Wishes from the Muslim World


Photo: Tania El Khoury 'Garden's Speak'
Written by: Elizabeth Hanly
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It’s a tall order to present a season as surprising as it is moving, as disturbing as it is delightful. Miami-Dade College’s Live Arts 2017-2018 season -- Ojala/Inshallah: Wishes from the Muslim World sets out to do all that.

“We talk so often about commonality and diversity in Miami,” says Kathryn Garcia, Executive Director of MDC Live Arts. “Even as our country takes up these issues, for quite a while here in Miami, we’ve been talking about migration, about inclusion and exclusion and the experience of being ‘the other.’ Even as we wrestle with all this, we may not remember just how close Hispanic roots are to Moorish culture. Live Arts wanted to take a look at that. We also hoped to shed some light on just how diverse our community actually is. .. and we wanted to recognize the thousands of Pakistani families living among us.”

MDC Live Arts officially begins its season on November 4 at the Olympia Theater with the Sachal Ensemble, better known in some circles as the Pakistani “Buena Vista Social Club.” And what a story they have.

Life wasn’t so easy for old time musicians in Lahore, the Pakistani city that is home to the group. The Taliban’s influence led to frequent assaults on musicians. Even carrying one’s instruments in the streets could bring on an attack. To make matters worse, this was a group that really liked American jazz.

It hardly felt foreign to the musicians of Sachal. Traditional Pakistani musical structures, its ragas, welcome similar improvisation. Suffice it to say, the group spent most of their time playing only for themselves behind closed doors. Then one of their number decided a post their rendition of Dave Brubeck’s classic “Take Five,” on Youtube. And everything changed.

Not incidentally, Brubeck himself called the group’s sitar-heavy “Take Five,” “the most interesting version ever.”Other American Jazz icons took note. Wynton Marsalis invited the group to play with him in the Jazz at Lincoln Center series. An award-winning documentary on the group, “Song of Lahore,” was narrated by Meryl Streep.

Guitars will mix with a sitar, Pakistani flute, and nearly a dozen tabula (small drums similar in sound to bongos) for the performance. Miami audiences will be treated not only Brubeck but Ellington, Henry Mancini and the Beatles along with a range of Pakistani chestnuts. Through it all, expect percussion as intricate as anything Afro-Caribbean rhythms have dreamed up.

From December 6 through 9, during the clamor of Miami’s Art Week, Live Arts presents a still point --- an artist whose performance pieces have been described with reverence by major newspapers. Lebanese Tania El Khoury’s work, “Gardens Speak,” is a breath-takingly intimate look at the Syrian conflict. She asks members of the audience to make their way to a defacto grave, “claw through the earth” and finally, while resting there and holding the space for one buried far away, listen to audio telling his/her story in oral history and music. El Khoury’s title alone speaks volumes. Under Syria’s President Bashar Al Assad, death has become so politicized that families often bury their lost ones in a back-yard.

“These burials are often an act of resistance,” explained El Khoury in a 2014 interview with London’s The Guardian. “Funerals in Syria often lead to more deaths: there have been incidents of the shelling of cemeteries while funerals are taking place, and in some instances before the burial can take place the families are asked to sign documents exonerating the Assad regime of their loved one’s death. The lack of liberation follows people even into death.”

Garcia cautions, “Gardens may sound like only a painful work, but my experience with it was very much the opposite. In being able to connect so deeply with another’s life, I felt empowered.”

Like each of its offerings this season, MDC’s April residency and free, all-community event challenges easy stereotypes of ‘other.’ Hip-Hoppa-Locka is not only an evening of hip-hop from an Arab and Arab-American crew, that crew is all young women. The show will be part of the womens’ two weeks of workshops in area schools.

“And what better place to have the evening than in Opa-Locka,” says Garcia. “After all Opa-Locka is the U.S. home of Moorish revival architecture.”

The season’s finale is a culmination not only of a wondrous season of performances, but of their subtext. On May 12 at the Olympia Theater the 24-piece National Arab Orchestra will perform – its members are not a multi-national group, but hail from Michigan, which has a large Arab-American population. The evening will be one of classical Arab music punctuated by the work of internationally acclaimed flamenco guitarist Jose Luis de la Paz.

In between these highlights are five more evenings that include Persian lute music, a trumpeter, an all-guy dance troupe, a collective working with Moroccan ritual/trance music and a spoken word combo of Vets and refugees.

Stereotypes, beware.

The Sachal Ensemble, Nov. 4, Olympia Theaterat 8:00 p.m. tickets: $25-$55. Tania El Khoury, Dec. 6-9, Fillmore Theater Jackie Gleason Room, performances hourly Dec. 6-9. For more information on the season and all performances, visit www.mdclivearts.org.

 



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