The Source for Media Coverage of The Arts in Miami.
Articles, reviews, previews and features on dance and music performances and events.
Sign Up
No one logged in. Log in

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, ..

Gone are the days when filmmakers needed huge budgets, and major movie studios backing them with big bucks to get their films seen, according to two producers who spent decades in Los Angeles, and have now moved their base to Miami Beach. "From a creative standpoint, there are amazing opportunities for filmmakers today," says producer Kevin Chinoy, who, along with producing partner Frances..

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 ..

The Arsht Center celebrates leader John Richard’s decade of success

Photo: Haiti’s Ayikodans found a performing base at Miami’s Arsht Center after losing its studio to the earthquake; Daniel Azoulay.
Written by: Christine Dolen
Article Rating

M. John Richard has never hung back from the challenges that shape a life.

Not when a knee injury ended his dreams of playing football at Syracuse University.

Not when he was persuaded, at the age of 36, to leave his job as president and chief executive officer of New Jersey’s Childrens Specialized Hospital Foundation to lead a $187 million campaign to build the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark.

And not when he was recruited again, at 55, to leave his home state to become president and CEO of Miami’s Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts.

The move to Miami at the end of 2008 brought its own set of challenges.

Richard would become the third person to head the $472 million, Cesar Pelli-designed center since its opening in the fall of 2006. After its first season under president and chief executive officer Michael Hardy ended in the red, former Kennedy Center president Lawrence Wilker stepped in on an interim basis and began a turnaround that Richard would be expected to continue.Six weeks after Richard’s arrival, the Concert Association of Florida – one of the Arsht Center’s founding resident companies – folded, creating a major programming issue for the center’s 2,220-seat Knight Concert Hall.

Today? What a difference a decade makes.

Richard, whose leadership will be celebrated at the Arsht Center’s sold-out fundraising gala on Saturday, is planning to retire and regroup at the end of December. When he does, he’ll move on from a thriving arts institution with a $38 million annual budget, a center that has been in the black throughout his tenure.

Philanthropist Adrienne Arsht, founding chairman of the center’s foundation and a board member of both Washington D.C.’s Kennedy Center and New York’s Lincoln Center, has had a front-row seat during the Richard era at the center. If she were to review his performance, it would read very much like a rave.

“John came with such interest and enthusiasm. He built the center’s reputation,” says Arsht, whose $30 million donation in 2008 to the then-Carnival Center led to its renaming in her honor.“There are nights when every hall is filled to capacity. Museums and high-rises are as close as they can get. John made the Arsht the center of downtown…He is steady as he goes. He exercises leadership by doing the right thing. He walks the halls. He participates. He’s there.”

During the Richard era, hundreds of thousands of students – the audiences and artists of tomorrow – have had Arsht Center experiences, seeing free performances of the center-commissioned musicals “Rock Odyssey” and “Kitty Hawk;” attending summer arts camps including the nationally honored AileyCamp Miami, Camp Broadway and the PATH Hip Hop Summer Academy; taking in the music-spoken word event Piano Slam and City Theatre’s programming for kids; attending their high school graduations (there will be 17 of those this year).

Under Richard, the Arsht has offered a host of diverse arts series and annual events with now-familiar names, including the Knight Masterworks Concert Series (to replace the loss of the Concert Association lineup), the Knight Masterworks Dance Series, Broadway in Miami, Theatre Up Close, the Cleveland Orchestra in Miami, Jazz Roots, Live at Knight, City Theatre’s Summer Shorts, the Flamenco Festival, the Hispanic Theatre Festival, Miami Symphony Orchestra, free Gospel Sundays and more.

And three of its founding groups – Florida Grand Opera, Miami City Ballet and the New World Symphony – still showcase their art at the Arsht.

Intent on offering programming that is, as he says, “world-class and community-based,” Richard and his team have presented some of the world’s greatest artists and companies alongside the work of such homegrown arts groups as Zoetic Stage, which launched in the Arsht’s Carnival Studio Theater at the end of 2010 and this year earned more Carbonell Award nominations than any other theater company in South Florida.

What the Arsht’s support has meant to Zoetic, says managing director, cofounder and playwright Michael McKeever, is incalculable.

“John made it a mission to reach out and give a home to smaller regional performing arts groups,” McKeever says.“Not only is he a great advocate for the arts in this region, he’s one of the nicest guys you’ll ever run across. I presented our new season to the production team with John sitting in, and people were so enthusiastic. We’re so grateful.”

Richard initiated an even broader arts outreach after the devastating 2010 earthquake in Haiti, when the Arsht became a drop-off spot for disaster relief supplies.

Former Miami Herald world editor John Yearwood told Richard that Ayikodans, the acclaimed Haitian dance company led by founder-choreographer Jeanguy Saintus, had lost its studio in the disaster. Richard and others traveled to the Port-au-Prince area to meet Saintus and the company.

The Arsht Center brought Ayikodans to Miami to perform (it has since come back four times), and Richard helped raise funds to rebuild the studio in suburban Petion-Ville.The Arsht Center, Saintus writes on the company’s web site, is Ayikodans’ “home away from home.”

With the Arsht Center becoming as the anchor for an evolving arts-entertainment district, Richard played a key role in 2011 in establishing the nonprofit Town Square Neighborhood Development Corporation to oversee and advocate throughout development of the area surrounding the center.

That “Town Square” name is a nod to Richard’s youth in Newton, New Jersey, when running one of the country’s major performing arts centers was among the furthest things from his mind.

Born Morris John Richard in 1952 (he was named “Morris” for his paternal grandfather, “John” for his mother’s dad, but his parents always called him John), Richard remembers his small hometown – with its signature town square – as an idyllic place to grow up.His maternal grandmother lived next door, his paternal grandmother behind his family home, and he felt surrounded by “family, friends, love and business,” specifically his dad’s Richard Plumbing Supply.

Reaching a height of 6’4” as a teen, Richard was a self-described “jock” who played football, basketball and every other sport, with one brief showbiz detour in the chorus of Newton High’s production of “Guys and Dolls.”

His hopes of going to Syracuse were dashed when his knee was injured, but that proved to be a lucky twist of fate in two ways.When his draft number was called, he failed his physical because of his knee.

And at Midland University in Freemont, Nebraska, where he earned a degree in behavioral science and served as student body president, he met an occupational therapy student named Lynne and her identical twin Lisa. Lynne F. Richard, an assistant professor at Florida International University, has been married to her husband for 40 years. Their grown children, Aaron Richard and Rachel Rebollo, have made them grandparents three times over in the past three years.

Richard’s segue into the world of performing arts began when he was hired as the third employee tasked with turning the New Jersey Performing Arts Center from dream into reality.

“The idea was bigger than anything I ever imagined,” he says. “Building it in the shadows of the arts capital of the world, New York City, captured my imagination. They paid me well every day to learn on the job – about architect selection, land acquisition, building a board.It had to be for everyone. I knew it could be greater than a palace on the hill or a community center.”

Arriving in Miami with 19 years of experience in the field, Richard has exercised a leadership style that mixes high expectations with collaboration and support.Trish Brennan, the center’s vice president for human resources, says Richard will joke that he’s “managing by walking around.” But Suzette Espinosa Fuentes, the Arsht’s vice president of communication, says that’s actually true, noting that Richard deliberately strolls through the warren of Arsht offices each morning on his way in, stopping to talk and connect and question as he passes by.

Diversity in staff, programming and audiences has been a hallmark of Richard’s leadership, Brennan says.

“He’ll go to a performance and notice the tier leaders and the ushers, and he’ll remark on that,” she says. “With him, I’ve had a real partner and collaborator in diversity efforts.”

She adds that Richard is “a complex creature. That’s the secret to his sauce. He’s an amazingly compassionate person, and through his nature, he drives you to be better.”

Nationally prominent retired business executive Ira D. Hall, a member of the Performing Arts Center Trust for five years and its new chair, hails Richard’s commitment to diversity in “people, programming and points of view.”He also notes that the quality and longevity of the center’s diverse senior management team, some of whom predate Richard, are a testament to his leadership.

Among Richard’s key outside collaborators is Miami-Dade Public Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho.He has been in many an audience as more than 200,000 fifth graders have attended free performances of “Rock Odyssey” since 2010, and as more than 27,000 seventh graders traveled to the center last fall to take in “Kitty Hawk,” a Wright Brothers “STEAM” musical – an entertaining, educational piece involving science, technology, engineering, the arts and math.

“If there’s ever a clear indication of what wholistic education should look like, it’s what we’ve done with the Arsht Center,” Carvalho says. “Subjects that are usually taught in silos are brought together in a fun, inviting, rigorous and captivating way.That’s the magic of John Richard…He so gets this community.”

On Saturday, with the seating area of the Arsht’s Knight Concert Hall covered and transformed into a place for dining, dancing and an up-close view of the stage, the center’s leader will enjoy a rare moment in the spotlight.

With WPLG-Local 10’s Calvin Hughes hosting, Richard, his family and Arsht supporters will be entertained by Ann Hampton Callaway, Niki Haris, Clint Holmes, Ramsey Lewis, Shelly Berg and the Frost School of Music’s Henry Mancini Orchestra. The least expensive ticket was priced at $2,500, but proceeds from the evening will go to the center’s arts education and community engagement programs.

Richard has said that one thing he won’t miss about his job is the day-and-night, every day demands on his time.But the excitement of full houses? That still gets him every time.

“The arrival and departure scene of more than 4,000 people who come to our performances on nights when every theater is full, their energy, the socialization that happens in the live performing arts – I love it,” Richard says.

“My life in the arts was unexpected. I have a grand appreciation for getting to know creative types up close and personal, for being in their company and hearing their passion for what they do. Thinking creatively is so much more possible when you spend time with these people.Seeing the result of their effort, imagination and spirit of creativity come to life is intoxicating.”



Leave a comment...
Must be Logged in
No one logged in. Log in
Leave a comment...
Was this helpful?
No Very

Captcha Image

About The writer

Ira Sullivan has been a musician for a long time. His father, part of a large musical family, was in the restaurant business. But he played trumpet for fun and stored his horn behind the couch, Su..

The music of Thelonious Monk has been a source of endless fascination and with good reason. Monk’s universe has its own laws. Beautifully constructed and quirky, soulful but also paced by br..

The first time the Amernet performed “The Seven Last Words of Christ” during Holy Week – the week leading up to Easter -- the string quartet played in darkness. Just hours before, cellist Jas..

Drummer Dafnis Prieto and pianist Omar Sosa closed this year’s Global Cuba Fest at the Light Box in Wynwood, Miami, with shows on Friday and Saturday, March 16-17 that suggested a sort of mus..

Mention flamenco and the immediate associations are with dancing, singing and the guitar. The piano has a rather tentative history in flamenco. While some scholars include the instrument in p..

The ancient Japanese art of Taiko drumming comes to Miami this Friday, with Tao: Drum Heart, which premiered at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and has gone on to tour internationally, getting ..

It’s not by chance that the music of Cuban drummer, composer, educator and bandleader Dafnis Prieto unfolds with such purpose. An accidental immigrant in 1999 — he was living with ..

In the music of Las Cafeteras and Orkesta Mendoza, presented by Fundarte at the South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center Saturday, the border is no place for walls but rather, a moveable feast. ..

Performance Hall at New World Center was packed Saturday, Feb. 3 for the New Work program, which NWS conductor and artistic director Michael Tilson Thomas introduced as “one of the more adve..

"Nosotros sentimos, y pensamos que Jennifer y Carlos sienten igual, que Miami finalmente ha llegado a posicionarse como una verdadera ciudad cultural donde continuamente se presentan compañías imp..

El grupo de danza contemporánea Brazzdance dirigido por su fundador, el coreógrafo Augusto Soledade, se presentó el sábado 31 de marzo en el Carnival Studio Theatre del Arsht Center de Miami...

La undécima edición del Flamenco Festival que se desarrolló del jueves 8 al domingo 11 de marzo en el Arsht Center resultó ser un hermoso reencuentro con el Ballet Nacional de España (BNE), u..

Arts Ballet Theatre of Florida (ABTF) y su escuela de ballet adjunta, ambas bajo la dirección de Vladimir Issaev, se encuentran por estos días entregadas de lleno a la celebración del bicente..

El lugar privilegiado que ocupa Miami hoy en día en el mundo de la danza no tiene discusión. Además de contar con una vibrante oferta local de proyección internacional que dura todo el año y ..

Después de una serie de actuaciones muy exitosas en varias ciudades del Este del país, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater (AAADT) llega a Miami para ofrecer seis presentaciones del jueves 22 ..

La ofensiva espontánea protagonizada por BalletBoyz y Cie. Herve Koubi el fin de semana pasado en teatros de Fort Laudedarle y Miami, con dos propuestas artísticas absolutamente fuera de seri..

La atracción principal del tercer programa de la temporada 2017-2018 del Miami City Ballet (MCB) que se presentó el fin de semana pasado en el Arsht Center fue el estreno mundial de One Line ..

Llegados en vuelo directo desde Inglaterra, BalletBoyz (Premio Nacional de Danza 2013 a la Mejor Compañía Independiente) ofrecerá el sábado 10 de febrero una función patrocinada por Culture Shock ..