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

In South Florida, “Shorts” Fit Every Season


Photo: Jovon Jacobs loses some holiday spirit thanks to an angry Alex Alvarez in Winter Shorts; Photo credit: George Schiavone
Written by: Christine Dolen
Article Rating

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 Susan Westfall, Stephanie Norman and Elena Wohl has always had multifaceted programming – including works aimed at kids, an LGBTQ-themed program (most recently in conjunction with Island City Stage in Wilton Manors), a major playwrights’ conference – City Theatre is now becoming a more frequent presence on the region’s cultural radar.

That began in September with its production of Robert Schenkkan’s “Building the Wall,” just the second full-length play done by a company dedicated to presenting short comedies, dramas and musicals. It continues Dec. 7-23 with Winter Shorts, a collection of eight holiday-themed comedies with heart and, sometimes, a bit of darkness.

This isn’t the first time City has tried doing a shorts festival during Miami’s balmy winter. The company did one in December 1999, then again in February 2001, but it’s been awhile. The more frequent production activity, says founder Westfall, is due in part to the hiring of Margaret M. Ledford as fulltime artistic director.

“With the programming growing and new projects on the horizon…Margaret is a terrific choice to take us towards our upcoming 25th season,” says Westfall, who cites Ledford’s influence in the production of short musicals, the presentation of “Building the Wall” and, in collaboration with Westfall and administrator-manager Jessica Farr, taking commissioned short plays into middle schools.

“We do have new programming on the horizon, which we should be able to announce shortly,” Ledford says. “And we want to continue doing a third anchor of our season with a full-length, based on our relationship with the National New Play Network.”

But first, there’s Winter Shorts.

Ledford is directing four of the program’s plays, with Deborah Kondelik directing two, and Vanessa Elise and Ivan Lopez staging one each. All eight plays involve a holiday, Thanksgiving, New Year’s Eve and Valentine’s Day are there along with Christmas and Hannukah.

In Amanda Keating’s “this movie,” strangers encounter each other in a nearly empty movie theater on Thanksgiving Day, only to share an unexpected feast and some revelatory conversation. Sheri Wilner’s “The Miracle of Chanukah” features an extended family and an outsider redefining miracles. Ashley Lauren Rogers brings together a wish-granting elf and one surprising little girl in “Becky’s Christmas Wish.” In Patrick Gabridge’s “Santa Doesn’t Live Here Anymore,” a Santa-believing 30-year-old gets a big shock, as do Mom and Dad.

Mark Harvey Levine takes a hilarious look at Jesus’ birth in “Oy Vey Maria.”In Staci Swedeen’s “Feliz Navidad,” which was also part of the first Winter Shorts, a harried Anglo woman shopping for a special doll for her niece encounters a Spanish-speaking saleslady whose English is minimal at best, and much difficult communication ensues. In Gina Femia’s “Fly, Baby” two women contemplate a scary new year from their Brooklyn rooftop, as Santa and the Tooth Fairy look on.“Occupy Hallmark” by Cassie M. Seinuk features a raging, obviously inebriated guy who’s been dumped by his girlfriend of three years over a Valentine’s Day dispute.

The Winter Shorts acting company – Alex Alvarez, Dave Corey, Diana Garle, Jovon Jacobs, Rita Joe and Margot Moreland – is a diverse one that includes three performers of Hispanic descent and two black actors.

“The diversity of casting is very important,” says Ledford. “That is who we are in this city. We need to push the boundaries of the families we see onstage.”

The actors, all of whom have experience with one or more of City Theatre’s varied shorts programs, adore the necessarily hectic rehearsal process, the chance to jumpfrom character to character, and the tone Ledford brings to the rehearsal room.

“This is kamikaze theater. I love having to embody different characters, with different directors and actors. It’s going back to the roots of what I do,” says Moreland, who was in the Summer Shorts acting company for the festival’s first five seasons. “In this day and age, to have the levity of a short show with a little heart in it lets you escape. Which is exactly what this world needs.”

Garle, who was born in Mexico and raised in Miami by her mother’s Colombian family, starred in telenovelas as a kid and recently finished a run in GableStage’s acclaimed production of “The Humans” opposite Alvarez. She calls Winter Shorts “theater on steroids” and says the relatively short rehearsal period with its limited time for each play is “super exciting and challenging.”

Rita Joe moved to South Florida five years ago after working at Disney World and has appeared with a number of companies in the region. She admits to being thrilled at the chance to perform at the Arsht Center and to be part of a company of actors who are all new to her.

“I have been waiting to get inside this building,” she says. “I love the company. I feel I’m growing as an actor, and that I’m learning from seeing the others’ work ethic and process.”

Corey, who is returning to acting after retiring from a long radio career, credits the resurgence of “Saturday Night Live” in part for the renewed joy audiences feel when they see short plays; for him, being in Winter Shorts and being directed by Ledford “is the biggest holiday present.”

Alvarez agrees about Ledford’s directing skills.

“I hadn’t worked with her in awhile. You feel safe and taken care of.She knows what she wants, and she understands every beat of each play. I think she’s underappreciated here,” he says.

Adds Jacobs, “She knows how to color moments. She’s very vivid with her words and ideas.”

Ledford’s fellow directors are having their own fun working with short-form plays.

Kondelik, who retired after many years as a teacher and director at Broward College, says she finds it “thrilling to work with such fine actors.” Elise, an actor-director who has extensive experience with short plays via her work with companies including Microtheater Miami and the Fort Lauderdale Fringe Festival, believes that short plays help build and educate audiences, creating future audiences for full-length plays. Lopez, on the theater faculty at Florida International University, thinks short plays get a lot of attention and support, in part “because now people are used to quick stories.”

Though the plays in this third edition of Winter Shorts are mostly funny and relatively brief, most can and do have depth. Ledford cites “Fly, Baby,” which she’s directing.

“You have the two girls, then you have Santa and the Tooth Fairy show up.It’s tricky tonally to get right,” she says. “It makes me guffaw and weep. And it captures humanity so beautifully.”

City Theatre’s Winter Shorts Festival, Carnival Studio Theater in the Ziff Ballet Opera House at the Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, 1300 Biscayne Blvd., Miami; 7:30 p.m. Thursday-Friday, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, 4 p.m. Sunday (additional performance 7:30 p.m. Dec. 20), through Dec. 23. Cost:$39 to $54; 305-949-6722 or www.arshtcenter.org.

 


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

{module_webapps,16730,i,{tag_writer_id}}

When Brigid Baker heard that she was selected to compete for $20,000, she was excited and oddly shocked. The seasoned dancer, choreographer and fierce community activist isn’t exactly fond of grants. ..

An ambitious program that includes British choreographer Darshan Singh Bhuller's latest work and a classic from Martha Graham, plus ballet and jazz dances...

Like so much else when it comes to Haiti, clichés abound in our perceptions of its arts and culture. If it’s painting, then it must all be colorful and bright and in the naïve style! If it’s music, we..

The Austin Ballet performs the contemporary piece by Stephen Mills, part of a community and nation-wide humans rights initiative...

Film screening and workshop with Gabri Christa, presented by Tigertail Productions. The New York-based choreographer's workshop will address dance in film, following by her own films...

MCB starts the season with three dances: Balanchine's "Apollo," from 1928; Sir Frederick Ashton's "Les Patineurs" from 1937; and Paul Taylor's tango-tinged "Piazzolla Caldera"...

Does traditional dance have a place on the contemporary stage? Nuevo Ballet Español rendered the debate irrelevant at the Miami-Dade County Auditorium last weekend, boldly opening the 2012-13 MDC Live..

Danzon, choreographed by Yanis Pikieris; and Four Seasons, by Arts Ballet Maestro Vladimir Issaev, will lead the opening program, followed by Japanese Taiko and La Favorita, with music by Donizetti...

On Tuesday, Oct. 2, the 29th annual Festival Miami 2012 begins its five-week extravaganza through Nov. 4, featuring a wide spectrum of over 25 music concerts, lectures, and master classes. The event i..

This latest Haitian troupe to hit these shores combines traditional rural and urban dance with African drumming and classical ballet...

Lovers and fools. Power struggles. Madness. The 2012 race to the White House? Better than that. Opera. And this Saturday, Sept. 22, at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts’ Amaturo Theater, audi..

New York's Ensemble Pamplemousse, presented by the FETA Foundation mixes acoustic and electronic sounds, with visual gestures associated with performance...

The annual bash to highlight Tigertail's new season and have fun; music from Brazilian Forro, guitarist from Nu Flamenco Jose Luis Rodriguez and lots of performances. Also in memorial to Wynwood's pio..

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 ..