Even before the election that transformed billionaire reality TV star Donald J. Trump into the 45th president of the United States, playwright Robert Schenkkan was so disturbed by the candidate’s anti-immigrant rhetoric that he decided to respond. Not with a Tweet. Not with an opinion-page essay. The Pulitzer Prize winner spoke back to candidate Trump with a full-length play. “Building..
“Baño de Luna,” written and directed by Pulitzer-prize-winning playwright Nilo Cruz and presented by Arca Images and the Miami-Dade County Auditorium, marks the debut of the Spanish-language version of “Bathing in Moonlight,” the original English production that debuted at the prestigious McCarter Theatre Center in Princeton, N.J., in 2016. Performed by a stellar cast in Spanish..
Rafael Nofal’s play “El tiempo de la mandarinas” (“Season for Tangerines”) tackles the very relevant and disturbing theme of human trafficking. Produced by Antiheroes Project, this moving play is in its last week at Artefactus Teatro, a well-purposed black box and gallery space in a smattering of warehouses in Kendall. Nofal’s text removes overt violence and male characters fr..
Joshua Harmon’s savagely funny “Bad Jews” is an emotional cage match set in a pricey Manhattan studio apartment. The combatants are Daphna Feygenbaum (Hannah Benitez), a soon-to-be Vassar grad who plans to move to Israel, marry a man no one in the family has met and become a rabbi, and her cousin Liam Haber (Joseph Paul Pino), a master’s degree candidate and atheist who intends to..
The play begins, as it must, with the velvet voice of Nat King Cole crooning “Mona Lisa.” After all, how many paintings inspire an Oscar-winning song? For that matter, how many masterpieces survive damage, theft and the rapacious covetousness of collectors for more than half a millennium? Leonardo da Vinci’s “La Gioconda,” popularly known as the Mona Lisa, is that inspi..
A casual conversation with a fellow theater artist prompted José Manuel Dominguez, founder and artistic director of Antiheroes Project, to produce the company’s latest piece, “El tiempo de las mandarinas,” (“Season for Tangerines”) by Argentine playwright Rafael Nofal. “I am drawn to themes of memory, dreams, and paradise lost, but for a long time I’ve wanted to do a play based on reality,” sa..
The 32nd International Hispanic Theatre Festival kicks off on Thursday, July 6 with the Mexican company Los Tristes Tigres’ irreverent spin on Shakespeare, “Algo de un tal Shakespeare” (“Something by One Shakespeare”). Founder and director Mario Ernesto Sánchez, the festival’s engine that could and still can, identifies this raucous play as part of the festival’s larger goal of attracting..
Nowadays, it’s tough not to feel worried, paranoid or in need of some escapist relief from the steady flow of oh-no-he-didn’t news out of Washington. Miami playwright Theo Reyna feels your pain. His response is “Firemen Are Rarely Necessary,” a jet-black satire now getting its Mad Cat Theatre Company world premiere at Miami Theater Center’s Sand Box. The play takes intricately aim..
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..
Orlando Taquechel, dance critic for two decades at the El Nuevo Herald (and now a contributor to Artburst), will have a book signing and discussion of his new book, “La danza in Miami (1998-..
The name Flamenco conjures the machine-gun snap of heels, arms arched overhead, the flick of red fabric and laser-like glares from beneath the starched black brim of a Cordobes hat. At the ed..
It’s easy to believe the only excitement Miami offers in September are the dire warnings from the weather service about the approach of yet another tropical storm. However, dance lovers in M..
Watching Neri Torres rehearse is a study in focus and concentration. She demonstrates each step with an ease developed from years of immersion in the study and performance of Afro-Cuban ..
Miami-based organization Delou Africa has been the ambassador of African dance and drumming in South Florida for the last 30 years. It started as a performing company, and has since expanded..
Miami Beach’s old city hall on a Thursday evening in June made a surreal set up for anyone familiar with tango’s broody scene -- a large cozy room full of cheerful, laughing, and smiling..
When Ballet Flamenco La Rosa takes to the stage this weekend, it will present a program based on traditions which were handed down through the ages. A program filled with the mysteries of fl..
With every great new love, the beginning is a crucible of extremes – will it endure for decades or permanently scar?The program for Dimensions Dance Theater of Miami’sJuly 8show, “Fiebre: A N..
With a heightened emphasis on “Noise” as an innovative musical genre, this sixth installment of the Miami Performance Festival International (M/P’17), running June 23 to 25, challenges South..
Half way through his set at the North Beach Bandshell, singerDavid Crosby, 75, who has been to a festival or two in his illustrious career, paused between songs to reflect: “How about this festival? Some of my favorite musicians in the world are playing here this weekend,” he exulted. “It’s been fantastic!”
And that was just Friday night. It’s hard to imagine what he would’ve said Sunday night.
The GroundUp Music Festival was that good.
Produced byGroundUp Music, the label created by Michael League, leader and bass player of the multiple Grammy winning genre-crossing bandSnarky Puppy, the ambitious event included two stages featuring alternating performances, an after-concert program at the Deauville Hotel, workshops and talks and a setting that included food stands and hammocks. For the festival, GroundUp Music collaborated with local entities such as The Rhythm Foundation (which manages and programs the North Beach Bandshell), the University of Miami’s Frost School of Music (which closed its Festival Miami with performances at the Bandshell and the Park stage), the City of Miami Beach, and the Miami Beach Visitor and Convention Authority, which contributed some funding.
“I like to reach out and find ways to involve the local community organizations. I think it's important that we all support each other,” said Paul Lehr, GroundUp’s executive director and the former executive director of YoungArts. “My intention has always been that this would be an annual event in Miami. I hope it really gets embraced by the community.” As it turns out Lehr discover Snarky Puppy through his son and brought League to speak at Young Arts. That started a relationship that in time resulted in Lehr’s joining the fledging label. He estimated that “because of the enormous following of Snarky […] we have 50 percent of the people coming from out of the state and 16 percent of that is coming from outside the country. Just for the festival.”
According to the organizers the final tally was about 3,000 tickets for the 3 days. There were attendees from 34 different countries, about 1,700 tickets were bought by people from Florida, of which about 510 were bought by Miami and Miami Beach residents.
Not surprisingly, given the tone set by League and Snarky Puppy, and the participation of several GroundUp Music artists, the program of the Festival didn’t so much cross musical genres but simply ignored dividing lines. It included Crosby (who recorded his most recent album with League) but also the excellent Sacred Steel-and-funk bandThe Lee Boyswith master pedal steel guitarist Roosevelt Collier, a Florida treasure; Brazilian flutistCarlos Maltaand his Pife Muderno band and also guitaristsCharlie HunterandAaron Lebos; Cuban percussionist and singerPedrito Martinez, singer and songwriterEmily Estefan, British soul singerLaura Mvulaand one-man-bandJacob Collier.
And lest you take yourself a bit wee too seriously, there was a set byDerek Smalls& The Bottom Feeders, the last final evening at the Deauville Hotel. Smalls, aka Harry Shearer, was the pipe smoking bass player of the almost great, sort of lamented British band Spinal Tap. Sunday night,Smalls revisited old Tap's hits such as "Break Like The Wind," "Hellhole" and "Sex Farm," playing them loud and with great enthusiasm.The rest of his band looked and sounded suspiciously like members of Snarky Puppy in various degrees of [rock] dress code violations. Smalls respected head banger tradition and appeared as if preserved nearly intact from the 80s, even if his hair and distinctive sideburns/mustache are now white.
Remarkably, not only did the trains run on time (an achievement given Miami’s loose concept of punctuality) but the whole spirit of the Festival was one of low key, mix-and-match collaboration, perhaps best embodied by bassist and singer Esperanza Spalding, who as “Artist in Residence” sat in with different groups and artists throughout the weekend.
“You don’t know how rare this is,” said Spalding from the Park Stage, where she and singer and songwriter Becca Stevens turned a performance into an impromptu songwriting master class. “To have an event like this, [with people who] treat fellow musicians with respect and love and honor, and to have a cross-pollination from the ground up… it’s soamazing.”
Musically, there were many memorable moments. Snarky Puppy anchored the program every evening and it was, consistently, a highlight of the day. This is a loose-limbed, large ensemble that one moment can suggest a 21stcentury big band, and without missing a beat morph into a loose Afro-Beat orchestra; or, in the span of one set, allude to Frank Zappa, Brazilian samba, Middle Eastern music, Hermeto Pascoal, blues, New Orleans second lining and Weather Report, all metabolized, without pretention, in a distinct, original sound.
Accompanied by a quartet comprising League, Becca Stevens and Michelle Willis (enlarged on two songs by Spalding who played bass and sang), Crosby was mesmerizing. His expressive singing, the vocal harmonies and the songwriting remain translucent and affecting after all these years. He turned the Bandshell into a living room. With a new record out and in a no-nonsense mood, he was clearly not about to wallow in nostalgia. And then, without sentimentality or special introductions, he revisited "Deja Vu" and "Woodstock." The songs were older than most of the people in the audience and thus probably, for many of them, just another couple of nice tunes. But for the graybeards in attendance, this became a gasp, I-can't-believe-I'm-hearing-this-live moment.
Sunday, the day started with stirring sets by The Lee Boys with Roosevelt Collier and Brazilian flutist Malta and his Pife Muderno ensemble. It was an unkind scheduling for The Lee Boys who started playing at noon before a small audience. It didn't matter. The Boys played and sang with the grace, sense of purpose and passion of ministers preaching to unbelievers. And if that blast of energy was not enough, Malta and his group showed that you don’t actually need to plug in to electrify an audience.
Their performance included a triangle solo, a feature with a quartet ofpandeiros(hand held drums), virtuoso flute playing and ended with the band marching down the stage to play among the audience. Suddenly the Bandshell became a neighborhood plaza in a town in Brazil.
Snarky Puppy closed the Festival at the Bandshell with a final set that had a bit of everything -- strong tunes; tight, purposeful soloing; inspiring guests (including Spalding, Chris Thile, Mata and Pedrito Martinez) and a moment to share the group’s joy for winning their third Grammy.
The celebratory mood was a perfect bow wrapping up the three-day event.
"It's the first time we’ve done something like this," said Puppy's mastermind League, as he thanked their collaborators from the stage. “I don’t know how they did it. We just play.”
Whatever League, GroundUp Music and their collaborators did, here’s for them to do it again here at the Bandshell.
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