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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 ..

Steven Levenson’s “If I Forget” began its Off-Broadway run a year ago, closing just six weeks before the now 33-year-old playwright won the Tony Award for writing the book of the acclaimed musical “Dear Evan Hansen.” Cut to February 2018, and South Florida already has its own exquisite production of “If I Forget,” thanks to GableStage artistic director Joseph Adler. Levenson’s fun..

In a career that continues to soar two decades after his first play was produced, Michael McKeever has premiered his dramas, comedies and short plays at theaters all over South Florida. Nearly always, he’s involved in those productions as the author, sometimes as an actor, at times as a set designer. The plays get their start here, then go on to productions (sometimes multiple product..

When M. John Richard decided to leave the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in late 2008 to become president and chief executive officer of Miami’s Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, he arrived in South Florida with a vision, myriad ideas and a long-term exit strategy. “I knew in 2008 that I had a 10-year run in my tank,” says Richard, 65, who plans to retire from his Arsh..

Friendships can bring seemingly unlike people together to sometime form a strong bond. Such is the case in Walter Dean Myers’ coming of age novel, Darius & Twig. According to the summary notes of the book “Two best friends, a writer and a runner, deal with bullies, family issues, social pressures, and their quest for success coming out of Harlem.” It’s a tale of endurance, perseverance, an..

Kristoffer Diaz’s searing, hilarious and all-too-resonant play “The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity” isn’t new to South Florida. The 2009 script, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, made its area debut in 2012 in a fierce and fine production at Boca Raton’s Caldwell Theatre Company just a few months before the long-running regional powerhouse folded. Now “Chad Deity” has ret..

“This is no camera, nothing cut. This is real," says Tranee Wallace, whose story is one of three live radio plays in Dan Froot and Company's "Pang!" at Miami Light Project's Light Box at the Goldman Warehouse. Hers is one of a triptych of oral histories adapted into plays of families facing adversity: A Los Angeles single mom who loses the home she and her nine children live in after..

When it comes to farces, Michael Frayn’s “Noises Off” is one of the great ones. The 1982 comedy has made it to Broadway three times, and American audiences all over the country have embraced it in countless regional productions. Actors’ Playhouse is having a go at “Noises Off” as the second show of its 30th anniversary season. The play fits like a period glove on the main stage at the..

The intricate alchemy of inspired theatrical art is on full display in Zoetic Stage’s darkly hilarious, gripping world premiere of Christopher Demos-Brown’s “Wrongful Death and Other Circus Acts.” Demos-Brown, a rising theatrical star whose play “American Son” will open on Broadway in November, has drawn on his experience as a lawyer working on wrongful death cases to create a savage exami..

My Barbarian wanted to take Miami on a boat ride. “We wanted to interact and be out in the public,” Alex Segade reveals over the phone from Los Angeles, where he just got out of rehearsal for My Barbarian’s first Miami show, coming up this Saturday at the Miami Light Project, as part of Miami-Dade College’s Museum of Art and Design’s “Living Together” performance series this season. ..

When the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater returns to town this week, Miami native son Jamar Roberts will take center stage. As one of the company’s star dancers, he has long shined as a performer. B..

He says his dance comes from his dreams. French-Algerian choreographer Hervé Koubi’s most recent work, “What the Day Owes the Night” combines Sufi rhythms with cutting edge b-boy moves, class..

A world premiere always comes with a drum roll. And, throughout the years, Miami City Ballet has brought to light its fair share of resounding new works. Still, Brian Brooks’ freshly-minted O..

Wednesday night at the Arsht Center’s Knight Concert Hall the South Florida Symphony Orchestra in collaboration with the Martha Graham Dance company presented “Appalachian Spring Suite” and “The R..

Cooking may be Dan Froot’s favorite thing. This is saying a lot since Froot is also a composer, a dancer, a sax-player, a play-wright, an oral-historian -- an all-around performance artist an..

With the closing of Tigertail Productions last year, Miami lost one of its preeminent artistic champions. Under the direction of founder Mary Luft, Tigertail brought an endless parade of boundary-..

Anytime would be a good time to devote a dance program to the works of Jerome Robbins, our most versatile and celebrated American-born choreographer. But, given that 2018 marks the centennial..

Due to winter storms in the Northeast impacting travel, with great regrets the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company announced the cancellation of the Saturday, Jan. 6 performance. At age..

It is fitting at this time of the year that our thoughts often turn to what connects us not what divides us. Whether we are driven by religious or secular motives, many of us are in the spiri..

Leave the Box Behind – New World Symphony’s ‘New Work’ Shatters Genres

Photo: Photo Gregory Reed
Written by: Sean Erwin
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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 adventurous programs” performed by the New World Symphony during their season.

Adventurous was an understatement for an out-of-the-box evening where music contended for pride of place with poetry, theater and cinema.

The program opened with selections from “Glimpse of the Big Picture,” a world premiere composed by Thomas. In the first selection – Whitsett Avenue: Sunset Soliloquy (1963) – Thomas described an experience he had as a young man practicing piano in his parent’s living room where he would feel his hands having different spirits. The left hand behaved lyrically like a cello solo; his right hand scampered like a fractured village over the keys.On occasion the two came together in a gentle duet.

Then began a piano solo played with nuance by New World fellow, John Wilson, where the keyboard and pianist’s hands were simultaneously projected on the main sail of the hall.

First Wilson laid down a muted, improvisational theme in the left hand that the right hand, discordant and percussive, interrupted.If the left hand nurtured and held to a melody line, the right hand eschewed melody altogether for rapid shifts and bursts of notes. Gradually the two hands reached an accord and a balanced, lush counterpoint emerged.

Auction Dream (1977) followed. In this spoken word piece Thomas described a dream he had while living in New York where he found himself at an auction where clients bid on odd objects like Millard Fillmore’s sled. Thomas’ dream narration supplemented by projections on the hall’s sails created the sensation of being in a Richard Linklater film. The narrative ends with Thomas the winner of a lot he didn’t bid on, owing a million dollars for a perfect blue sapphire holding “new frontiers, promise and desire.”

“Glimpse of the Big Picture” closed with Lope (2012), a piece inspired by Thomas’ walks with his dogs through a sensory rich environment. Five xylophones laid out rich cadences in this off-time piece whose surprising counterpoints performed like a transformational engine for rhythm, shifting from one complex sequence to the next.Inventive, Lope surprised from start to finish and was the highlight of Saturday’s program.

The evening’s second world premiere was a one-act play, “The Inherent Sadness of Low Lying Areas" by playwright by Christopher Hall with director Kel Haney, where we watch a retired poetry professor – Mitch, interpreted with solid comic timing by actor Joel Leffert – struggle with acute symptoms of PTSD.

In Inherent Sadness New World musicians Elizabeth Lu (flute), Roman Yearian (violin), Alan Ohkubo (cello), Michael Daley (percussion and sound effects), and Elizabeth Dorman (piano) act the parts of Mitch’s psychological triggers.

For instance, the piece begins with Mitch asleep on stage and Lu transitioning between rich dark tones to blowing air into Mitch’s ear. She even stoops to occasionally whisper words to him, her actions visually deepening Mitch’s mental distress.

In what follows, Mitch cycles through a phalanx of coping routines from controlled breathing and jumping jacks to a mammoth bottle of medication, a haunting image given the current national opioid epidemic.

Later we meet Helga, played provocatively by June Ballinger and entirely believable as Mitch’s ex-wife. Shocked by his condition, Helga attempts to impress on Mitch how far he has sunk: “11:30 in the morning and you are in your bathrobe and drinking bourbon from a zip lock bag.”

We learn that Helga left Mitch because she could not handle his “orchestra,” his triggers that became so real to them both that Helga would order them pizzas.

At times the dialogue felt copied verbatim from the latest edition of the DSM.Still, “Inherent Sadness ” constructs Mitch’s prison so methodically that when Helga finally drags Mitch out into the park (and Mitch calms down enough to breath) the effect is cathartic for actor and audience both.


Then followed “Miami in Movements,” the orchestral product of Project 305 and a yearlong collaboration between composer Ted Hearne, filmmaker Jonathan David Kane and NWS that generated a city symphony based on video and sound recordings submitted by Miami residents.

The symphony opened to the first of six movements – Out of the swamp and strong visuals of the Everglades, birds and wildlife warming to a South Florida sunrise. When “Miami in Movements”premiered in October the orchestra seemed challenged to blend the orchestral score with film elements that included cries of tropical birds, traffic horns on I-95, the clank and pound of downtown construction and musical sequences sourced from the city’s diverse musical traditions.

On Saturday, the effect was different – film elements and orchestra gelled powerfully.

Often Kane’s film-work was spectacular. Images of carnival costumes, piles of coconuts on Calle Ocho, and the sea itself as an ever-encroaching wall of water enveloped the hall.


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About The writer

Sean Erwin is a writer and assistant professor of Philosophy at Barry University, with a focus on aesthetics and contemporary french philosophy.
Sean Erwin is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Barry University and received his Masters and Doctorate in Philosophy from Vanderbilt. He has presented and published on topics in political philosophy, Italian and French philosophy, and technology and performance studies. He currently serves as the senior editor of the Humanities and Technology Review.

Erwin is also a performance critic for Artburst, with performance previews and reviews appearing regularly there and in other South Florida publications. Artburst gives him the platform to critique the aesthetic principles he writes on as a professional philosopher through analysis of the concrete movements embodied by performers.

He is also an accomplished dancer and teacher in the Argentine Tango community. In 2000 he founded and served as editor of the Chicago webzine, Tango Noticias, a specialty dance periodical dedicated to examining Argentine Tango as a set of social practices rooted to the Southern cone’s history, politics, and culture.

Since his move to South Florida, he has both taught philosophy and served as a principal tango instructor for the Miami-based, Shimmy Club, a non-profit program that teaches Argentine Tango to vision-impaired teens. Through his involvement with the program, Erwin has been featured in articles and several news outlets including Univision, Telemundo, NBC News, KPFK Los Angeles, and the Miami Herald. For more information, see


About the Writer

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