Theater / Film
It’s a first: Miami Light Project’s ‘Here and Now’ in new Miami Shores space
Arsimmer McCoy’s “I’m So Depressed,” a poetry-driven stage play, is one of five original works in Miami Light Project’s “Here and Now: 2023” at Miami Theater Center, Miami Shores. (Photo courtesy of Miami Light Project)
After a 13-year run at The Light Box at Goldman Warehouse in Miami, Miami Light Project moved in January to the Miami Theater Center in Miami Shores. From Thursday, May 11 to Saturday, May 13, its signature commission program, “Here & Now: 2023” will kick off performances in its new home.
Letty Bassart, Darius Daughtry, Carlos Fabián, Gentry George, and Arsimmer McCoy are featured in individual original works for the 2023 program.
Beth Boone, artistic and executive director of Miami Light Project, says that she is looking forward to this year’s “Here and Now” performances, particularly since this will be the first at their new location. She says that the move has been a good one.
“Miami Theater Center is a 330-seat proscenium theater. It has wonderful options connected to it, which is the way we’re using it. The configuration we’re using for ‘Here and Now’ . . . is an on-stage black box.” She explains: “. . . You close the main curtain, you do your sets on stage, and you’ve got a black box theater.”
There’s also the storefront space next door, which is part of the center.
“We have a rehearsal studio, which is where we do our year-round artists’ residency program. It’s where the artists for ‘Here and Now’ rehearse.”
“Here and Now” began in 1999 as a way to commission multi-media artists in South Florida. Participants receive free rehearsal space, technical assistance, and mentoring.
“We typically give a commission to between four and six artists on an annual basis but this year, five was the magic number in terms of the projects that rose to the top for our panel.”
Boone said audiences will find this year’s pieces multi-layered.
“We have a certain criterion and what I find particularly moving about all of the work is that it’s deeply personal and, at the same time, they’re tackling big ideas or big issues,” says Boone. “We’ve all been through a lot in recent years and I think artists, perhaps better than anyone else, are able to distill the human experience into something on stage that helps us to feel a sense of safety or outrage or conviction. I think you really will see that this year in the work.”
A range of ideas are explored including “Reverie in Black” by Daughtry, which is a thoughtful combination of theater, music, and spoken word poetry. Fabian tackles detachment, identity, and sensibility in the second chapter of “Ruminations” through his “Towards Now” production, which is a series of short theatrical vignettes. And Bassart’s “Here, Now” with Daniel Bernard Roumain is largely an exercise in faith.
“Trust is really the heart of this duet,” says Bassart. “It’s an improvisational performance. I will be engaging with (Roumain’s) music for the first time during the live performance.”
Bassart notes that the piece is taking the duo in a new direction.
“We’ve collaborated on multiple projects but this will be the first time we have performed in this format. It’s about a larger ethos. It’s really taking a chance on something and trusting in the process and seeing what materializes in that risk. To engage in something so raw and vulnerable, and to do it in Miami it really raises the stakes even more so.”
The nakedness of emotions, the role of fear, and triumphs achieved through pain and loss, are prominent themes in McCoy’s “I’m So Depressed” stage play.
A string of cataclysmic changes forced her to reevaluate everything, she says.
“Prior to the pandemic, I began a separation from my (now) ex-husband and that in itself was one thing to deal with. To then move into the apocalypse, which is how I viewed the pandemic . . . grappling with the world, and people having to go into isolation, my own personal family and not being able to be near them. My parents are older. They’re in their 70s and so the fear of me going out or walking into their home and harming them. The fear of my daughter, who was young at the time, not being able to go to school, her having a mask, and the world in flux.”
She says the genesis of the piece begins with isolation.
“It starts with me being alone for a couple of months. I was grieving. I was grieving and trying to organize myself in the midst of grief.”
Also born during the pandemic is Gentry George’s “Afro Blue,” which embodies movement to produce his body of work.
“You know, we had hours and hours with ourselves,” says George. “This work was done during the pandemic when I happened to come across some of this music.”
He said the program is rooted in the jazz standard “Afro Blue,” which was composed by Mongo Santamaria, and then later interpreted by many artists including vocalist Abbey Lincoln.
George says “Afro Blue” is part of a series he created entitled ‘Roots and Rhythms’ that celebrates Black musical icons in the 20th century.
Through the work, George hopes the audience leaves feeling uplifted.
“I want to share a message of love, joy, and diversity. We’re celebrating music. We’re celebrating the legacy of these great artists and how that relates to our stories and how that relates to all of us. Most importantly, this is a celebration of music, life, art and dance.”
George says that, for him, “Here and Now” is an opportunity for which he’s been waiting in the wings.
“I would walk by the Miami Light Project all the time just hoping that I could be there one day. To be welcomed to create this work, it feels really quite motivating. It feels quite special. It feels like I’m on the right track and it is so worthwhile.”
Boone says his reaction is exactly what “Here and Now” is about.
“By investing modest amounts of money incrementally over time, without fail, year in and year out, what you do is move the needle in a community in terms of how it is you create an artistic scene. A place where artists feel that they can live, feel that they can do work, feel that they can progress in their profession, and that is the very essence and goal of the program.”
WHAT: Miami Light Project’s “Here and Now: 2023″
WHERE: Miami Theater Center, 9806 NE 2nd Ave, Miami Shores
WHEN: 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, May 11, 12 and 13
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