David Arisco of the Actors' Playhouse Takes a Look Back at Miami's 2011 Theatre Scene

Categories: Lists
1.Hairspray cast photos by Alberto Romeu.jpg
As 2011 comes to an end, we're getting all nostalgic about the great moments in Miami culture that took place over the past year. And we know we're not alone. So we've asked some of Miami's top artists, writers, film producers and other cultural geniuses about their favorite 2011 memories.

Actors' Playhouse artistic director David Arisco played a big role in Miami's 2011 theatre scene -- literally. Filling the scuffed laundry lady shoes and triangular-cupped size E bra once worn by notorious drag queen Divine in John Waters' cult classic Hairspray, Arisco cut a hilarious silhouette at the Miracle Theatre as Edna Turnblad opposite charmingly cheesy and comparatively diminutive Avi Hoffman who played husband Wilbur in Miami's musical stage version of the film. He also directed the show, not to mention August: Osage County, named Best Play of 2011 by New Times.

So Arisco is a big man on campus in the ever-evolving Miami arts scene. It turns out that he's so busy making culture in our town that he rarely gets to take shows outside the Actors' Playhouse. "I get so immersed in my own culture, it's hard to know what's going on with everybody else's," he said. Still, he had a few things to say about the year in review with regard to our city's performing arts scene.

August Osage County.jpg
New Times: What were some of the defining moments for the performing arts in Miami in 2011?
David Arisco: For me personally, August: Osage County and Hairspray are two high-water marks in the year.

I think another top moment for Miami's theatre was the creation of the Zoetic Stage theatre company. Mike McKeever and Chris Demos-Brown are two playwrights driving the company, and I think that's a real plus for the future. It's different. So many companies are totally driven by artistic directors that are directors. Stuart Meltzer is the artistic director of that company and he certainly is a driving member of it, but two of the principal members are playwrights and local playwrights, and I find that to be something unique. I thought Captiva was a great production.

What else stood out about Miami theatre this year?
To me, I think sometimes we don't say enough about the New World School of the Arts. I happen to have a son that graduated from the high school. And I just want to give a shout out to their programming and what they do. I think last year they did an amazing couple of projects. The people that work there, the teachers, who are also actors in our community and directors, I just think it's a real gem to have here in the community.

I think that the Broadway series being at the Arsht Center is giving the Broadway series a higher profile than I remember it had when it was on the beach. I think the marketing they're doing and the shows they're bringing in have been pretty exemplary.

And I can always give a shout out to my friend Joe Adler over there at GableStage, for that fantastic production of Red.

spring awakening.jpg
New World College's Spring Awakening
So in summary...
I think, amazingly, the work that's being done is better than ever. That doesn't mean that audiences know that. And it doesn't mean that audiences have the discretionary income to be taking in enough culture. The Broadway series is selling out, but there's empty seats at New World, and Actors' Playhouse, and Zoetic, and GableStage. And as much as we are very appreciative of the audience that we have -- and I want to make that real clear, because I really am appreciative of all the support and the sponsors and the audience that we have -- but it's been a struggle this year, financially. But I don't think it's been a struggle artistically.

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