Knight Arts Challenge 2015 Kicked Off This Week at Gramps

Photo by Monica McGivern
Tuesday night in Wynwood, interested possible applicants, proud previous winners, and engaged Miamians gathered at Gramps for the Knight Arts Challenge Kickoff event, sponsored by Infraculture.

A major funding project of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Knight Arts Challenge awarded $2.29 million to 47 projects last year to help grow and improve the arts scene in South Florida.

See also: Knight Arts Challenge Winners Announced: Exile Books, Weird Miami, and More

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Miami Director Brings a Painter's Eye to the Third Annual One-Minute Play Festival

Courtesy of The Deering Estate
Hannah Citrin, Casey Dressler, Jose Elosegui, Desiree Mora, and Adam Simpson perform at this weekend's One Minute Play Festival
There's a thin line between painting and directing. Both inherently visual mediums, painting and directing can often inform each other. Vincent Gallo, Steve McQueen, and Jean Cocteau all had their creative starts in the visual arts, before moving on to direct plays and films. For local playwright Wendy White, the transition from abstract expressionist painter to director was practically seamless.

This weekend, White injected a local's dose of reality to The Third Annual One-Minute-Play Festival, at the Deering Estate. The event showcased over 70 original short vignette-like plays from 30 different local playwrights. The New Times sat down with White, as she rehearsed a small band of actors for the festival at her gallery and workspace located in Wynwood's GAB Studio.

See also: Choir Boy: A Miami Take on a High School Musical

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Choir Boy: A Miami Take on a High School Musical

Photo by George Schiavone
As GableStage prepares for the opening of Choir Boy, its fourth Tarell Alvin McCraney production in as many seasons, artistic director Joseph Adler can't stop himself from talking about the playwright and Miami native.

"I've known him since he was in high school at New World, and I've watched his career. You hear the term 'meteoric rise' very often, but it's never been more apt," Adler says. "He's received great reviews and awards, many of them carrying cash, [but] he hasn't changed at all. He still doesn't drive a car. He's one of the only people I know who can get around Miami on a bicycle or bus. And he's never late for an appointment!"

See also: Billy Corben's Dawg Fight Premieres at Miami International Film Festival 2015

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The Star-Spangled Girl at Mad Cat Theatre: An Alienated Neil Simon Clunker

Photo by Paul Tei
Did Mad Cat's Paul Tei select Neil Simon's The Star-Spangled Girl despite the fact that it's a bad play or because of it?

This is an unusual question to ponder when attending a play, but Mad Cat operates on a different plane of reality from most companies, a headspace so meta that most conventional considerations of a show's "goodness" or "badness" seem almost irrelevant. Mad Cat's self-reflexive, screwball remix of Simon will likely be one of the most original and, yes, unforgettable plays you'll experience this year. But, using any number of rubrics to analyze it, it's a mountain away from a good play.

See also: South Floridian Mykal Laury Dances His Way Through Lion King

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South Floridian Mykal Laury Dances His Way Through Lion King

Photo via Wikimedia Commons
A gray corset-like dress with yellow stripes is worn by a muscular man. Adorning his arms are yellow feathers, giving him the appearance of a bird in flight as he moves gracefully. On this dancer's head are three bird puppets, held up by a metal pole.

Gliding across the stage, this birdman commands the rapt attention of the audience. It's a moment full of power, a dance number that excites even the performer himself.

As a swing performer for the traveling production of Disney's The Lion King, Mykal Laury can probably perform the entire show on his own, though his favorite number will always be the birdman dance. Trying to describe the sensation he feels during that number, he stumbles, pauses, and lets out a sigh: "I just love it."

See also: Womanizer, Bus Driver, Doper, Zen Teacher -- Teo Castellanos' Life Is in His Plays

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Rent Debuts in Cuba, First Broadway Musical Staged In 50 Years

Photo via Wikimedia Commons
Rent at David Nederlander Theatre in Manhattan, New York City
Fifteen Cuban actors took to a Havana stage Wednesday night and belted out some familiar songs: One Song Glory, La Vie Bohème, and Seasons of Love. The songs are probably familiar to any Broadway enthusiast, they're all from the Pulitzer-winning musical Rent. Staging a performance of Rent might not seem like a big deal - the play is so familiar that it's regularly performed in American high schools - but in Cuba, where Broadway musicals were banned after the Revolution, it signals a turning point in the country's approach to arts. It might also be an indicator of what the Cuban arts scene might look like as the country and the United States renew relationships.

See also: Womanizer, Bus Driver, Doper, Zen Teacher -- Teo Castellanos' Life Is in His Plays

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Murders, Whales, and Chekhov Remixed: The Best Miami Theater of 2014

Photo by George Schiavone
Jade Wheeler and Avi Hoffman in Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike
It says a lot that Tarell Alvin McCraney's radical reinterpretation of Antony and Cleopatra -- a GableStage coproduction with New York's Public Theater and the UK's Royal Shakespeare Company, and a play anticipated for more than a year -- wasn't the best or second-best or even third-best work GableStage produced in 2014.

Accomplished as it was in its conception and follow-through, Antony is a faint memory now, a leadoff batter paving the way for the powerhouse sluggers. From May through December, the Coral Gables theater delivered one masterpiece after another, selecting the best material of any company in the region and then producing scintillating, extraordinarily acted renditions that stimulated the brain, touched the heart, tickled the funny bone, and clobbered the gut.

See also: Womanizer, Bus Driver, Doper, Zen Teacher -- Teo Castellanos' Life Is in His Plays

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Miracle on South Division Street: A Fine Cast Translates Middling Holiday Humor

Actors' Playhouse has an identity crisis. How else do you explain the emotional whiplash induced by its programming every year? This is a theater torn between cutting-edge drama and milquetoast comedy, between shows that push its audience in new directions and ones that reward passive complacency.

Two seasons ago, it followed the powerful one-two punch of Other Desert Cities and In the Heights with the limp slapstick and pandering populism, respectively, of The Fox on the Fairway and Rated P... for Parenthood; last season, the cerebral and literary Scott & Hem in the Garden of Allah paved the way toward another doggedly unchallenging comedy potpourri, Mid-Life 2 (The Crisis Continues).

See also: The Nutcracker Makes Its Way Around Miami's Ballets

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Knight Arts Challenge Winners Announced: Exile Books, Weird Miami, and More

Courtesy of KWAHS
The Custom House Museum in Key West. The Key West Art and Historical Society received the Knight Arts Challenge People's Choice Award this year.
The Knight Foundation announced its Arts Challenge winners this week, awarding 47 projects that will share in $2.29 million. To qualify, the projects must be about art, must take place in or benefit Miami, and the winners must find funds to match the Knight grant within a year.

Out of nearly 1,200 applications, the 2014 winners include Bookleggers' community mobile library, the national expansion of Weird Miami Bus Tours by Bas Fisher, Amanda Keeley's roaming artist books pop-up, Exile Books, HistoryMiami's proposed photography center, and more.

Receiving even more bucks is the Key West Art and Historical Society, who won the People's Choice Award and $20,000 cash by getting the most text votes from the public.

Read on for the full list of winners.

See also: Knight Arts Challenge People's Choice: Key West Art & Historical Society Preserves Memories of the Island

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Bad Jews at GableStage: Identify, If You Dare, With This Acrid Dramedy

Photo by George Schiavone
Playwright Joshua Harmon may or may not have been thinking of No Exit when he wrote his acrid dramedy Bad Jews. But after seeing the riveting new production of Harmon's play at GableStage, Sartre's metaphysical masterpiece seems like a touchstone in at least one sense: It depicts a handful of tortured souls, trapped and bickering in a prison of their making, with no resolution on the horizon. Hell is other Jews.

The infernal setting, in this case, is a studio apartment on the Upper West Side, a property so privileged that, as two characters point out, "You can see the Hudson River from the bathroom!" A pullout sofa and two air mattresses of varying quality are spread along the carpet of the space, a single person's sprawl converted into a cramped barracks for four.

This is where the religiously observant Daphna Feygenbaum (Natalia Coego) and two of her cousins -- the loose-canon atheist Liam (David Rosenberg) and the quiet doormat Jonah (Mark Della Ventura) -- will spend a fraught night on the day of their grandfather's funeral, arguing chiefly over the possession of a Jewish family heirloom. Daphna wants it because she's the most fervent believer of them all, a kosher-keeping, Hebrew-speaking carrier of the torch, with a boyfriend waiting for her in Israel. Liam has his own designs on the sacred amulet, which becomes all the more infuriating to Daphna because they involve his shiksa girlfriend Melody (Lexi Langs), whom he has brought along uninvited.

See also: Mothers and Sons at GableStage: Theater as Gestalt Therapy

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