Rude Mechs: A Theater Company's Take on LARPing

Photo by Jeremy Lang Photography
Rude Mechs

Named after the group of laborers that mounts plays in the woods in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, this Austin-based collective launched in 1995 after its members, then undergrads at the University of Texas, studied the Bard in barns. It was all part of a summer retreat called Shakespeare at Winedale. In this communal setting, surrounded by the bucolic splendor of the Texas countryside, they lived and breathed Shakespeare for more than two months, putting on directorless plays in which the students shared responsibilities for everything.

"You'd make your costume and you'd do the lights, and then you'd act in one scene and then run upstairs to do the lights for the next person," recalls Shawn Sides, coproducing artistic director at Rude Mechanicals. "One of the things we loved about that -- and it had its problems, for sure -- is the ability to touch everything and not get siloed into one role in the production."

See also: The Eight Best Broadway Musicals Coming to Miami in 2015

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Twelve Angry Men Remains Timely More Than Six Decades After It Was Written

Photo by Eileen Suzarez
We're a country of snap judgments. In the court of public opinion, we render verdicts with the same knee-jerk immediacy that we employ to consume news. It's all headlines and tweets. We lack the time, inclination, and attention span to go beneath the surface.

Twelve Angry Men delves deeper. Reginald Rose's 1954 classic spends two unbroken hours in a jury room -- romanticizing a legal system in which prejudices are confronted and minds are enlightened by robust debate. And given that 12 white jurors are deciding the fate of a black teenager, the play's current production at New Theatre assumes added heft in a post-Trayvon, post-Ferguson milieu of racial discontent.

But Twelve Angry Men is one of those seminal works that will feel modern no matter the year it's produced -- which is why it is revived so often. It's a forceful reminder to heed our better angels.

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The Eight Best Broadway Musicals Coming to Miami in 2015

Photo by Gemma Bramham
There's no better cure for boredom than a group of people breaking out into song and dance. In ordinary life, that would be strange and random -- especially since flash mobs are no longer a thing -- but in the theater, it's a sheer marvel. We enjoy the songs that tell stories we can relate to, or the ballads that sing of heartache similar to ones we've felt. Simply put: we go to the theater to escape our own reality and step into an altered version of someone else's.

Although our Miami theater scene is ever growing, it's still a rush when big Broadway productions make their way down south and give us a taste of what's brewing in the big apple. Check out the best Broadway musicals passing through our city this year:

See also: The Ten Best Comedy Acts in Miami in 2015

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Jack Feldman on Writing Lyrics for Newsies and "Fansies"

Photo by Deen van Meer
In 1992, Disney took a chance on a little story about scrappy newsboys who formed a union and changed the industry. The movie, Newsies, bombed in the theaters. But nearly two decades later, Disney adapted the movie to a live-action musical and began to reap the rewards of their hard work.

"[The movie] did not do well at all, it actually lost money," remembers Newsies lyricist Jack Feldman. Newsies was written off and forgotten about. That is, until the golden age of the Internet when online blogs devoted to the early 90s film started popping up and entire songs could be found via a simple YouTube search. High schools and amateur theater groups were even performing unauthorized versions of the production.

Could a once flop have amassed such a cult following that it merited a revival?

See also: Miami International Film Festival Announces 2015 Lineup

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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 Lion King Cast Talks About Their Animal Transformations

Courtesy of Broadway Across America/ Joan Marcus
The theater goes dark and suddenly, a heavily adorned tribesperson appears on stage and that familiar tune begins: "Nants ingonyama bagithi Baba!" The chant gets gradually louder as actors costumed as wild animals start filing in through the isles. Soon, the stage is full of creatures all there for the purpose of honoring the new future king of the land.

Just like the 1994 animated Disney film by the same name, The Lion King musical production begins with an energy that stays with the audience throughout the entire show.

The costumes, the puppets, the music -- all have transformative powers that move both audience and cast. While promoting the production, cast members who play Mufasa, Simba, Nala, and a lead ensemble dancer gathered at the Broward Center to talk about the show.

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

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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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