Point of View

Summer Shorts Festival presents its Award-Winning Pairs
June 8, 2009, 10:46 pm
Filed under: City Theater

Miami-Dade County contest winners of the Summer Shorts Festival’s first annual Create-A-Short Contest were recognized this past Saturday, June 6, at the Adrienne Arsht Center’s Carnival Studio Theater in the Ziff Ballet Opera House. Miami-Dade and Broward County students grades K through 8 were given the opportunity to win a variety of prizes by designing a pair of paper shorts for the fun summer festival. Talented students throughout Miami and Broward submitted drawn-in, colored, adorned, painted, glued, glittered, and penciled entries but only a dozen from both counties were ultimately chosen as winners.

Before Saturday matinee performance of Shorts 4 Kids!, the Summer Shorts Festival’s family-friendly installment of a series of hilarious short plays, the Miami-Dade County contest winners were presented on-stage with a Create-A-Short Award and prizes ranging from Summer Shorts Festival tickets, gift cards to Borders, and day passes to the Miami Children’s Museum. Presenting to the proud winners was celebrated philanthropist and developer, Jorge Perez, City Theatre Co-Founder and Executive Director Stephanie Norman, and City Theatre Artistic Director Stuart Meitzer.

Jorge Perez (CEO, Related Group) and the winners; photo by Mitchell Zachs

Jorge Perez (CEO, Related Group) and the winners; photo by Mitchell Zachs

“We really wanted to do something to involve the children in their own creative process,” says Norman.

The works of these young artists is being prominently displayed as an art installation along the Center’s Carnival Studio Theater’s Biscayne Boulevard windows. One of the first place winners, 7th grader Kinsley Rants of Grace Christian Academy, created a pair of shorts inspired by Vincent van Gogh’s famous painting “Starry Night.”

Miami-Dade County winners include First Place: 3rd grader Nicole Cinquino of Dante B. Fascell Elementary and 7th grader Kinsley Rants of Grace Christian Academy; Second Place: 3rd grader Luciana Naretti of Dante B. Fascell Elementary and 5th grader Kimani Griffin of Phyllis Ruth Miller; Third Place: Kindergartner Kyle Behar of Lehrman Community Day School and 5th grader Keith Hagood of Greynolds Park Elementary.

Broward County winners will be awarded on June 27 at the Broward Center (fact check) and include: First Place: 1st grader Alexa Bieber of Manatee Bay Elementary and 1st grader Nicole Svensson of Manatee Bay Elementary; Second Place: 1st grader Jason Cohen of Manatee Bay Elementary and 5th grader Nastia Gold of Hollywood Central Elementary; Third Place: 1st grader Sasha Gold of Hollywood Central Elementary and 1st grader Corey Steinman of Manatee Bay Elementary.

For additional information on the Summer Shorts Festival and its performances, please visit www.citytheatre.com.


63rd Annual Tony Awards
June 8, 2009, 10:42 pm
Filed under: Performing Arts News

Broadway celebrated its best and brightest at the 63rd Annual Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall Sunday night, and it was clear that the theater community was in the mood to party. The dire predictions about the economic crisis adversely affecting ticket sales never came to pass—quite the opposite—the 2008-09 Season broke box office records. Forty-eight productions opened on Broadway this year alone—the most in any one season in more than a quarter century. And show after show premiered to rave reviews.


By the time the three-hour Tony telecast was over, the evening’s biggest winner also boasted the season’s littlest performers. Billy Elliot The Musical, based on the hit movie about the young boy from the English coal mines who, against seemingly insurmountable odds, fulfills his dream of becoming a ballet dancer, won 10 awards, including best musical. The best actor in a musical award was presented to the three young boys who take turns playing Billy at different performances. It was a historic moment when David Alvarez, Trent Kowalik and Kiril Kulish took the stage to thank their moms and dads, sisters, and dance teachers—marking the first time ever a Tony acting award has been shared by three performers.


Winner Best Musical - Billy Eliot; courtesy of www.tonyawards.com

Winner Best Musical - Billy Eliot; courtesy of http://www.tonyawards.com


At the other extreme of the showbiz continuum, Angela Lansbury, the beloved 83-year- old entertainment legend, won for best featured actress as the adorably loopy medium Madame Arcati in Noel Coward’s martini-fueled comedy, Blithe Spirit. Lansbury also presented a richly deserved Lifetime Achievement Award to the great Broadway composer–and University of Miami alumnus–Jerry Herman, creator of Hello Dolly!, La Cage Aux Folles, Mack and Mable and Mame, the role that made Lansbury a Broadway star 43 years ago and for which she was awarded her first of five Tonys.

With just about everyone rightly predicting a Billy Elliot sweep over the other Best New Musical nominees—Next to Normal, Shrek The Musical, and Rock of Ages—the really fierce race was in the best revival category, between West Side Story and Hair. Arguably the greatest musical ever, West Side Story soars on Jerome Robbins’ dazzling game-changing choreography and Leonard Bernstein’s finest score–a miraculous fusion of jazz, Latin, symphonic, and musical theater. Moreover, this “bilingual” production introduces the concept of having the Hispanic gangs speak in Spanish in an attempt to infuse the story with greater authenticity. In the end, though, West Side Story was no match for the 2 ½ hour explosion of sheer joy that is the revival of Hair. Beeds, flowers, freedom, happiness transport the audience to a euphoric high that takes off with the opening Age of Aquarius and doesn’t let up till the sun shines in. At the end, following a beautifully touching anti-war tableau, the audience joins the cast on stage for the communally trippy “Be In” that would last all night were it not for union rules and overtime. And did we mention fine on-stage nudity?


Cast of Hair; courtesy of www.tonyawards.com

Cast of Hair; courtesy of http://www.tonyawards.com


Overall, this might have been one of the most entertaining Tony Awards telecast in recent memory. From the opening montage that showcased not only the nominated musicals but also Dolly Parton and Elton John, to the celebration of national touring companies featuring the casts of Jersey Boys and Mamma Mia! it was a three-hour entertainment bonanza. Plus the Adrienne Arsht Center’s summer hit, Slava Snowshow, competing against Liza Minnelli and Will Ferrell for Best Special Theatrical Event (Liza won); Yasmina Reza’s viciously funny comedy about marital discord God of Carnage won best play; a starry lineup of presenters including Jane Fonda, Jessica Lange, Frank Langella, Susan Sarandon, Anne Hathaway, Edie Falco, and James Gandofini; and a dryly witty turn by Neil Patrick Harris as the show’s first-time host. It was a great party.

With any luck and plenty of moxie, Broadway will have as much to celebrate same time next year.

AileyCamp comes to Miami
June 8, 2009, 10:35 pm
Filed under: Education, Out in the Community

In the last few weeks of May, over 200 applications have poured in to the Adrienne Arsht Center for AileyCamp, a summer day camp founded by the Alvin Ailey Dance Foundation that will serve at risk children in Miami-Dade County Public middle schools grade 6th – 8th.  Taking place at the Center, campers will come from diverse cultural and socio-economic backgrounds throughout Miami-Dade County to participate in disciplined dance training, creative writing instruction, personal development and communication workshops, as well as recreational field trips.  On Saturday, June 13th, Center staff and volunteers will interview all eligible applicants and invite 80 students to participate in the day camp that runs from July 13th to August 7th with a final performance in the Knight Concert Hall on August 8th at 7pm.

Photo by Julieta Cervantes; courtesy of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.

Photo by Julieta Cervantes; courtesy of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.

Throughout underserved communities around the Adrienne Arsht Center and in Miami-Dade County at risk youth lack the resources and role models that can help channel their talents and energy in positive ways. Research has shown that without direction, focus, or guidance, particularly during the summer months, these young people are exposed to the dangerous realities that exist in their communities including drugs, violence, poor nutrition, early pregnancy, and crime. A performing arts summer camp provides youth with an opportunity to explore their creativity, nurture healthy bodies, and strengthen their respect for themselves and others within a supportive framework that gives them an important foundation for the future.

Ailey campers develop a respect for themselves and others that will impact their lives far beyond the four-week program by stretching their bodies and minds while develop important life skills before their entry into the challenging years of high school.

Photo by Julieta Cervantes; courtesy of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.

Photo by Julieta Cervantes; courtesy of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.

Building a One-of-a-Kind Spectacle
June 8, 2009, 10:30 pm
Filed under: Fuerza Bruta

Fuerza Bruta: This is show with no seats, 360° of action, women in a 500-gallon pool of water suspended only inches above the audience, and a man bolting at top speed through a series of progressing walls in mid-air. Dubbed a “Phenomenon” by the international press, Fuerza Bruta is actually more than a show—it’s an experience and a thrill that goes beyond the 65-minute spectacle on stage. It’s an event unlike anything Miami has ever seen.

In preparation for this tour-de-force, the Adrienne Arsht Center stage hands, technical staff, and engineers have charged the Lynn Wolfson stage with an electric buzz that resonates throughout the Ziff Ballet Opera House and extends into the loading dock. Electricians and carpenters congregate together as prop providers and sound-testers hurry around them, while cranes with lighting and a Mylar wall are rigged above, everyone wary of dropping scaffolds and wires. The process of preparing for Fuerza Bruta is special.


When on site, observing the set-up, standing still is not an option. Watching the pieces of the stage start to fit together is watching the coming to life of an avant-garde vision. “We are trying to create a whole new, exciting experience,” says Jeremy Shubrook, Assistant Technical Director at the Center. Shubrook explains that although the show has been put on in numerous other locations, it was typically on a smaller stage with far less pre- and post-show activity. Shubrook assures that even if you have seen the show, nothing can fully prepare you for this experience.

For the first time in the Center’s history, attendees will enter the theatre through the loading docks. Truly a behind-the-scenes experience, the purpose of this entrance is to fully immerse the audience into actually becoming part of the show. Paintings, photos, and sculptures from area galleries and local artists are also being brought in to complement the area. “The loading dock provides flavor; the lounge provides the beginning of the experience,” says Shubrook. Although the area will be transformed to some degree, the feel of being backstage will remain prevalent.

To add to the excitement, the Ziff Ballet Opera House’s massive stage is also accommodating the G-Lounge by Barton G. Complete with a specialized menu, it serves as a clever way to anticipate and maintain the high-octane vibe of Fuerza Bruta. The Center is bringing in Miami’s hottest club DJs, including Mansion’s and SET’s, and the Y-100 crew in addition to a new resident DJ to spice up each night. Actually using more equipment than the performance itself, the lounge plays an important role in infusing attendees with the right mood.

“The lounge and loading area are reasons to come early and stay late,” says Daniel Alzuri, Adrienne Arsht Center Technical Director, as he directs the many scrambling workers throughout the half-transformed stage. “However, the stage here has never been used like this before- where we have multiple productions running at once,” Alzuri adds. This is only one of the many challenges Alzuri must meet in preparing for this one-of-a-kind spectacle.

Opening Night of CELIA brings out Miami’s hottest Latin stars!
June 8, 2009, 4:01 pm
Filed under: At the Center

Dozens of Latin celebrities, including telenovela stars, platinum record-selling artists, and beloved television personalities, descended on the Adrienne Arsht Center last Thursday for the opening of Celia: The Life & Music of Celia Cruz.


Anissa Gathers as Celia; photo by Manny Hernandez

Anissa Gathers as Celia; photo by Manny Hernandez


Among the glitterati that celebrated the return of the hit musical to Miami were famed bandleader Tito Puente, Jr.; soap actress and Miss Universe runner-up Cynthia Olavarria; Silvana Arias, star of NBC’s Passions; Venezuelan leading lady Jeanette Rodriguez; Manu, the multi-million record-selling singer from “Los Trio”; Mexican telenovela star Eduardo Capetialla, and celebrity chef Doreen Colondres, to name a few.

Seidy Carrera, Anissa Gathers and Pedro Telemaco photo by Manny Hernandez

Seidy Carrera, Anissa Gathers and Pedro Telemaco; photo by Manny Hernandez

More than 100 members of the media also turned out for the opening, including tv/radio host Javier Romero, one of the most recognizable voices in Spanish media; celebrity correspondent Oscar Petit; “Despierta America” host Raul Gonzalez; Univision reporters Pamela Silva and Roger Borges, among others; CW SouthFlorda.com/Live host Eugene Ramirez and many more. They were joined by some of Celia’s closest friends, including former manager Omer Perdillo and close friend Elia Perez de Alejo.

Rocco & Marger  Photo by Manny Hernandez

Rocco & Marger Photo by Manny Hernandez

The star-studded night concluded with a standing-room-only post-show gathering where the media and celebrities celebrated the successful opening together with the cast.

Urban Land Institute names Adrienne Arsht Center finalist for “Project of the Year” award
June 8, 2009, 3:31 pm
Filed under: Awards and Recognition

The Urban Land Institute’s (ULI) Southeast/Caribbean District Council has named the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts a finalist for its 2009 “Project of the Year” award. The award honors real estate projects that demonstrate positive community impact and sustainable land use. Other finalists for the 2009 Project of the Year award include the Fontainebleau resort in Miami Beach and 55 Merrick Way, a mixed-use residential, office and retail development in Coral Gables. 

arsht center low res 222 by Robin Hill

In selecting finalists for this award, ULI analyzed the Center’s performance as an engine for community impact, its role as a sustainable real estate project, and its success as a public-private collaboration.

Making a community impact
Since opening in 2006, the Adrienne Arsht Center has emerged as a cornerstone for the ongoing revitalization of downtown Miami’s urban core. In addition to being a venue where people from all corners of the South Florida community come together to share the performing arts, the Center is a catalyst for development in Downtown Miami. Diverse programming, coupled with free performances and community events, are fueling never-before-seen levels of interest in living and visiting Miami’s urban core.

“Downtown Miami is on the move,” said J. Ricky Arriola, chair of the Performing Arts Center Trust Board of Directors. “It’s no coincidence that the City’s emergence as a 24/7, pedestrian-friendly urban center has accelerated since the Adrienne Arsht Center opened its doors in 2006. Performing Arts Centers are magnets for people. We are drawn to culture, to entertainment, and to sharing the arts with others.”

The Center also offers a number of educational programs and initiatives for students, including field trips, special opportunities to interact with performers, and theatrical workshops. This summer, the Center will host an Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater summer camp, which will expose dozens of underserved children to the art of dance, free of charge.

Energizing Miami’s urban core
The Adrienne Arsht Center, itself a product of infill development, is injecting new life into a previously overlooked and underdeveloped part of Miami. Rather than taking shape outside the City’s urban core or atop vacant green space, the Center was built along Downtown Miami’s high-traffic Biscayne Boulevard, an easy walk or public transit ride away from tens of thousands of area offices and residences.

Carnival Center Grand Opening Prep - Photo by Robinn Hill for Carnival Center lo res

“What debuted as a campus of iconic buildings and world-class performance facilities has since materialized as an anchor for revitalization in one of downtown Miami’s most important neighborhoods and as an accessible resource and gathering place for the South Florida community,” said M. John Richard, President and CEO of the Adrienne Arsht Center.
As the Center evolves, so too does the neighborhood around it. Already, more than $1 billion has been invested in the immediate area since construction of the Center began. Before the Center was built, Downtown Miami was widely viewed as a pass-through destination; a quick stop en route to South Beach for many visitors. Today, residents and tourists are visiting Downtown to patronize shops, restaurants, night clubs, and cultural destinations. The Adrienne Arsht Center has been a catalyst for this transition.

A model public-private partnership
The public and private sectors have been integral in helping the Center sustain a high level of programming and community outreach, not to mention in getting the organization off the ground. Today, the community is realizing its return on investment in the Adrienne Arsht Center in the form of award-winning programs, educational initiatives, and area economic development.

Miami-Dade County’s investment in the Center’s development and construction is widely-known. Less-publicized is the public sector’s strong commitment to keeping the venue in like-new condition.

Biscayne  Blvd and Pedestrian Bridgee Photo by Robin Hill for Carnival Center lo res

The private sector – both on the individual and corporate levels – have complimented this support. Last year’s $30 million gift from businesswoman and philanthropist Adrienne Arsht helped propel the Center onto sound financial footing, opening the door to innovative programming and a balanced budget for 2008. At the same time, non-profit groups such as the John S. and James L. Knight foundation have been a driving force behind the Center’s community-based programs and events.

The ULI “Project of the Year” award will be presented during a special reception on Thursday, August 27.

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