Point of View

March 9, 2010, 6:45 pm
Filed under: Broadway Across America

What is a normal day like at the Adrienne Arsht Center when it’s your job to make the witches of Wicked fly?  Welcome to the wonderful world of Daniel Alzuri, Senior Director of Production for the Adrienne Arsht Center and show business production guru extraordinaire.  It takes a village backstage to bring the Citizens of Oz to life onstage, and for Alzuri it all starts three days before the first performance as the 13 Wicked production trucks pull into the Adrienne Arsht Center loading dock.  With 55 local crew members, 12 Wicked advance crew, and 5 Adrienne Arsht Center production staff, Alzuri supervises the show’s “load-in,” – a tightly choreographed schedule of hanging scenery, rigging props, focusing lights, and motorizing special effects.  To the chorus of clanging metal stage sets, and the occasional shout of “pipe coming in!” Alzuri supervises his team of technicians with aplomb. 

Every minute detail is pre-determined, discussed, and mapped out prior to the show’s arrival, so Alzuri and team can work quickly, efficiently, and safely – after only a few hours, the show’s four ton metal marquis dragon looms over the Ziff Ballet Opera House stage as if he just taxied in from Miami International Airport.  In the meantime, Alzuri’s Wicked citizens are rapidly multiplying, as the actors, dancers, wardrobe and hair dressers, orchestra members, and even the official “greener,” who turns actress Donna Vivino that lovely shade of green, take over the backstage area in a flurry of pre-show preparations.  Alzuri serves as the official mayor of this backstage/onstage mini-city, keeping everyone happy as the minutes tick down to show time.  Although his work may be largely invisible to the patron sitting in the theater, in truth his performance is just as breathtaking as Glinda’s.  As a show business veteran, Alzuri has seen it all: “Crossing the Atlantic in a rowboat is a challenge.  Losing your oars in the water is a problem,” he says with a sly smile.  And then he’s off to check on the flying broomsticks!

March 9, 2010, 5:54 pm
Filed under: Family Fun

Performers from Step Afrika! stepped their way into Miami-Dade County Public Schools as part of the Adrienne Arsht Center’s Beyond Boundaries Residency Program. This education initiative brings the finest local, national and internationally known teaching artists into Miami-Dade County Public School classrooms for multiple-day visits that provide an in-depth and multi-faceted exploration of the performing arts.  The Washington DC-based Step Afrika!, the first and only professional dance company dedicated to the preservation and promotion of stepping, was in 4 schools the week of March 2nd  introducing stepping and promoting higher education to more than 100 student of all ages. 

Stepping is a unique dance tradition created by African American college students in which the body is used as an instrument to create intricate rhythms and sounds through a combination of footsteps, claps and spoken word. The tradition grew out of the song and dance rituals practiced by historically African American fraternities and sororities in the early 1900’s and comes from a long and rich tradition in African-based communities.

Students from Academy of Arts & Minds High School, Booker T. Washington High School, Southwood Middle School, and Holmes Elementary School were taught the basic claps, positions, and rhythms by dance professionals from Step Afrika! in master classes designed especially for students.   In addition, Southwood Middle culminated their week of workshops with an in-school lecture demonstration on Friday for 125 students that featured the 30 dance students who had participated in the master classes during the week.  

Photo by Deanna Costa.

Step Afrika! finished up their week in Miami with a free, standing-room-only performance at the Center’s Family Fest on Saturday, March 6th in the Knight Concert Hall.  Family Fest is a day of free performances and activities that provide parents opportunites to introduce kids to the arts.  Beginning at 11:30 am in the Thomson Plaza for the Arts, the outdoor activities featured performances by local entertainers, a make and take craft, face painting, and lots of fun. At 2 pm the crowds moved to the Knight Concert Hall to witness the 10 member Step Afrika! troupe rock the house with an electrifying performance that included audience participation and a special performance by students from Holmes Elementary.  After spending the week with 3 of the company members, students from Holmes opened the Step Afrika! show performing an original step piece that was choreographed by the students with the help of the Step Afrika! teaching artist.  The Step Afrika! performance was the culmination of a fabulous week of learning and dancing that brought together more than 2000 people for a stomping good time.

March 9, 2010, 5:04 pm
Filed under: At the Center

You’ve seen the bus shelter ads throughout Miami.  With a catch phrase like “Your abuela will pee in her pants!” and “You’ll blow cerveza out your nose!” it’s apparent that something muy funny is about to happen.  And that something is the Second City Loco, a newly formed all-Hispanic off-shoot company of Chicago’s world-famous Second City comedy troupe.  The Second City Loco will be making its debut at the Carnival Studio Theater next week with El Show Mas Funny, a collection of hilarious comedic sketches created especially for Miami audiences—in Spanglish! In the tradition of the fondly remembered 70s sitcom Que Pasa U.S.A., the dialogue will move effortlessly back and forth between English and Spanish, ingeniously creating bilingual comedy in a hybrid language that everyone can understand. 

El Show Mas Funny  is just the latest in an exciting and eclectic series of World Premiere productions that have taken place at the Center, which includes three years of boundary-busting HERE & NOW theater and dance works, including Rosie Herrera’s acclaimed Various Stages of Drowning; the sizzling Latin dance musical Miami Libre; one of Merce Cunningham’s last works, eyeSpace; the late South Florida artist Jennylin Duany’s Cabaret Unkempt, and coming this summer—the new musical for kids, Camp Kappawanna.

Co-produced by Second City and the Adrienne Arsht Center, El Show Mas Funny has been “created specifically for Miami,” states Adrienne Arsht Center Executive V.P., Scott Shiller.  “It has its own Miami flair that will resonate well with the community, and hopefully it will serve as a template for Second City shows that will appeal to other US cities with large Hispanic communities.” 

Indeed, the Second City Loco will be a new and exciting adventure for the 50-year-old established Second City whose roster of illustrious alumni include iconic comedians such as Mike Myers, Steve Carell, Stephen Colbert and Tiny Fey (just to name a few).  Now, with the Second City Loco, the expectations will be the same with hopes that this subset troupe will be the voice for a dazzling talent pool of emerging Hispanic comedians.  “First and foremost, it’s a funny show with an amazingly talented and diverse group of performers,” says Shiller.  “I’m also excited about the fact that the Adrienne Arsht Center will have a pivotal role in creating the Second City Loco which has the potential to grow and evolve into something so much bigger. So along with us bringing world-class performers to our Miami stages, we will be sending Miami-centric programming throughout the nation.”  Now that’s muy awesome!

March 9, 2010, 4:53 pm
Filed under: City Theater

City Theatre and the Adrienne Arsht Center will bring something completely new to families this summer with Camp Kappawanna a World Premiere Musical where, from the minute you walk in the door, you feel as if you are back at summer camp. The new musical boasts hip, cool music penned by Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter Lisa Loeb along with a book by South Florida native and rising national star Marco Ramirez.   

Lisa Loeb

Through their partnership with the Adrienne Arsht Center, City Theatre held the first reading of Camp Kappawanna on Sunday, February 28, in the Next Generation Greenroom.  City Theatre Producing Artistic Director and Camp Kappawanna conceiver Stephanie Norman introduced the cast and director Sean Paul Bryan to Loeb and Ramirez, who participated live from Los Angeles via Skype.  The assembled audience was treated to three brand-new songs by Loeb and her songwriting partners Michelle Lewis and Dan Petty.  After the reading, attendees were able to speak directly with all artists to discuss the process of creating a show from page to stage. 

Camp Kappawanna is the story of Jennifer Jenkins, awkward and adorable and 12.  She’s going away for the summer – her very first time leaving home.  The piece builds upon City Theatre’s successful collaboration with Loeb on “Best Friend,” heard during last season’s Shorts 4 Kids series.  “Best Friend” is from Lisa Loeb’s self-published Camp Lisa CD, proceeds from which help send kids to camp who otherwise couldn’t afford to attend.    

City Theatre has enjoyed a long relationship with Marco Ramirez, starting with his participation in the company’s KidShorts project to mentor young writers as a student at Coral Reef Senior High, and continuing through his professional career with 7 productions on the festival’s stages.   

Marco Ramirez

City Theatre’s Camp Kappawanna sets out to create a new classic in celebration of the company’s 15th Anniversary Summer Shorts Festival.

March 9, 2010, 4:45 pm
Filed under: Out in the Community

Do arts partnerships and collaborations really work? The Adrienne Arsht Center answers this question with a resounding “YES!” The Adrienne Arsht Center depends greatly on partnerships with businesses, artists, foundations, and government agencies in order to build participation and to reach new audiences. 

The Adrienne Arsht Center could not fulfill its commitment to education without its invaluable partnership with Miami-Dade County Public Schools. This partnership creates opportunities for music, dance and theater master classes, workshops and residencies for students and faculty with local and visiting artists. These activities take place at the Center and in individual schools around the county and feature special daytime performances at the Center such as Rock Odyssey, especially tailored for school audiences. In the case of Rock Odyssey, every fifth grader in Miami-Dade County Public Schools will experience a professionally staged show at the Center at no cost to either the student or his or her school. 

Adrienne Arsht Center has also teamed up with VSA arts of Florida, a not-for-profit organization, whose mission is to create a society where people with disabilities can learn through, participate in and enjoy the arts by providing performing arts experiences for students. The program includes training for performing arts facilitators to support their efforts in making the performing arts accessible to populations with special needs. 

The Center’s wildly successful Free Gospel Sundays series has also been fostered on a very strong partnership with AM 1490 WMBM, a media pillar in the community that has served South Florida with gospel music for over a decade. WMBM, is one of the first black-owned and operated stations in South Florida, with a coverage map of over 1,500,000 homes and businesses. This year marks the third year of the Free Gospel Sunday’s partnership and WMBM’s 15th anniversary. 

From the Boys & Girls Club and Miami Children’s Chorus to American Airlines and Bayfront Park Management Trust, the Adrienne Arsht Center values collaboration among diverse institutions and thanks them for their help in carrying out the Center’s mission.

March 9, 2010, 4:41 pm
Filed under: Awards and Recognition

The Adrienne Arsht Center was awarded eleven ADDYs on Thursday evening by the Advertising Federation of Greater Miami, the local affiliate of the American Advertising Federation that represents 50,000 professionals in the advertising industry throughout the country.  That makes a grand total of 24 ADDYs in just two years!  The ADDY Awards is the industry’s most significant awards competition in the nation and honors companies and individuals whose talents exceed high standards and whose excellent work serves as a benchmark for the industry. The winners in Greater Miami go on to compete at a regional and national level.

“Winning eleven ADDY awards is a terrific honor for our marketing department and their partners. The ADDYs provide us with a great opportunity to demonstrate an approach to marketing that matches the creativity and sophistication on our stages. These awards validate our creative team,” stated John Richard, CEO and President of the Adrienne Arsht Center.

The winning Adrienne Arsht Center campaigns, selected from more than 600 submissions for local ADDY Awards, included the 2009 campaigns for Flamenco Festival, Fuerza Bruta, The Harder They Come, and others. The judges for this year’s ADDYs were flown in from around the United States representing a wide-range of innovative thinking.

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