Point of View

Honoring the Legacy One Name at a Time
August 27, 2010, 3:55 pm
Filed under: At the Center

The Adrienne Arsht Center is anxiously awaiting the revealing of one of its most impressive accomplishments on Thursday, October 28th and it’s one that is here to stay for a long, long time. This year, the names that adorn the Grand Donor Walls will be engraved in stone, their legacy permanently enshrined in the lobbies of the John S. and James L. Knight Concert Hall and the Sanford and Dolores Ziff Ballet Opera House. Those names represent some of the Center’s most important supporters: they built this grand performing arts center and it is a great honor to recognize them on these walls as an everlasting part of the Adrienne Arsht Center family.

The tradition of the donor walls is one that has been adopted in performing arts centers around the country. Often seen in hospitals, universities, museums, and other nonprofit institutions, donor walls honor key supporters indispensible to the organization. The first known donor wall was at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in the mid-20th century. Although donor walls have evolved and now can encompass a variety of styles, materials, media and interactive multimedia presentations, there is one characteristic they share: Donor walls are more than lists of names. Whether with an LCD touch-screen or with imperial slabs of fine Carrara marble, donor walls are pieces of art that honor and immortalize people whose dedication and generosity make possible this country’s not-for-profit institutions.

August 25, 2010, 8:43 pm
Filed under: AileyCamp, At the Center

After four dance classes a day, every day Monday through Friday, for six weeks, 250 AileyCamp t-shirts, 75 leotards, 10 daily affirmations, and several aching muscles later, 100 proud Miami-Dade County middle schoolers made professional dancing debut on Saturday, August 7, during the AileyCamp Miami final performance.  The John S. and James L. Knight Concert Hall was packed with more than 1500 beaming, clapping, shouting friends and family members supporting these young students’ journey that culminated with a triumphant leap across the stage! 

The AileyCamp program is a full scholarship camp for at-risk youth in grades 6-8, that provides instruction in modern dance, ballet, West African, and jazz, plus creative communication and personal development classes – all at no cost to campers and their families.  No dance experience is necessary, but that was hardly evident during the culminating performance as dancers took to the stage with confidence and abandon, glittering technique and shining spirits.  The evening’s program, titled Soulstice, honored the astounding 20-year contribution of Alvin Ailey’s Artistic Director, Judith Jamison and, as Adrienne Arsht Center president and CEO M. John Richard remarked, it also showcased the dancers “boundless soul.”  When all 100 campers filled the stage for the finale, performing a section from the Ailey classic, Revelations, the students became part of dance history, keeping a legacy alive through the magic of live performance. 

Although only in its second year at the Adrienne Arsht Center, AileyCamp has already staked its claim as one of the most vital and moving programs of the entire season – as evidenced by the ushers, quietly wiping away tears.

August 25, 2010, 8:39 pm
Filed under: At the Center

The Los Angeles-based, Grammy Award-winning urban Latino salsa/funk/dancehall/hip hop fusion band, OZOMATLI, is set to get South Florida moving and grooving as the headlining act during the FREE, September 12 FALL FOR THE ARTS FESTIVAL.  The internationally acclaimed band is known across the globe for their rousing, celebratory music and their signature stage show, guaranteed to be a major highlight of the festival. 

 The Adrienne Arsht Center, The Miami Herald, and El Nuevo Herald have all partnered, alongside presenting sponsor the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, to produce the FALL FOR THE ARTS FESTIVAL in celebration of Miami’s vibrant, diverse performing arts community.  More than 100 local arts organizations will exhibit during the festival, offering ticket discounts, free giveaways, and special membership perks.  FALL FOR THE ARTS FESTIVAL will also include a significant community service component, with more than 20 service organizations on-hand to share ways for the community to get involved and engaged – from volunteer opportunities to workshops on careers in the non-profit arena.  Rounding out the festival is a scrumptious parade of gourmet street vendors offering food for purchase, an array of family-friendly kids activities, and a surprise lineup of national and international performing acts – all FREE!

August 25, 2010, 8:33 pm
Filed under: At the Center, Out in the Community

In preparation for the fourth season of Free Gospel Sundays, the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County recently held auditions for The Miami Mass Choir, which will become the resident choir for the 2010-2011 Free Gospel Sundays.  The open auditions were held on August 7, 2010, in the Peacock Foundation Studio.

The Miami Mass Choir, under the direction of Pastor Mark Cooper, is 50 voices strong and brings together the best gospel voices of South Florida, from Lauderhill to Florida City.  Pastor Cooper is no stranger to the gospel choir medium, as he has been an active director, producer, songwriter and gospel musician for more than 20 years.  Cooper originally founded The Miami Mass Choir in 1995 and led the Stellar Award-winning ensemble until the group dissolved in 2004.  As Cooper reassembles his choir this year, he hopes to bring together the greatest talent South Florida has to offer.  The newly formed choir will make its debut at the Free Gospel Sundays first performance on October 17, 2010 at 4:00 pm in the Knight Concert Hall along special guest star Shirley Caesar and the 93rd Street Community Baptist Church choir.

August 25, 2010, 8:32 pm
Filed under: At the Center

What do vacuum cleaners, saws, hair driers, traffic cones, a choir of 30 and a band called Pookiesnackenburger have in common?  They’re all part of an awe-inspiring new show called PANDEMONIUM, which is due to hit the Adrienne Arsht Center stage on September 16 for two weeks. The creators and geniuses behind this symphony of music, mayhem and epic spectacle are Luke Cresswell and Steve McNicholas, best known as the co-creators of the internationally renowned show, Stomp.  Where Stomp reinvented rhythm and percussion, PANDEMONIUM transforms everyday objects into a universe of music with an orchestra of instruments created from everyday objects.

Commissioned by the UK’s Brighton Festival, the show was composed for the festival’s 40th anniversary.  With a crew made up of Stomp veterans and instrument designer Paul Marshall, Cresswell and McNicholas began by forcing their professionally trained UK musicians to abandon their cellos, trumpets and clarinets to learn to play vacuum cleaners and hair driers.  After breaking box office records at the Sydney Opera House and playing extended runs at both London’s Royal Festival Hall and Amsterdam’s Carre Theatre, the show kicks off its US tour at the Ziff Ballet Opera House.

Cresswell is a self-taught percussionist from Brighton. McNicholas is a dancer, choreographer, and actor from Yorkshire. The pair first worked together in 1981 as members of the English street band Pookiesnackenburger along with the theater group Cliff Hanger. Together, these entities produced a series of street comedy musicals at the Edinburgh Arts Festival and after two albums, a UK TV series and extensive touring throughout Europe. Pookiesnackenburger produced the well-known commercial “Bins” for Heineken that became the basis for the dustbin dance in Stomp. Cresswell and McNicholas continued to collaborate and grow together: creating short movies and putting on large-scale outdoor shows and currently a documentary about sharks. 

Next year will mark the 20th anniversary of the first Stomp production; it has been running in New York for 16 years and in London for 8.  Stomp has toured the globe nearly continuously for 15 years and has reached more than 15 million viewers in 48 countries on 5 continents. It is the winner of numerous awards including an Olivier Award for Best Choreography (London’s equivalent of a Tony Award); an Obie Award; and a Drama Desk Award for Unique Theatre Experience.

Now with PANDEMOMIUM, the revolutionary duo has done it again, managing to turn chaos into infectious music!

August 25, 2010, 8:26 pm
Filed under: Senior Staff


Executive team member Ken Harris is a key player on a vast field at the Adrienne Arsht Center. As Vice President of Operations, Harris plays a role in pretty much everything. From production to guest services to facility management to area development, Harris leads his staff to act as a cornerstone department, managing to interact and keep up with each of the Center’s other divisions.

With a BA in theater arts from SUNY Fredonia and a MFA in Drama from the University of Washington, Harris knew what he was going to pursue in life from the start. “My parents were Broadway fanatics and from an early age I’d fallen in love with jazz,” Harris smiles. As a child, Harris was brought along by his older sister, who was very involved with drama, to all of her school shows. “I would go and run up and down the catwalks,” he reminisces. “Being backstage was my favorite part.”

An avid fan of theater and music, Harris played the saxophone in the jazz band throughout high school: a hobby he claims helped him enormously to understand, appreciate and thoroughly enjoy music and its business.  Shortly after college, Harris landed a job at Disney. “Prior to Disney, I worked for regional theater companies from coast to coast,” he explains, “Theater was always something I did and loved; Disney was something I fell into.” Hired as a stage technician, Harris quickly moved up the corporate ladder. There, he had the opportunity to create and operate shows, as well as extensively tour the country and the world. After spending nearly 20 years with Disney, Harris left Orlando with invaluable experience.

At the Adrienne Arsht Center, Harris preaches the importance of communication and “complete and total collaboration.” In order to conduct a smooth operation, Harris explains that “it is key and critical to understand an organization in total.” He impressively maintains steady interaction with not only Vice Presidents of other departments but with individual staff members as well.

At the Center, Harris has been able to implement both his expert knowledge and his love for the performing arts in perfect harmony. Among the countless shows he considers himself so fortunate to attend, Harris did reveal a favorite: “I would have to say my favorite performance here has been Ramsey Lewis and Al Jarreau: two jazz legends sharing the stage…at a place I work. [It was] just a moment of pride and exhilaration.”  When asked if he had any performances in mind he hopes to see visit Miami next, Harris fell silent. After a while of deep thought he said: “I’m trying to think of what we haven’t pulled in yet! I’ve just been so exhilarated by what we have had here…But the exposure’s been so great and the diversity of Miami has really helped [as] the Adrienne Arsht Center has been setting a standard.”

Harris is personal and intimate with his work, drawing inspiration from pure passion. “One of the best parts of my job has been growing an affinity for sharing my experience and expertise to others growing in the field,” he automatically answers, and then jokes, “That, and getting really cool seats to shows!”

MY POV: James Thompson
August 25, 2010, 7:14 pm
Filed under: My POV

My POV:  “If it’s not in Tessitura, it doesn’t exist!”

During the week of August 9, 2010, I attended the annual Tessitura Learning & Community Conference (TLCC) in Washington, DC  along with 14 other Adrienne Arsht Center executives and staff members.  TLCC is an annual member-driven conference supporting the Tessitura fundraising, ticketing and constituent management software package.  Community members from arts organizations around the world attend each year.  This year’s conference was no different, with more than 900 attendees from 215 organizations in six countries.  Performing arts centers, symphony, opera, and ballet companies, museums and universities are all community members and regular attendees.

This year’s conference had a heavy focus on social media interactions and alternatives to traditional business models.  ACT Theatre in Seattle, WA, for example, showed off their new membership program that replaced their old season subscription model.  Instead of a traditional season subscription, ACT now sells an “all you can see” membership at a flat monthly fee which allows patrons to attend any performance they want, as many times as they like.  This allows patrons to not only attend popular, more mainstream performances, but also explore edgy, less popular performances that they would be less inclined to attend on a “pay per view” basis.  Patrons overwhelmingly adopted the new model, and ACT is able to better predict monthly revenue from the recurring memberships. This model may not work in Miami, but it’s got us thinking about new and creative initiatives.

This is the fourth TLCC I’ve attended since joining the Adrienne Arsht Center staff.  In addition to being an attendee I was also on the planning committee for the executive track sessions.  Because of the large number of presentations and breakout sessions during the conference week, Tessitura Network staff recruits members of the Tessitura user community to assist with content planning for the conference, from concept through presentation.  In this year’s sessions, I worked with ACT Theater of Seattle, Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company of Washington, DC and Dallas Symphony Orchestra in planning their sessions.  Working closely with these organizations allowed me to get even deeper into the way they run their business and bring back ideas for use at the Adrienne Arsht Center. 

Outside of the scheduled sessions, the conference allows for some networking time.  The Arts community is small and tight-knit, so the annual conference is a great time to catch up with colleagues from around the world and exchange ideas outside the designated workshop sessions.  This year we were also treated to a reception at the Kennedy Center complete with backstage tour.

Next year’s conference is in Orlando, FL, on Disney World property.  I’m looking forward to the opportunity to attend, network with colleagues and bring back even more ideas!

-James J. Thompson, Senior Director, IT, Adrienne Arsht Center

August 6, 2010, 1:10 pm
Filed under: Membership

Jerry Seinfeld is making a rare Miami stop on his tour on November 6 at the Center and few tickets remain. The best seat locations during an exclusive member pre-sale.

More opportunities are around the corner for Center members, including the annual Member Private Sale August 30 through September 11, ahead of the Fall Box Office Opening on Sunday, September 12.  Members will have access to the best available seats for more than 30 exciting shows, including Whoopi Goldberg, Clay Aiken, The Boston Pops, Joshua Bell and In the Heights.

Additional member pre-sales occur throughout the year.  For a complete list of shows that will be a part of the Member Private Sale on August 30, call Box Office 305.949.6722.

Exclusive access to members-only ticket pre-sales is only one of the exciting benefits of becoming a member at the Adrienne Arsht Center. To learn more about joining and getting first dibs on the hottest seats in town, visit http://www.arshtcenter.org/tickets/memberships/.

August 2, 2010, 5:03 pm
Filed under: Performing Arts News

Season 7 of Fox’s runaway hit, “So You Think You Can Dance,” is close to naming “America’s Favorite Dancer” after a season of spotlighting Miami superstar dancers Jose Ruiz and Alex Wong. The judges spent the season paying major compliments: “One of the most beloved dancers in the show!” “The best routine ever danced on any ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ stage!” “The brightest light in the competition!”

Top Ten for the 2010 Season of "So You Think You Can Dance"

Ruiz and Wong are just two of thousands of talented dancers who auditioned for the show last January on the Adrienne Arsht Center’s Knight Concert Hall stage, as well as in Chicago, Nashville, New York, and Los Angeles.

Sadly, the reality series voted Jose Ruiz off this week.  With only six dancers left this season, Ruiz will not go on to compete for the title but will continue on the SYTYCD national tour. Wong, who was a top contender, unfortunately was disqualified due to a lacerated Achilles tendon, but will compete next season.

Dancer Alex Wong

Wong, 23, was a firehouse throughout the season, and it devastated both the judges and audiences when his injury caused him to leave the show. Host Mia Michaels told audiences that the show lost, “One of the greatest dancers – if not the greatest dancer – to ever come through our stage.” Wong is a former principal soloist with the Miami City Ballet, awarded this position when he was only 17 years old, after winning the prestigious “Prix de Lausanne” competition.

Originally from Pembroke Pines, Ruiz taught himself to dance at age 14. After developing his own style and technique as a B-Boy, Ruiz began competing around the world. This competition has provided him opportunities to step outside of his comfort zone with completely different styles of dance ranging from Bollywood to the quickstep. Without professional training, Ruiz amazed the judges with how well he performed each week.

Dancer Jose Ruiz

Two seasons ago, Miamian Jeanine Mason took the top title, and with all the dance talent residing right here in Miami, there’s no doubt that soon another hometown dancer will be honored with the title of “America’s Favorite Dancer.”

August 2, 2010, 4:46 pm
Filed under: Performing Arts News

While on the road for their nationwide tour, the cast of the Tony Award-winning musical In the Heights, which arrives at the Sanford and Dolores Ziff Ballet Opera House this March, has taken some breaks from their live-and-in-person stage performances to prove they can look just as fiery on TV.  Writer and composer Lin-Manuel Miranda led his troupe in their signature number, 96,000, on two widely viewed television shows—“Lopez Tonightand “So You Think You Can Dance.” Miranda received a Tony Award for his hip hop, salsa score for the show about a group of friends living in New York’s Washington Heights. In addition to creating the musical, he also played the lead role of bodega owner Usnavi in the show’s New York production, a role he reprises for the tour’s Los Angeles stop.

Touring as a member of the ensemble is also Miami native Rebecca Kritzer. Starting out with the cast in Tampa last October, Kritzer and her cast mates have since brought the spectacle to over 20 cities in the U.S. “In the Heights literally brings people to their feet,” remarks Kritzer. “Audiences always have a good time.”

As part of the ensemble, Kritzer was given the freedom to shape her own character: “I am the character essentially. I play my role as a flirt with a little bit of attitude.”

Appearing on national TV, however, was a whole new experience for the young performer. “It was cool bringing this thing that was created for live theater and molding it for television so that it is contained in this little screen,” she reflects. The fun the cast shared was apparent in its performances on both TV shows. The energy and the excitement of In the Heights reached thousands of viewers and this powerhouse musical has again proven its power has no limits.

Relive the excitement! Watch the cast perform on “Lopez Tonight” at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mtV4vg_rtnk.

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