Point of View


One of the ongoing commitments of the Adrienne Arsht Center to our community is to be accessible to everyone regardless of disability challenges. In addition to the Saturday matinee sign-interpreted and Sunday matinee open-captioned Broadway in Miami performances already offered for deaf and hearing-impaired guests, this season the Center introduced audio descriptions for blind and vision-impaired guests for the Sunday matinee performances. And just recently, the Center added another program— touch tours for The Nutcracker and Beauty and the Beast, in collaboration with Miami City Ballet and Broadway Across America.

For The Nutcracker, Edward Villella, Founding Artistic Director and Chief Executive Officer of Miami City Ballet, generously gave his time pre-performance to give the history and description of a number of the costumes and props used in the production. A group of vision impaired guests had the opportunity to touch the costumes to fully enjoy the texture and style of the silks, satins, and lace and to handle the props. While everyone enjoyed the delicate costumes of the Flowers and the Sugar Plum Fairy, the overall favorite for tactile richness was that of the Rat King. The touch tour literally set the stage for the performance that followed.

Having received rave reviews from our guests, we approached the Beauty and the Beast company and asked if they would also agree to share their time with our guests. While the touch tour for The Nutcracker was held in the Next Generation Green Room of the Ziff Ballet Opera House, for Beauty and the Beast our guests along with their companions went right on stage where they had the opportunity to touch not just the costumes and props, but also the actual set. Being on the stage also gave guests a first-hand understanding of the length and breadth of the performance space. The entire experience was deemed thrilling, but most agreed that the highlight of the tour was meeting the Beast!

Although not every production lends itself to touch tours, the Center will continue to explore the opportunity to offer this service for our vision impaired and blind guests whenever possible with the goal of making the Adrienne Arsht Center, our home, a welcome place to experience great performances and superior guest service for everyone.


Reunion time! More than 130 Adrienne Arsht Center/AileyCamp Miami 2010 campers, staff, volunteers, family and friends returned to the Center for a reunion luncheon in the Peacock Education Center of the John S. and James L. Knight Concert Hall. Supported by the Miami-Dade County Mayor, the Board of County Commissioners, and the Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs.

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.

The reunion guests, many of whom hadn’t seen each other since last summer, caught up on events and activities over a pizza and salad lunch, while Nasha Thomas Schmitt, AileyCamp National Director, welcomed everyone to the reunion. After many hugs and applauses, the guests were shown—for the first time—the AileyCamp Miami 2010 “A Look Back” slide show, which highlighted activities and events during their six-week summer program, including the AileyCamp Miami final performance, for which 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.
Following the slideshow, Alicia Melton, Adrienne Arsht Center’s Education and Outreach Assistant, announced the launch of the AileyCamp Miami Alumni Facebook Page and the AileyCamp 2011 application process. Going into its third year at the Adrienne Arsht Center, AileyCamp Miami has already staked its claim as one of the Center’s most vital and moving programs.

The reunion culminated with a group picture and the opportunity to attend that day’s matinee performance of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater at the Ziff Ballet Opera House with complimentary tickets provided by the Adrienne Arsht Center’s Education and Outreach division.


I very recently moved to South Florida, and I wanted to find opportunities here that would allow me to continue the acting career that I trained for at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts’ Experimental Theatre Wing and continued to pursue in New York City. As a professional actor, I’ve worked off-Broadway and regionally. My search quickly led me to the Adrienne Arsht Center. I saw this eclectic, sophisticated, and multi-faceted arts center as a treasure and wanted to be a part of it. I now work in the box office as a Customer Service Representative.

Before I moved to South Florida, I had been in Birmingham, Alabama working as a project manager in a business consulting firm and then started my own Holistic Health Coaching Practice. When I saw the call for proposals for “Miami Made” [the Center’s commissioning and performance initiative of new work by South Florida artists], I knew that it was time to put to paper a performance idea that I’ve had in mind for a while. “My Friend Nina” is a journey through the accounts of five different characters: Helen, Dee, Lottie, Buck, and Delia. They vary in their experiences– a lovesick 15 year-old girl, a hard-working African-American man, a Civil Rights Freedom Fighter, a young Casanova, and a demure French socialite. The tie that binds all these characters is the influence that Nina Simone’s music has had on them finding their own voices and truths through her music and message.

The reading went off without a hitch, thanks to the support of my fantastic narrator, Marcell Black, and the excellent technical team. Being a newcomer to the area, it was my absolute pleasure to see every seat in the Peacock Foundation Studio filled. The Adrienne Arsht Center community of theater-goers proves to be just as supportive as the Center itself. Throughout the process, I was met with an enormous amount of support from the Adrienne Arsht Center team, especially [programming director] Hollie Altman, and am very excited to say that I now feel a part of the Miami Arts Community. As an emerging artist, there’s nothing more heartening than a superlative arts institution saying, “We believe in your work and are excited to see what you will produce.” This kind of support and encouragement is something that I continue to experience now as an employee in the Adrienne Arsht Center’s Box Office.

March 16, 2011, 2:40 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized, Volunteerism | Tags: , , , ,

My family volunteers at AAPAC. Yes, my family- wife Dollie, daughters Margie and Terry, granddaughter Libby, and myself. I tell everyone that we are the highest paid members of the staff. They laugh, because they know we are volunteers. But when I tell them how it has enriched our lives, they understand.

As volunteers, we serve and, like many loyal servants, we’ve become part of the Adrienne Arsht Center family. And what a family: students, retirees, professionals, housewives, husbands, and executives. From teenagers to great-grandparents, we’re united in a common bond to make our Center a special place.

We serve diversely. During performances, our patrons see trained ushers, welcoming guests, checking tickets and directing patrons with a smile. There are numerous additional volunteer opportunities. When program books have inserts, volunteers do that in our clubhouse, chatting, and enjoying a snack while inserting goodies about upcoming events.

Volunteers conduct tours of the Center, giving visitors a thorough experience of our beautiful venues. Volunteers work throughout the Center, phoning, answering calls, assisting staff, and preparing outreach packets. Inform Evelyn and Carolyn that you’re available, and you’ll soon be helping. We work on our time, at our pace, and love that we are a vital force.

When we arrive to volunteer, we’re warmly greeted. We visit Alice’s office, and enjoy some candy. In our clubhouse, we “suit up” with fellow ushers. There are always ample refreshments. After instructions by our knowledgeable house managers and tier leaders, we are equipped to serve our patrons professionally. Our compensation is not monetary. Volunteers don’t seek that. Superb benefits derive from seeing shows we choose to usher, and being given free tickets. Our greatest rewards are the staff’s respect, our friendships, and the knowledge that we are contributing to a better community.


Few cities can offer—in an entire year—the depth and breadth of performances on our stages this month alone. Allowing us to accomplish this is the Center’s brilliantly conceived collection of halls and stages, all designed to bring out the best in everything from the most complex productions to the simplest and most intimate solos.

The John S. and James L. Knight Concert Hall is a sonic wonder. Its miraculous acoustical design gives it unparalleled flexibility. There’s no better place to hear large-scale orchestras and choirs—the experience is grand, impressive, overwhelming. Yet in that same hall you can also detect every nuance a solo artist might articulate—be they a classical pianist, jazz trumpeter, world-famous comedian or pop superstar.  The Carnival Studio Theater—with just over 200 seats—gives audiences a unique perspective—up close and personal. You can’t miss a beat when the performer is just inches from your seat. Our Sanford and Dolores Ziff Ballet Opera House is the envy of cities everywhere. It’s enormous, state-of-the-art stage, incomparable sightlines, and compact horse-shoe design makes it an ideal showcase for the grandest opera, dance, and musical theater performances.

February at the Center has been a veritable festival of programming: a Jazz Roots celebration of Miles Davis , the Deutsche Staatsphilharmonie playing Beethoven and Brahms, the Tony Award-winning actress Melba Moore in Crowns, Spain’s magnificent Ballet Nacional de España, the witty banter of NPR’s “Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me,”and much more. Finally, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater visit to Miami this week is all the more special as it celebrates not only the 50th anniversary of the ever-surprising Revelations, but also Judith Jamison’s final season as the iconic leader of one of America’s true cultural treasures.

This is just a taste of the brilliant 5th Anniversary Season we have planned for you, and I look forward to seeing your smiling faces.


It’s two turntables and a microphone.  It’s lyrics to go.  It’s straight outta Compton, Queensbridge, and Miami!   It’s hip hop – one of America’s greatest cultural expressions, and it’s alive and well at the Adrienne Arsht Center like never before.  Last week a dozen young dancers took the best of hip hop from the streets of Philly to the stage in Miami, performing as part of acclaimed choreographer Rennie Harris’ second company, RHAW: Rennie Harris Awe-Inspiring Works.

In celebration of this thrilling young troupe’s Miami debut, the Center threw an old school block party, filling the Thomson Plaza for the Arts with DJs, MCs, and Miami’s finest b-boys who threw down in a breakdance battle par excellence.  As the official RHAW after party, the B-Boy Battle featured DJ Griot from 99 Jamz, DJ Brimstone/127, Ground Zero Crew, the Flipside Kings, and of course the RHAW dancers who couldn’t help but join in the freestyle jam session.  Even Dr. Rennie Harris himself was moved by the spirit of Kool Herc and took to the dance floor to show the youngsters how it is done.  Long live hip hop, one of America’s greatest art forms!


February 2011 marks a milestone month for dance at the Center.  The Center expects to see more than 22,000 South Floridians leap through our doors for diverse and dynamic dance programs, making the Adrienne Arsht Center one of the premier venues for dance in the country.  Earlier this month Peru Negro and Eva Ayllon had Miamians dancing in the aisles; Miami City Ballet enchanted with a mixed bill featuring masterworks by Balanchine, Taylor and Tharp;  last week Rennie Harris’ young hip hop troupe, RHAW, made their Miami debut; and next week Flamenco Festival returns for the fourth consecutive season with Spain’s leading ambassadors of flamenco, Ballet Nacional de España.

This weekend, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater soars into town for what has become a beloved Miami tradition – the company’s annual performance residency at the Center showcasing the world’s greatest dancers and one of the most inspiring dance masterpieces, Revelations.  This season, Ailey celebrates 50 years of Revelations, honoring a dance that has travelled across continents, touching audience members from Brooklyn to South Africa.  Artistic Director Judith Jamison, now in the final year of her incredible 25-year tenure at the helm of the company, makes her last stop in Miami this season, passing the torch to Liberty City native Robert Battle.  With Miami’s native son posed to step into perhaps the most prominent dance leadership position in the country, now more than ever dance in Miami is exploding onto the local and national scene.

Come dance with us!


From time to time, I get the opportunity to welcome local celebrities on stage or at an event, but every now and then a biggie comes along. A few weeks ago my promotions staff told me I might get to do something with  Whoopi Goldberg on stage at the Adrienne Arsht Center in Miami!

I thought, how cool is this? But what would I ask? What would I say? I loved her in “Star Trek” and The Color Purple and Ghost and come on, every one watches “The View!”

The day comes. I’m waiting at the back stage entrance. I call my contact person and she and another woman greet me, then I’m given my credentials. I’m thinking, OK cool. I get to wear a back stage pass. Then I’m walking down the hall and there she is in all her Whoopiness, posing for pictures! The two women push me up front and center and said, “Whoopi, this is Susan Wise.  She will be your moderator for the Q & A part of the show.” Moderator…what does that mean? She shakes my clammy hand and we turn for a picture. Then I get whisked away to my dressing room. Dressing room? I came already dressed…Why do I need a dressing room. That’s for big stars, I’m just a DJ.

And there it is: a big beautiful golden door with my name shining brightly on the front. SUSAN WISE. (Okay it was a normal door and my name was scribbled on a piece of paper and taped on the door, but so was Whoopi’s, and she was right next door….how about that?!) I’m next door to the famous Whoopi Goldberg!

I walk in and scope out the room; a nice couch, fully lighted mirror just like you see in the movies, a bathroom and shower. And a monitor of the stage so I can see what’s happening until time for me to go on. Two stage directors come in, Whoopi’s PR guy and the 2 women who greeted me in the beginning. They start going over my instructions and want to escort me to the backstage area, so I’ll know where I’m going ahead of time. So we do a rehearsal of my “walk to the backstage.” This was getting more over the top by the moment. Are you sure it wasn’t my name in lights out front of the Adrienne Arsht Center? I wasn’t nervous before, but all the hoopla over little ole me was crazy. (But secretly I was loving it!)

Afterwards, I watched the show from my dressing room and then 50 minutes into the performance, the stage director comes to my dressing room. “Susan …it’s time.” Oh lord, it’s time…time to faint. My hands are shaking; that hasn’t happened in years. I walk to the backstage area where I can see Whoopi doing her thing in front of a full house. My dad and Howard are out there somewhere. God, I hope I don’t trip. What if I freeze? Naw…I’m a DJ…I can do this!

Whoopi calls me on stage. I walk out and introduce myself and perch on a stool center stage next to our star. I inform the audience of what we are going to do with the Q & A. Then, I spent the next 37 minutes guiding Whoopi Goldberg—who is answering questions, being funny, clever, political and sometimes naughty—from the best seat in the house. What a fabulous night!

In Loving Memory – Dolores Ziff
January 24, 2011, 9:20 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

We are saddened by the passing of a very special member of the Adrienne Arsht Center family. Dolores Ziff was not only one of our Center’s major donors but also one of our most loyal patrons. Dolores had an indefatigable devotion to the arts and embraced the diversity of the Center’s programming. The passing of so great a woman will surely be felt throughout our entire community.

Her name is permanently engraved on our Donor Walls – and her spirit will live with us at the Center forever. The example she set will long continue to influence and inspire us.

This past January 18th, the Adrienne Arsht Center dedicated a performance by Joshua Bell in loving memory of Dolores and her surviving family: her beloved husband Sanford and the entire Ziff and Keator families. “Her boundless enthusiasm will be missed but she will always be with us in spirit,” remarked M. John Richard. Our thoughts and prayers are with them at this time. In addition, the Adrienne Arsht Center created a tribute page for the Sunday edition of The Miami Herald.

A memorial celebration of Dolores Ziff’s life was held at noon, Jan. 22, in The Church by the Sea in Bal Harbour. Dolores Ziff adored all flowers, especially peonies, but preferred donations be made to Camillus House in Miami.


There are a wide variety of opportunities for members of the community to volunteer at the Adrienne Arsht Center: as ushers, tour guides and wranglers, and as much needed support in the administrative offices, and at promotional events and outreach festivals throughout the city. In each case the volunteer is given wonderful insight into the business of guest and community service.

It’s particularly gratifying to see young people seek out and embrace these opportunities for involvement, and acquire the understanding that you always gain something, when you give something.

Recently, the Center had the pleasure of welcoming a group of 20 students of Miami Sunset Senior High School’s ESOL class (English as a Second Language), named the Close Up Club. The Close Up Club committed themselves to support the activities of the four-event FAMILY FEST, the Center’s ongoing series of free arts-related activities and performances, made possible by the support of Florida Blue Cross, Blue Shield and the Miami Downtown Development Authority.

Each student opened themselves up to the opportunity, unsure of who or what environment they might encounter, but with a great deal of courage and the desire to reach out and serve.

They ranged in ages, as did their proficiency in English – but they were unwavering in their committment to lend a hand. We are grateful to these fine young people, ready to challenge themselves, as well  as how the world sees them.

Nestor Cedeño, ESOL Department/Close Up Sponsor says, “I can say that as an ESOL teacher, I always tell my students that the best practice happens OUTSIDE of the classroom.”

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