Miami Made, the annual festival of works-in-progress by South Florida artists, kicks off this week with a faux reality TV experience at the Rivera South Beach Hotel. Three very different plays — a dark one about a Congressional Medal of Honor winner, a comedy about the truths served up at elegant dinner parties, and a darkly comic play about brothers diagnosed with terminal cancer — will get staged readings featuring some of the region’s finest actors. And a dance piece incorporating visual art (dozens of carved canaries), singing, text and a marching band’s drum line is also among the week’s free-to-all offerings.
Eclectic? For sure. But so are the talents of the artists involved.
Created in 2005 as a commissioning program by the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, Miami Made became a week-long showcase of homegrown performing arts in 2009.
“It’s our hope that the works in progress will come back as full-length works in the future. This is another step on the path to full production,” says Scott Shiller, the Arsht’s executive vice president. “The simple act of booking a public workshop or reading encourages the artists. They have a deadline. This gets them to a place where their work can be presented.”
This year’s performers, presenters and playwrights have all had their work presented at the Arsht before. Miami Made begins with the off-site Extended Stay, a piece by The Project [Theatre], creators of last year’s Beer & Cigarettes. Taking place at 9 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday at the Riviera South Beach, Extended Stay has a loose script, a large cast and plenty of improvisation. Actors play the hotel staff, guests and a reality show camera crew, and the anything-can-happen feeling is exactly what artistic director David Hemphill and his collaborators are shooting for.
“We’re always in workshop mode during performances. The piece gets to evolve in front of an audience,” Hemphill says. “When you get to the property, the experience begins. You won’t know who’s an actor and who isn’t. It should feel like you’re coming to a hot set.”
Christopher Demos-Brown, one of the founders of the Arsht-based Zoetic Stage, gets the first play reading at this year’s Miami Made. Fear Up Harsh, which will be read in the Arsht’s Carnival Studio Theater at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, features Todd Allen Durkin, Karen Stephens, Arielle Hoffman and Stephen G. Anthony, with direction by Stuart Meltzer, Zoetic artistic director. The play focuses on two soldiers who served together in Iraq, one winning the Medal of Honor. The play has been brewing for six years or so, and Demos-Brown is interested in seeing how its unusual structure works for the cast and audience.
“There are two threads going on at the same time. One soldier visits the other, and that’s interspersed with the story of the first one winning the Medal of Honor. One story runs backwards and the other runs forward,” he says.
Meltzer is also the author of Dinner Parties (Ironic and Themed), which will get a reading at 7:30 p.m. Friday in the Carnival. Margaret M. Ledford is directing Nicholas Richberg, Amy McKenna, Chaz Mena, Gregg Weiner, Michael McKeever and Lindsey Forgey in the piece, and since Meltzer will be busy with Demos-Brown’s play, he’s planning to let Ledford and the cast put the reading together.