Miami’s New Theatre has been a company without a home since the Roxy Performing Arts Center near Florida International University abruptly shut down in November due to water and sewer issues.
The company that commissioned and premiered Nilo Cruz’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Anna in the Tropics in 2002 found a temporary refuge at South Miami’s intimate Artistic Vibes space, performing Megan Breen’s My First, My Fist, My Bleeding Seeded Spirit and a short-play festival there.
Now New Theatre is homeless no longer. When it opens its production of David Caudle’s Visiting Hours on Feb. 7, the company will be performing in the Lab Theater at the South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center in Cutler Bay. New Theatre has been at the Arquitectonica-designed center before, performing in its All Kids Included Festival and presenting its world premiere production of Juan C. Sanchez’s Property Line in the center’s Black Box Theater. But this is different.
“We are nothing short of thrilled to be returning and rounding out the rest of our season at this first-class, state-of-the-art cultural arts center ... by producing the South Florida premiere of David Caudle's Visiting Hours in their intimate Lab Theater,” Ricky J. Martinez, the artistic director who has led New Theatre since 2006, said in a statement.
As with Miami’s award-winning Zoetic Stage, which presents its work in the Carnival Studio Theater at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, New Theatre will now have a synergistic relationship with one of Miami-Dade’s major performing-arts facilities.
Although the agreement between the company and the center covers only the run of Visiting Hours, both Martinez and Eric Fliss, general manager of the center, hope that the arrangement becomes a long-term one.
“Eric and I have been speaking about this for two years,” Martinez says. “We’re aiming for this as our permanent home.”
In a statement, Fliss said of the new arrangement, “Central to the mission of the center is to provide space and support to our local performing arts groups, allowing them resources to create and grow their work. I am so pleased that New Theatre has chosen [the center] as their new home, and that audiences will now have access to the excellent productions that New Theatre presents on a regular basis at our facility.”
Fliss, one of the founders of South Florida’s edgy and much-admired Acme Acting Company in the mid-1980s, added on Thursday, “This is kind of full circle for me. It’s the kind of thing I wish someone had done for us. I’ve said to Ricky, ‘Tell me what we can do to make you better.’ I want great work here. I want to be a part of it.”
Founded in 1986 by Rafael de Acha and Kimberly Daniel de Acha, New Theatre opened with a production of Georg Büchner’s Woyzek in the first of three small Coral Gables theaters it called home before moving to the Roxy in late 2011. Throughout its history, New Theatre has presented a mixture of world theater classics and new work, gradually putting more emphasis on the latter after joining the National New Play Network. Reflecting its diverse community, the company has long championed non-traditional casting.
Although the center’s Lab Theater can seat as many as 136, Martinez intends to have only 50 to 60 seats for each show.
“I did a lot of soul-searching. I had to go back to the roots of how Rafi [de Acha] started the theater. It was always very intimate,” Martinez says. “We’re going to step it up many notches, going back to and then above what we were in Coral Gables.”
“Losing our Coral Gables space was devastating, and it’s a testament to Ricky and Eileen [Suarez, the company’s managing director] that New Theatre still exists and has a following,” says Steven Eisenberg, the company’s board chairman. “We’ve been looking for a secure venue for a long time, and this is a model we’ve always thought about. It’s all about timing.”
Visiting Hours will be presented in the Lab Theater at the South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center, 10950 SW 211th St., Cutler Bay, Feb. 7-March 2. Performances are at 8:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 1 and 5:30 p.m. Sunday (no late show Feb. 9). Tickets are $26 in advance, $31 the day of the performance. For information, call 786-573-5300 or visit www.new-theatre.org.