For the past few years, getting tickets to the latest work from Emmy/Tony/Grammy/Pulitzer-winning author Lin-Manuel Miranda, creator of the theatrical tsunami “Hamilton,” has been difficult.
But this summer, you can see a regional premiere of a Miranda musical — all 10 minutes of it — right here in Miami.
Miranda’s “21 Chump Street” is part of this year’s Summer Shorts festival, which opens Saturday and runs through July 2 at the Carnival Studio Theater at the Adrienne Arsht Center in Miami. The short play, written before “Hamilton,” is about a student in Boca Raton who will do anything for the new girl at school.
The creation of City Theatre and now in its 22nd season, Summer Shorts: America’s Short Play Festival experimented with short musicals for the first time last year, and they were a hit, says Margaret Ledford, the new artistic director of City Theatre.
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“With short plays, it’s amazing how detailed they can be, how quickly you can have a beginning, a middle and an end,” she says. “We found out with musicals you could do the same thing. It’s a fascinating genre.”
Ledford, who directed last season’s hilarious space musical “Warped” — arguably the highlight of the 2016 version of Summer Shorts — will also direct two southeastern premieres this season: “Missing Karma” by Timothy Huang, about a couple at the wake of their dog, and “Real Art,” about a painter who doesn’t want to sell her masterpiece and the determined buyer who won’t take no for an answer.
Also among the eight plays to be performed this season: Steve Yockey’s “Adorable Kitten Image Collapse,” directed by Paul Tei; David MacGregor’s “Just Desserts,” directed by David Nail and Susan J. Westfall’s “The Best Seller,” directed by Jessica Farr.
The idea, Ledford, is to create the perfect mix of humor and drama.
“We look for something that tells a complete story, something surprising,” Ledford says of the selection process. “You look for a little bit of this, a little of that. A love story, a family story. This year one of the musicals is very sad. We refer to it as ‘the adult story.’ ”
Ledford has stepped into her new role just as City Theatre is expanding its repertoire. The company is reviving Winter Shorts in December and staging a full-length play with Robert Schenkkan’s “Building the Wall” in September.
Author of the Tony-winning “All the Way,” about Lyndon B Johnson, and “The Kentucky Cycle,” winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1992, Schenkkan wrote “Building the Wall” in response to last fall’s election. It’s a cautionary tale about the dangers of authoritarianism and is opening as a “rolling premiere” this year at six companies, including City Theatre.
“I have imagined a not so distant future in which now President Trump’s racist campaign rhetoric on emigration and border security has found its full expression,” Schenkkan writes on his website about the work. “While our current political crisis is extraordinary it is not new, the authoritarian play book is well established. Create a constant state of crisis which only a ‘strong’ leader can solve. Encourage fear, divide the populace, and scapegoat minorities with appeals to nationalism, racism, and isolationism. Smear your opponents as unpatriotic and tell the press to ‘just shut up and listen.’ The question, of course, is not so much what the Authorities will do but how we, the citizens, will respond.”
“He said he wanted to get this play into as many theaters as possible as quickly as possible,” Ledford says. “We jumped on board.”
Ledford also hopes City Theatre’s long established ties to the authors of the Summer Shorts plays pays off in the future.
“My hope is that we can start to do a full-length play every season based on our relationships with our playwrights,” she says. “We can build on some fantastic relationships.”
If You Go
What: Summer Shorts
When: Saturday through July 2; 7:30 Thursdays and Fridays; 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturdays except July 1 (no 2 p.m. show) and June 3 (evening show begins at 8 p.m.); 4 p.m. Sundays.
Where: Carnival Studio Theater at the the Adrienne Arsht Center, 1300 Biscayne Blvd., Miami
Tickets: $39-$54; click here.