People creating in South Florida have always had an audience, albeit sometimes small. Like the ocean we live by, the creative culture here ebbs and flows, which is normal everywhere except, maybe, in New York City, the epicenter of innovative performance experiences. The Big Apple is made up of generations of people that have the arts as a part of the fabric of their day to day lives. No one has to travel far to engage in the arts- which also makes NYC a major destination for art lovers everywhere.
In South Florida we are certainly in a flow. There are more people living here now than ever, which means more people hungry for entertainment beyond just the clubs. More and more locals are looking for thought-provoking entertainment and turning to the arts. The arts are responding by developing new and exciting ways for audiences to access their work.
It won't be long until the secret gets out, though. The tourists have already started to venture into the cultural institutions and have spread the word to their commrades back home. Eventually people traveling to South Florida will look up more than beaches to fill their itineraries - they will turn to the arts to experience something else, so it's a good thing we have amazing people creating new work regularly.
Part two of this exploration of innovative performance experiences highlights the South Florida Theatre League and their Summer Theatre Fest's Play Reading Series.
The amount of playwrights that call South Florida home is growing rapidly. They are constantly writing new works and are supported by development programs like the Playwright Development Program and City Theatre's CityWrites Conference. South Florida theatres are also stepping up and commissioning new work all across the region. These works created and developed by local authors are going on to be produced nationally and internationally. One shining example of this is Nilo Cruz's, Anna in the Tropics, which received the Pulitzer Prize for Drama after being commissioned and premiered at New Theatre. Yah! So there! If you want to see new plays there are plenty of opportunities to do so in South Florida.
In 2013, Summer Theatre Fest began a reading series featuring original work by local playwrights at theatres from Palm Beach to Key West. The Summer Theatre Fest gives South Florida playwrights a chance to showcase new work for an audience that is eager to be a part of the development and creative process. Traditionally, there is a discussion after the readings to get a pulse on the audience’s reaction to the play. The readings are also a way to see favorite local actors on stage exploring new roles and characters directed by local directors.
Member theatres and playwrights get together and agree to present a work during the Fest. It's simple- the theatre hosts, the playwright presents. With an opportunity every Monday from June-August, the audience gets to be a part of something new and exciting each week. They hear new works and get to offer feedback and ideas on the piece- an important step in any playwrights process. It lets them know how their piece may be received once it is presented in front of a paying audience.
A throw back to a play reading presented by Lavender Footlights on the Miami Art Zine site. Photo by Henry Perez.
Andie Arthur, Executive Director of Theatre League of South Florida, happily responded to the following questions for this post:
Do you find that South Florida audiences enjoy hearing new works before they have an official production?
THERE’S A CULTURE OF APPRECIATION OF NEW WORK IN THE SOUTH FLORIDA THEATRE COMMUNITY. MANY OF THE LEAGUE’S ORGANIZATIONAL MEMBERS HAVE A COMMITMENT TO NEW WORK – WE HAVE TWO THEATRES THAT ARE A PART OF THE NATIONAL NEW PLAY NETWORK (NEW THEATRE AND ZOETIC STAGE) AS WELL AS A LOT OF SMALLER THEATRES WHO LIKE WORKING WITH PLAYWRIGHTS. ONE OF THE FASCINATING THINGS THAT WE’VE FOUND IN THE PREVIOUS TWO YEARS OF THE SUMMER THEATRE FEST READING SERIES IS THAT AUDIENCE MEMBERS WILL FOLLOW THE SERIES. IT’S COMMON FOR SOMEONE TO FIND OUT ABOUT THE READINGS FROM A PLAYWRIGHT OR THE THEATRE THEY KNOW AND LOVE – AND THEN FROM THERE GO ADVENTURING TO A COMPLETELY NEW TO THEM THEATRE. WE HAVE AUDINCE MEMBERS WHO ARE PROUD OF HAVING ATTENDING MANY OF THE PREVIOUS READINGS AND I THINK THAT’S FANTASTIC.
THERE’S SOMETHING SPECIAL ABOUT BEING A PART OF SOMETHING THAT’S IN TRANSITION. I FORGET ABOUT IT OFTEN MYSELF – AS A PLAYWRIGHT, I OFTEN FEEL THAT WORK ISN’T FINISHED, JUST ABANDONED – BUT IT’S REALLY GREAT TO SEE AN AUDIENCE MEMBER WHO REALIZED THAT THEY ARE HAVING AN EFFECT ON THE WORK BY ASKING THE RIGHT QUESTIONS OR SIMPLY BY LAUGHING AT A CERTAIN LINE.
What advice do you have for an audience member attending a reading for the first time?
BRING YOUR STRONGEST THEATRICAL IMAGINATION TO THE EXPERIENCE AND LIVE IN THE POSSIBLITIES. THIS IS SOMETHING THAT IS NEW – FOR EVERYONE INVOVLED, INCLUDING YOU – AND YOU CAN HAVE A GREAT IMPACT ON WHAT HAPPENS TO IT NEXT.
What are your hopes beyond the reading for the works that are read during the Series?
I HOPE THAT THE READINGS CAN HELP THE PLAYS REACH THE NEXT STEP IN THE PLAY’S DEVELOPMENT PROCESS. IF THAT’S A RODUCTION AT THE THEATRE THAT PRODUCES THE READING, THAT’S FANTASTIC. AND IT HAS ALREADY HAPPENED. LAST YEAR, MAIN STREET PLAYERS READ GLENN HUTCHINSON’S THE POT, WHICH TYE ARE PRODUCTING THIS FALL. BUT EACH PLAY HAS ITS OWN DISTINCT NEEDS OF WHAT MAKES SENSE FOR THE NEXT PART IN THE PROCESS – BE IT PRODUCTION, A MORE IN DEPTH DEVELOPMENT OPPORTUNITY, OR EVEN ANOTHER READING SIX MONTHS DOWN THE ROAD. BUT I WISH THE BEST FOR ALL THESE PLAYS AND PLAYWRIGHTS!
The Mangrove Creative Collective will be a part of the 2015 Summer Theatre Fest’s Play Reading Series on Monday, July 27 by presenting Gina Montet’s The Prey for its first public reading.
Little Haiti Cultural Complex Theatre
212 NE 59th Terrace, Miami, FL 33137.
TWO FREE PARKING LOTS
Join us for wine and mingling at 7pm in the lobby.
Reading starts at 7:30pm sharp!