Despite widespread vaccinations and the implementation of safety measures at the peak of the pandemic, the latest outbreak of COVID-19 caused by the Omicron variant is forcing several theater companies in Miami-Dade County to modify their seasons more or less important.
The key moves:
- GableStage pushed Claudia Rankine’s race The white card to February 25-March 27; delayed world premiere musical, me before you, in the 2022-2023 season; and added Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking to the current season at the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables.
- Actors’ Playhouse at the Miracle Theater in Coral Gables delays On your feet!, the two-week Broadway biographical musical about Gloria and Emilio Estefan; the show will now run from February 9 to March 6.
- Zoetic Stage presents its world premiere of Hannah Benitez Gringo Landia as scheduled from January 13-30 at the Carnival Studio Theater at the Arsht Center in Miami. But the company chose to replace its large-scale production of Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler A little night music for the intimate review Side by side near Sondheim, which will run from March 17 to April 10.
- Miami New Drama at the Colony Theater in Miami Beach wraps up its world premiere of the musical Louis Armstrong, A wonderful world, on January 16, with plans to air the show soon. But the company is pushing back racing for the remainder of its two-week season, with Winter Miller’s When Monica met Hillary now slated for its world premiere March 3-27 and the world premiere of Carmen Pelaez The Cuban vote from April 21 to May 15. Dates of the fourth show, Papa Cuatro, have yet to be announced.
The changes and delays weren’t limited to these four Miami-Dade companies, of course.
Not ready for Prime Time, a play by Erik J. Rodriguez and Charles A. Sothers about the early days of Saturday Night Live at the new Westchester Cultural Arts Center, moved its broadcast dates from December 31-January 16 to March 17-April 10. And Prelude to 2100, an immersive, futuristic and multidisciplinary piece created by Susan Caraballo and more than 30 artists, has shortened its scheduled run at Miami’s Deering Estate by a week and will now welcome outdoor audiences on February 3-4 and February 6.
Theaters in Broward and Palm Beach counties were also affected – with delayed opening dates; Boca Raton’s Theater Lab Postpones 2022 New Play Festival; and the Maltz Jupiter Theater making major changes due to COVID-related construction delays during its $36 million building renovation.
The bottom line: Across South Florida, artistic directors have once again been challenged to find ways to keep their colleagues, artists and audiences safe and ensure the financial viability of their seasons .
Bari Newport, navigating her first season as GableStage’s Artistic Director Producer, feared she might have The white card director Lydia Fort, cast and creative team in rehearsal during Omicron’s surge for the previously scheduled January 14-February 13 run.
“Ultimately, it turns into a financial decision on par with health issues, in terms of ability and conditions,” Newport says. “There’s no way we can afford an understudy for every role, and I don’t want to put anyone in the position of having to start and stop a production.”
The white card, a searing piece about a black photographer and wealthy white arts patrons, also has a vital element of audience engagement following the show directed by Voices United’s Katie Christie. Unlike the rest of GableStage productions, The white card will not be broadcast and must be experienced in person.
Moving The white card in the slot intended for the world premiere of the musical me before you brought about other changes. The Janece Shaffer-Kristian Bush musical, about the effects of the Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court nomination hearings on a long-married couple, will instead receive an intensive nine-day workshop. Potential donors and sponsors will get a first look at a staged reading at the North Beach Bandshell in Miami Beach on February 2. The show would get its world premiere next season.
The Florida premiere of Jessica Provenz boca will continue as planned from April 22 to May 22, then GableStage will present the solo exhibition, The Year of Magical Thinking, from June 3 to 26 in tribute to the author Joan Didion, who died last month. In collaboration with the Abre Camino Collective, GableStage will feature Cuban-American actor Ruben Rabasa in Rubenology: The Making of an American Legend from July 14 to 31. by Tanya Saracho Disappear, a Teo Castellanos-directed comedy-drama about class and culture within the Latino community, is set to close the season from August 19 to September 18.
For Newport, making most of the season available via streaming is important in several ways.
“I think it’s extremely important. There are a thousand reasons why people can’t physically come to the theatre. Many have a weakened immune system, or someone doesn’t want to come without their spouse,” she says. . “It’s also a fantastic way to make a company’s work known everywhere. Theatrical tourism is a reality.”
Making changes to the season was a difficult but necessary decision, she adds.
“I have to make sure the marathon can be run, not just the sprint,” says Newport. “I will have to manage the company’s long-term ambitions rather than taking pragmatic steps in the future.”
According to artistic director David Arisco of Actors’ Playhouse, pushing the start of On your feet! performance was also a matter of safety and numbers.
“We’re back in pause and pivot mode,” he says. “We had planned a six-week run, so now we are going to do a four-week run, with the possibility of extending for a week if sales are good.
The musical – directed by Miami native Andy Señor Jr. (who was associate director of the Broadway production) and choreographed by Natalie Caruncho (Broadway and touring cast member) – will feature actors from Broadway, the National and South Florida Tour. , as well as musicians from the Miami Sound Machine of the Estefans. Claudia Yanez, who played Gloria’s younger sister and understudied the lead role on Broadway, will play Gloria at the Actors’ Playhouse, and Jason Canela will portray Emilio.
On your feet! is the biggest show the Actors’ Playhouse has produced since the success of COVID-19, with 21 adult and two child actors, two swing performers, and each role understudied by others in the cast, as well as an orchestra of ten musicians.
“We’ve had time to put all of our COVID safety protocols in place, and I think everyone feels better about coming here,” Arisco says. “Everyone in the company will be tested three days a week and will wear masks during rehearsals. I am optimistic that we will get through the season with quality and safety.”
The Actors’ Playhouse season also includes Murder on the Orient Express (April 6-24), Hank Williams: Lost Highway (May 18-June 12), and Sometimes (July 13-August 7).
At the Arsht Center, Zoetic Artistic Director Stuart Meltzer Didn’t Consider Moving Benitez’s World Premiere Gringo Landia because other productions (including Area Stage’s be cooler February 4-27) were already booked at the Carnival Studio Theater. But he decided that to do the grand scale A little night music March 17-April 10 wouldn’t be the best move during a pandemic that first shut down the show during rehearsals in March 2020.
“I was looking at what was happening in my colleagues’ theaters, the challenges and the realities,” Meltzer says. “I decided that something smaller and a little more controlled would allow us to continue on the path of Sondheim’s work that we are so fond of.”
Hence the programming of Side by side near Sondheim, which features three actors and Meltzer as the narrator. The show features songs from Society, Follies, A little night music, A funny thing happened on the way to the forum, Everyone can whistle, Pacific Openings, and other shows by the deeply influential Broadway composer-lyricist, who passed away on November 26, 2021. As expected, Zoetic will conclude its season from May 5-22 with Alexis Scheer’s Our dear dead drug lord.
“These are incredibly difficult times. You have to stay nimble, have a sense of humor and be prepared,” says Meltzer. “Otherwise you’ll land a little too hard.”
Being nimble has helped Miami New Drama co-founder and artistic director Michel Hausmann and his colleagues navigate through the world premiere series of A wonderful world. Despite daily COVID testing, the musical about jazz legend Louis Armstrong, with a book by former Miamian Aurin Squire, had to cancel performances during a run that will end Jan. 16. Doubles and swing artists sometimes had to step in for sick actors – and Hausmann was impressed.
“We’ve played with four swings at times, and the show is so solid you couldn’t tell. It was an eye opener on how much talent there was. They killed it off with a few hours notice,” Hausmann says. .
At the same time, not prolonging the run and giving the company some breathing room before the world premiere of When Monica met Hillary seemed cautious.
“Not cancelling, not pushing anything to another season was a matter of putting systems in place and moving everything around two weeks later,” he says, adding, “I’m trying to work to develop performance spaces in outdoors, with the understanding that there’s a chance our world has changed for good. We need to pivot. We need to do more experiments to see what event-based storytelling will work.
– Christine Dolen, ArtburstMiami.com