Jai Rodriguez, formerly of the Emmy Award-winning Bravo reality show Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, has been working at breakneck speed, perfecting his lines, sharpening his choreography, and hitting the right notes, all for the sake of putting on what promises to be the summers show of shows when he headlines City Theatres 16th-annual Summer Shorts.
For last years festivities, City Theatre premiered Camp Kappawanna, a family rock musical penned by Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter Lisa Loeb. This years offerings, however, are not so kiddie-friendly. The 16th anniversary of Summer Shorts calls for something spicier, hipper, and more provocative all meshed into a series of seven short plays performed back to back at the Broward Center of Performing Arts beginning Thursday. And it looks like City Theatre found its man in Rodriguez.
Its really rare you get to show many different colors of yourself in one evening, he says between rehearsals that have him playing an eclectic mix of characters some serious, others outrageous. Rodriguez, whom many viewers will remember as the culture guy on Queer Eye, has an impressive theater résumé that includes stints on Broadway in Rent and The Producers. In Summer Shorts, he flexes his stage-performer muscles as an actor, singer, and dancer.
Among the diverse and assorted short plays Rodriguez will star in are Chronicle Simpkins Will Cut Your Ass, a play about a gang war set on a playground; Aboard the Guy V. Molinari, a tale of two ship passengers thrown overboard who unexpectedly find their port in a storm; and Mickey Herman Saves the $#&@ World, a manga-like comedy about a brokenhearted gamer who wagers the fate of the planet against alien invaders.
Not all of the plays are comedic and lighthearted fare, though. One of the more serious is the Southeastern premiere of Israel Horovitzs thought-provoking play What Strong Fences Make. Horovitz wrote this emotionally charged drama, about two friends who clash at an Israeli checkpoint, as a response piece to dramatist Caryl Churchills controversial play Seven Jewish Children, which Horovitz found an offensive, distorted, and manipulative take on the ongoing conflict in the Middle East.
There are funny plays, and there are plays that are going to make people cry, Rodriguez says, so there really is something for everyone.
Among the other premieres at this years Summer Shorts are Dos Corazones, about two dissimilar new mothers who discover they have more in common than they think, and Quiet, Please, in which two patients awaiting therapy find the courage to say hello.
The main attraction will be Rodriguezs Dirty Little Secrets (at 10 p.m. Saturday). Billed as an irreverent comical musical revue filled with dish, dirty little secrets, and stimulating moments, Secrets looks to be an out-of-the box, modern-day, vaudeville-style performance for adults. Kinda like Glee, Rodriguez says, if Glee were rated R.
In the show, Rodriguez candidly shares oftentimes funny, cheeky, and intimate stories about his own life from growing up a strict born-again Christian to winning an Emmy for Queer Eye to his first sexual experiences, which were, as Rodriguez puts it, surprisingly not with men.
Summer Shorts starts at 7 p.m. Thursday through Sunday at the Broward Center of Performing Arts (201 SW Fifth Ave., Fort Lauderdale). Tickets cost $45. Visit browardcenter.org or citytheatre.com.
June 30-July 3, 2011