Several artistic directors said patrons complain when they stray outside expectations. Actors Playhouse's superlative folk opera Floyd Collins drove out its conventional audiences even before intermission in 2003. Some people contend the Caldwell imploded because it changed its fare too abruptly, even though it was doing some of its best work ever. GableStage took a huge chance with the unsettling Blasted in 2010, but it took a financial beating with Tarrell Alvin McCraney's imaginative The Brothers Size.

As a result, several types of show simply aren't seen anymore because they don't fall in someone's mission statement. Who is doing Cyrano de Bergerac, Major Barbara, Molière, Odets, Genet, or the pre-Neil Simon light comedies?

And there simply is not enough performing space in the three counties that fits all the criteria. It's not that there aren't empty stages all over the region, especially considering the crop of new government-sponsored halls from Cutler Ridge to Miramar. But many are too large and too expensive for even the more established companies. What is desperately needed are 99-seat and 149-seat houses.

GableStage took a financial beating with The Brothers Size.
George Schiavone
GableStage took a financial beating with The Brothers Size.

Cost matters too. Lynn University has a gorgeous 750-seat theater, but its rental is $1,635 to $2,045 a night. The Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami has generously hosted Zoetic Stage, City Theatre, Alliance Theatre Lab, and Mad Cat, but the companies have to use the Arsht's union-scale stagehands and incur other expenses. The receiver currently overseeing the former Caldwell Theatre space charged Entr'acte Theatrix $5,000 a week rent to use its 333-seat theater in July.

Anyone who sees even a handful of shows knows that South Florida is blessed with skilled actors, directors, stage managers, designers, stage crews, and support staff committed to making their artistic stand here. For the moment. Like every other resource, it's imperiled.

Every artistic director and producer interviewed said they preferred hiring local talent where possible. But the real third-rail issue is just how good local talent is in the first place. Some people interviewed said South Florida partisans have a parochial blindness that, frankly, artists here are better than they are. They contend that an A-level director here is a B-level director in the major theater hubs.

The list of challenges may be longer than The Iceman Cometh and more daunting than King Lear. But the theater community can evolve, adapt, and grow where it wants to go.

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