Best Theater Space - 2011
Between the free wine, the lurid red lobby atmosphere, and the scandalous, nudity-filled programming, there was always something potentially dangerous about Fort Lauderdale's Sol Theatre; it was a venue whose shock potential was limitless. Before its 2010 closure, the playhouse serviced an edgy LGBT audience, and Empire Stage, which launched its first show in the former Sol space in January 2010, has maintained Sol's beloved ambiance while improving on some of its deficiencies. Since taking over the Flagler Drive hole-in-the-wall, artistic director and New York-based bartender and actor David Gordon has installed a better lighting system and finally fixed the leaky roof. You can still pour yourself some free wine, collapse into the comfortable couch seating, and see envelope-pushing fare you won't find anywhere else, including the gay-pornography comedy Making Porn, the campy favorite He's Coming Up the Stairs!, and the offbeat dramedy Sex and Violence. "We are interested in making people laugh," Gordon says about his theater's mission. "We're not looking to do heavy dramas; it's most fun as an actor to be onstage while people are laughing."