These are hard times for regional theaters, with many in COVID-weary (and COVID-wary) audiences deciding to buy tickets on a show-by-show basis instead of committing to a season subscription. Subscriptions have, for decades, been the financial backbone of America's regional theater movement.
Layoffs and postponed seasons, some at major companies — Center Theatre Group's Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles, for instance, won't present a 2023-2024 season — have happened throughout the country, though South Florida theaters seem to have weathered the artistic downturn so far. Still, you'd think the impulse for artistic directors might be to do what touring Broadway does: program popular titles that can help provide a box office cushion.
What isn't safe – and now feels downright daring — is an artistic director's decision to produce world premieres and new-to-the-region works.
Brand-new or lesser-known plays and musicals ask a ticket buyer to roll the dice and have faith that trusted artists are going to present something startling, thought-provoking, or entertaining. Homegrown playwrights can build careers, and audiences aren't being asked to watch different productions of the same shows over and over again.
So, in that spirit, here's a select look at some of the many premieres worth seeking out this season. The shows are grouped thematically, though many fit into more than one category.
Identity ExplorationIn Miami-Dade, myriad cultures mix, blend, and clash, drawing from the past while fashioning a future. The exploration of identity has provided thematic fuel for several plays premiering in South Florida this season.
Poet Richard Blanco (who read his "One Morning" at President Barack Obama's second inauguration) and playwright Vanessa Garcia (who wrote the immersive hit The Amparo Experience) are Cuban-Americans who grew up in Miami. The two collaborated on the commissioned Sweet Goats and Blueberry Señoritas, which had its world premiere at Maine's Portland Stage last January. Actors' Playhouse at the Miracle Theatre in Coral Gables will begin its new season November 8-December 3 with the regional premiere of Blanco and Garcia's play about a Cuban-American baker torn between remaining in Maine or returning to Miami to deal with her estranged mother.
Garcia will also have a world premiere this season when New City Players, performing at Island City Stage in Wilton Manors, presents 1,000 Miles in collaboration with Miami's Abre Camino Collective March 7-24. In the play about "survival, surveillance, nationalism, and the nature of opportunity," a woman tries to make a new life after she emigrates to a changing city in another country.
Carmen Rivera's Obie Award-winning La Gringa, off-Broadway's longest-running Spanish-language play, will make its bilingual Miami debut November 30-December 17 in a City Theatre production at the Arsht Center's Carnival Studio Theater in Miami. A young woman whose extended family is from Puerto Rico makes her first visit to the island over the Christmas holidays, seeking connection with a culture she treasures, only to realize she's regarded as a gringa, an "other" very different from her Puerto Rican relatives.
Another aspect of identity comes into play in the world premiere of David Rosenberg's Wicked Child January 11-28. The Zoetic Stage production at the Arsht Center's Carnival Studio Theater focuses on a New York attorney who leaves his successful career behind to join the Israeli Defense Force, a decision that has repercussions within his secular Jewish family.
Linda Parris-Bailey's Yankee Bajan November 3-4 uses drama and music to explore a couple's journey away from American violence and injustice back to Barbados, where they embrace their homeland and its legacy. Live Arts Miami is presenting the piece in the Lehman Theater at Miami Dade College's North Campus.
Kazakh-American opera singer Timor Bekbosunov will perform the world premiere of his dark musical comedy The Great Soviet Bucket February 23-24 in the Miami Light Project's new home, the Light Box at Miami Theater Center in Miami Shores. Comrade Bucket, a puppet representing Russia in the disintegrating Soviet Union, ignites questions of identity and politics in an artist confronting a changing future.
Sit Up, Take NoticeWhen acclaimed playwrights like Moisés Kaufman (The Laramie Project, Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde) and Nilo Cruz (the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Anna in the Tropics) debut new work in your region, just go. And though he's not as widely known, the same holds true for Christopher Demos-Brown, a cofounder of Miami's Zoetic Stage, whose play American Son ran on Broadway from 2018-2019.
The New York-based Kaufman, who cofounded Miami New Drama with artistic director (and fellow Venezuelan) Michel Hausmann, has transformed Jonathan Jakubowicz's bestseller Las Aventuras de Juan Planchard into a vivid theatrical exploration of the excesses and corruption that helped destroy Venezuela's democracy. Running October 17-December 17, Juan Planchard will be directed by Kaufman; his first play to be written and performed in Spanish will also feature English subtitles.
As playwright and director, Cruz crafted a stunning production of Anna in the Tropics for Miami New Drama last season. He'll return to the company in early 2024 to direct his play Two Sisters and a Piano, which runs January 18-February 11. This version of the piece about sisters under house arrest in 1991 Havana will be performed in its original English version, though in 2019, Cruz directed a Spanish-language production for Miami's Arca Images.
That smaller company, which performs at Miami-Dade County Auditorium's On.Stage Black Box, will be doing not one but two Cruz plays this season, both directed by the playwright: 1995's poetic A Park in Our House November 9-12 and the world premiere of The Night That Degas Visited Miami March 14-17.
Demos-Brown hasn't had a South Florida world premiere since 2018's Wrongful Death and Other Circus Acts at Zoetic, which also did the regional premiere of American Son in 2020. His newest work, The Cancellation of Lauren Fein, will take on cancel culture in its world premiere at Palm Beach Dramaworks February 2-18.
In the play, Fein and her wife Paula Muñoz, professors at a prestigious university and parents to a 16-year-old Black foster son face losing everything when Fein's actions and the school's diversity, equity, and inclusion policies come into conflict. Demos-Brown's plays are timely, topical, and steeped in questions of justice. His day job is as an attorney, but trust this: He's an excellent, engaging playwright.
That's So MiamiAs Miami's community of playwrights grows, so does the body of work inspired by or reflective of the city.
Actor-professor-playwright Elena Maria Garcia and Zoetic Stage artistic director Stuart Meltzer found themselves with a resonant hit when they debuted ¡Fuácata! A Latina's Guide to Surviving the Universe at Zoetic in 2017 (it had a second Arsht Center run and another at Actors' Playhouse after that). Cuban Chicken Soup When There's No More Café, Garcia and Meltzer's follow-up to their earlier multi-character solo show, will get its world premiere in the Adrienne Arsht Center's Carnival Studio Theater May 2-19.
Former Miamian Alexis Scheer, whose Laughs in Spanish had its world premiere at the Denver Center Theatre in January, will get a regional production of the play in Coral Gables May 17-June 9 at GableStage in the Biltmore Hotel. Victoria Collado, who staged The Amparo Experience will direct the wild comedy set in a Wynwood gallery during Art Basel.
Immersive TheaterMiami's Area Stage Company has helped ignite a new love for immersive theater experiences thanks to the boundless creativity of its young artistic director, Giancarlo Rodaz. After a buzz-worthy Annie in its South Miami space and successful productions of Disney's Beauty and the Beast and The Little Mermaid at the Arsht's Carnival Studio Theater, Rodaz will immerse actors and audiences in the world of The Addams Family with Area's production of the musical February 7-25.
Zoetic Stage will be entering the immersive realm with its production of the über-popular musical Cabaret in the Carnival Studio Theater March 14-April 7. Artistic director Meltzer will evoke the show's decadent Kit Kat Klub in 1929-1930 Berlin, with Lindsey Corey starring as self-deluding chanteuse Sally Bowles and lanky Elijah Word as the always-provocative Emcee.
Thanks in part to a Knight Foundation New Work grant, Miami playwright William Hector's long-brewing G7: 2070 will get its world premiere October 19-21 in the buildings and beautiful nine-acre botanical gardens of the Kampong in Coconut Grove. The 70 people who attend each performance will find themselves at an urgent climate summit, aligning themselves with representatives from seven nations vastly altered by sea level rise 50 years in the future. Victoria Collado, who staged the immersive Amparo Experience, will direct.
Examining IssuesRacism, a police coverup, and world-class journalism collide in the Miami New Drama world premiere of Dangerous Days, the Nicholas Griffin play that will debut at Miami Beach's Colony Theatre April 4-28. Drawing from his book The Year of Dangerous Days, Griffin sets the play in Miami in the wild 1980s and centers it around the Miami Herald's Pulitzer Prize-winning police reporter, the legendary Edna Buchanan.
Hands down, one of the season's most challenging and potentially dazzling productions is GableStage's regional premiere of The Lehman Trilogy March 15-April 14. Artistic director Bari Newport will stage Ben Power's adaptation of Stefano Massini's play about the rise and fall of the global investment firm Lehman Brothers. A trio of actors plays all the parts in the illuminating, cautionary American Dream saga that covers more than a century and a half. An epic takes time — this one runs three hours and 15 minutes — but Newport believes this particular American Dream (and nightmare) story flies by.
Dominique Morisseau's Pipeline will make its regional debut in an M Ensemble production at the Sandrell Rivers Theater June 6-23. One of the country's hottest playwrights focuses on a Black inner-city high school teacher who tries to build a better future for her only son by sending him off to prep school, only to have him return to an environment rife with risk.
Dedicated to new work, the professional Theatre Lab on the campus of Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton has a couldn't-be-timelier world premiere in Idris Goodwin's What's Best for the Children April 10-28. The comedy about the first Black chairman of a state school board committee pits wildly different interest groups against one another as they vie to swing his support their way.
Pushing BoundariesAs he demonstrated during the pandemic with Seven Deadly Sins — which put actors in Lincoln Road storefronts and audiences in small, safe, socially distanced groups outside — Miami New Drama's Hausmann is an outside-the-box thinker. In collaboration with Miami's Rubell Museum, Hausmann has commissioned six writers — Edwidge Danticat, Marco Ramirez, Carmen Pelaez, Aurin Squire, Rogelio Martinez, and Christopher Peña — to write short plays inspired by pieces of art that will be on display as the plays are performed. The Museum Plays begins an open-ended run at the Rubell (1100 NW 23rd St., Miami) starting January 11.
In addition to its unusual name, LakeHouseRanchDotPNG is devoting its second season of experimental and absurdist theater at Kendall's Artistic Vibes exclusively to world premieres by women. Rachel Greene's XOXOLOLA, about classics-loving students brought together by Titus Andronicus and something kinkier, runs through October 1. Riley Elton McCarthy's Rabbit involves a runaway, a pack of rabbits, and danger in the woods November 10-19.
Running December 1-10, Charisma Jolly's Grapefruit, inspired by the life of the late Gilda Radner, looks at a comedian struggling to get back into the limelight as she battles illness and self-doubt. Mackenzie Raine's Push, playing January 12-21, imagines a divorcing couple in mediation with a special asset: Whenever one pushes a button, the other has to tell the truth. For the March 1-10 slot, the entire company is devising a piece that asks, "Is the blue-collar worker the key to society?"
Fort Lauderdale's bold Thinking Cap Theatre has a new home in the Broward Center's Abdo New River Room for the season, where founding artistic director Nicole Stodard plans to continue the company's dedication to theatrical experimentation, equity, and diversity. In addition to the pieces onstage, the company intends to immerse audiences in free additional programming that will allow them a deeper dive into the material.
First up October 27-November 3 is the early '60s Tango Palace by María Irene Fornés, a vastly influential, Obie Award-winning Cuban-American playwright who was also a mentor and teacher to other great playwrights, including Nilo Cruz. William Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew, the comedic battle of the sexes as directed and reimagined by Stodard, will allow audiences and actors to chime in as the play is performed March 22-April 3.
Broadway Comes to TownFor theater fans drawn to spectacle and recognizable titles, nothing beats touring Broadway shows. In addition to the return of such past hit shows as Hamilton (March 13-24 at the Arsht, April 10-21 at the Kravis in West Palm Beach), Les Misérables (June 18-23 at the Arsht), plus Annie (October 10-22) and The Book of Mormon (December 12-17) at the Broward Center in Fort Lauderdale, several new-to-the-region shows are headed our way.
At the Arsht, catch The Cher Show (January 2-7) to experience a dazzling tribute to the ultimate timeless pop diva. Also making its regional debut: a new treatment of Peter Pan (May 7-12), adapted by Native American playwright Larissa FastHorse and directed by Lonny Price.
The Broward Center has four South Florida premieres: Funny Girl (November 14-26) starring Cuban-American Katerina McCrimmon, originally from Miami; the visually spectacular Moulin Rouge! The Musical (March 5-17); Mrs. Doubtfire (April 9-21); and Clue (June 11-16).
And if you're an Alanis Morissette fan, you'll have to travel to West Palm Beach to see the regional debut of Jagged Little Pill (February 20-25) at the Kravis Center.
Eclectic ChoicesThis last category serves as a heads-up about additional world and regional premieres — this season is rich with them.
Zoetic Stage kicks off its season with the regional premiere of Lynn Nottage's Clyde's November 2-19 in the Arsht's Carnival Studio Theater. The dark comedy by the double Pulitzer winner features a group of ex-prisoners trying to restart their lives working in a truck stop diner run by the manipulative owner-manager from hell (to be played by Karen Stephens).
Another double Pulitzer winner, August Wilson, is the subject of the one-man show How I Learned What I Learned. Opening the season at GableStage at the Biltmore September 22-October 29, the play stars Melvin Huffnagle as Wilson, illuminating the people, experiences, and inner drive that made him one of the country's greatest playwrights with a ten-play cycle about Black Americans in each decade of the 20th Century. (And a side note: Miami's M Ensemble will present the play Wilson said was his favorite, Joe Turner's Come and Gone April 11-28.)
Both True Mirage Theater and Main Street Players will stage world premieres this season. True Mirage begins with Armando Salgado's tragicomedy Hoo Hah! November 3-12 at Main Street Playhouse in Miami Lakes, then travels to Artefactus in south Miami February 16-25 for Luis Roberto Herrera's SAA (not that one), a dark comedy about a guy in an alien abduction support group. Main Street Players debuts Vinecia Coleman's Christiana Lysistrata February 16-March 3, with the playwright bringing a modern sensibility to the story of women claiming their power, à la the Greek classic Lysistrata.
And a couple more for the road: Slow Burn Theatre at the Broward Center's Amaturo Theater will stage the regional premiere of The SpongeBob Musical June 7-23.
In Wilton Manors, neighboring theater companies Island City Stage and Ronnie Larsen's Plays of Wilton (POW) at the Foundry have plenty of new-to-the-region shows mainly aimed at the companies' LGBTQ theatergoers: Island City's offerings include Which Way to the Stage January 18-February 21, Pulp April 11-May 5, and Skintight May 30-June 23, while POW is doing the Florida premiere of the Dan Clancy-Lynn Portas musical 108 Waverly.
– Christine Dolen, ArtburstMiami.com