Best Of :: Arts & Entertainment
Once upon a time, theater was a crucible through which a society's deepest concerns were given life on-stage. That unquestionably was the case this season when a powerful tale of racial conflict and media manipulation, Permanent Collection, blazed white hot at Florida Stage. The staging was expert, combining a professional acting ensemble, assured direction, and superior production support. But it was this show's fierce emotional and intellectual honesty -- which set up many more questions than answers -- that made for such a memorable, challenging theatrical event.
WLRN-FM (91.3) Sounds of the Caribbean has been a presence on South Florida's airwaves since 1979, when none other than Bob Marley convinced host Clint O'Neil that he could be an important voice of island culture in Miami, a city that could be called the capital of the Caribbean. Until recently, O'Neil's Monday-through-Friday, late-night broadcasts were supplemented with two weekend editions hosted by Kevin "Ital-K" Smith, but Smith's early Sunday and Monday morning shows were replaced with BBC News by station management in October. It's a shame Smith's quick wit and sharp British accent is no longer heard, but O'Neil is still on from 2 to 7 a.m. Sundays, laying down tracks from nearly every tropical genre, from soca to rocksteady and dancehall through Afro-Cuban. Through the Internet, the station reaches listeners worldwide. The show breaks up the canned chatter and carefully calculated playlists that rule the corporately controlled medium of radio today.
The Pissarro dynasty aside, it's not often that you find more than one generation of artistic brilliance in the same family. The Palm Beach Institute of Contemporary Art took advantage of this art-world quirk last year with "The Smiths: Tony, Kiki, Seton," the first exhibition to encompass works by minimalist artist Tony Smith and two of his daughters. Dad was first an architect, then an art patron -- his collection included works by such abstract expressionists as Pollock and Rothko -- and finally an artist himself. The mathematical precision of architecture is prominent in Tony's works, including the huge The Keys to Given! (the title comes from James Joyce's Finnegans Wake), a large, black, steel sculpture you can actually walk through. It's too bad Tony didn't live long enough to see daughters Kiki and Seton hit their stride as artists. Kiki's fascination with the human body is evident in media as diverse as metal sculpture, ink drawing, and mixed media. The Paris-based Seton, in sharp contrast with both father and sister, works in photography, specifically large Cibachrome photographs that are, intentionally, ever-so-slightly out of focus. This beautifully assembled show, including more than 60 works created over the course of half a century, is a bracing reminder of the many ways artistic talent blossoms and flourishes.
For the past five years that she has lived in South Florida, Carol Prusa has been quietly going about her business. And that business is turning out some of the area's most distinctive art. Prusa, who teaches painting at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, specializes in imagery that looks as if it's from some sort of alien anatomy textbook: pale, ethereal forms that suggest both plants and animals, rendered in a near-monochromatic palette that includes such ingredients as gesso, sulfur, graphite, and silver. Fittingly, she studied biocommunication arts and medical illustration at the University of Illinois before going on to earn an MFA in painting with a minor in drawing at Drake University in Iowa. Since arriving in Florida, Prusa has accumulated an impressive array of awards for her work, from the Art and Culture Center of Hollywood and the Boca Raton Museum of Art, most notably. Her solo shows have been at Palm Beach Community College's Eissey campus, Broward Community College's Pembroke Pines campus, and the Coral Springs Art Museum.
Best Solo Art Exhibition "The Sideshow of the Absurd" There are installations, and then there are installations. And then there is Pamela Joseph's take on the art form that people either love or love to hate. Joseph swept into town in February 2003 with "The Sideshow of the Absurd," which converted the first floor of the Art and Culture Center of Hollywood into a series of interconnected installations and supplementary materials such as banners, sketches, and spotlights casting carny come-ons onto the walls. The Colorado-based artist draws on carnival culture and freak shows for her subject matter, which she then transforms into sly commentaries on contemporary American pop culture, usually with a feminist slant tempered with a sense of humor. Many of the "pieces" are interactive, not to mention wired for sound. Even the exhibition's catalog is outrageously over-the-top, a garish volume filled with photographs, drawings, essays, an interview with the artist, and an introduction by artist Larry Rivers, who died not long after contributing to this traveling show. The catalog also includes an interactive CD and a batch of temporary tattoos that play off the show's themes. What better way to celebrate the innate sideshow-like character of South Florida?
Best Stage Ensemble John Archie, Elizabeth Dimon, Dawn Renee Jones, Tracey Conyer Lee, Dan Leonard, and David Mann This all-star cast delivered all-star performances. Archie, an art-museum director, and Mann, his bookish art historian subordinate, were on fire in their central, conflicting roles. So was Tracey Conyer Lee as a pragmatic assistant caught in the middle. To this add Dan Leonard as the ghost of a sly, rough-talking philanthropist, Dawn Renee Jones as a regal museum executive, and Elizabeth Dimon as a brutally effective reporter. All brought welcome layers of humanity and humor to their roles, an inspired example of creative collaboration.
Thomas Gibbons' drama featured complex characters locked in a fierce struggle over race and culture, examining the deep currents of casual prejudice and paranoia that continue to flow under the surface of American life. But the fiery, articulate ideas were only part of this play's appeal. Gibbons has the uncanny knack of revealing one of the most maddening and central aspects of human experience -- his people are expert at spotting the flaws of others but completely unable to see their own.
Fort Lauderdale's Sol troupe has found a devoted and growing following for its funky, informal "lounge theater" style. Offering a tossed salad of updated classics and high-powered, issue-oriented new plays, Robert Hooker and company have come a looong way in only a few short years. With such recent hits as Marisol, Vampire Lesbians of Sodom, and the blazing Stop Kiss, this Sol is generating a whole lotta heat.