By Bill Hirschman
Yet another stirring that theater will return to… well, maybe normal isn’t the word… was reaffirmed this week as the Arsht Center announced that the Miami presenting house will resume its Broadway national tours in late September including Hadestown, and is hosting an on-site theater production outdoors this month from Zoetic Stage.
Further, the center staff is slowly but steadily trying to schedule short-term one-time live events inside its main halls for the summer and fall, although it’s difficult when many visits used to be worked out months, even years in advance.
“Just like with Broadway, we are working with all our touring partners for classical music, for jazz artists, (gospel,) for all the other bits and pieces that we do regularly to begin to think about theater coming back,” said Arsht President and CEO Johann Zietsman.
In the meantime, Broadway Across America has nearly finished scheduling its tours through 47 cities assuming the pandemic doesn’t sideline plans. Arsht’s Sept. 28 date is one of the earliest stops when the tour buses return to the road.
The Broward Center in Fort Lauderdale, which announced its season last week, hosts its first show Nov. 3. The Kravis Center in West Palm Beach plans to announce its slate later this month, arranged independently of Broadway Across America.
The current slate of Arsht shows:
Hadestown (September 28 – October 3), the Tony-winning highly-theatrical retelling of myths with a modern melodic score and a script resonating with the 21st Century
Hairspray (December 28, 2021 – January 2, 2022) is a new restaging by its original director and choreographer
Dear Evan Hansen (February 15-2022), the Tony-winning tale of an teenage outsider that has turned uncounted thousands of young people into theater lovers;
Anastasia (March 22 -27, 2022), a musical based on the animated film with an expanded score and some impressive visuals
Jesus Christ Superstar (May 31 – June 5, 2022). As previously announced, Wicked has been postponed.
Current season ticket holders will automatically be moved into the new show dates. Ticketholders can access their new performance dates and times by going online http://www.arshtcenter.org/account/login or by calling the box office at (305) 949-6722. To become a season ticket holder, visit arshtcenter.org, or call the box office at (305) 949-6722 or the Season Ticket Holder Hotline toll-free at (800) 939-8587.
Like other houses such as the Broward Center, the Arsht staff has already taken numerous safety precautions including overhauling the air handling machinery and created an extensive guidebook of internal processes.
While formal dates have not been set for the resumption for the in-house season for the Arsht’s local resident companies Zoetic Stage and City Theatre, the latter has been busy with monthly free online staged readings including one this week.
Zoetic, which nearly opened A Little Night Music when the pandemic hit, is offering Zoetic Schmoetic: A Hysterically Safe & Socially-Distanced Improv Comedy Experience on February 27, March 27 and April 24 at 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. on the Thomson Plaza on the east side of the Ziff Ballet Opera House building.
Each will be 80-minute sessions of improvisations keying off audience suggestions. The cast will be Clay Cartland, Elena Maria Garcia, Jeni Hacker, Daryl Patrice, Fergie L. Philippe and Gabriell Salgado. The evenings will directed by Zoetic Stage Artistic Director Stuart Meltzer, assisted by Garcia. To buy tickets, visit tinyurl.com/4scop6zw.
The show will be socially distanced. Guests can expect touchless digital ticketing, wellness screenings and temperature checks prior to entry. Face coverings over the mouth and nose will be required for all attendees, and light bites and beverages for purchase, delivered directly to a seat.
City Theatre, nationally-recognized for its commitment to developing short works over 25 years, will continue its online presence by joining the Books & Books store for readings of Sultry Shorts. The event will be broadcast at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 4, but it will be available online through 11:59 p.m. Sunday Feb. 7 on City Theatre’s website, Facebook and You Tube pages.
But the new headlines obscure that the Arsht – like the Broward Center and many smaller companies— have been busy with outreach projects.
Among the projects: Arst@Home, available at the website, has presented about 40 online program ranging from actors performing monologues to demonstrations of mixing drinks to sing-alongs with Spotify playlists to direct help with training for job interviews and creating résumés.
Since October, Arsht on the Road has hired local artists like The French Horn Collective, Lady of Harp, circus and acrobat acts from Rainbow Circus to perform 45-60-minute pop-up performances at surprise locations in diverse neighborhoods. Times and locations are announced on the Arsht’s social media channels each week.
“Every Wednesday, every Saturday, the local artists would pop up somewhere in the community and perform at hospitals, at shopping malls, wherever we think people are. And it may only make 10 people, 20 people, 50 people happy for that moment. But that’s enough for us. We just want to play a role in making people’s lives as tolerable as possible during this time. And if that’s what they would remember of us during this time, then that’s a great one for us,” Zietsman said.
These and other projects are designed to further connect with the specific vibe of the overall Miami community and its unique population.
“We obviously had no idea how long this was going to be. So I cannot tell you that we were wisely thinking about what could we do for nine months or a year or year and a half even,” Zietsman said “But one thing we did know we wanted to do was stay true to our core strategy, which is to connect with the folks in Miami, whichever way we can, through great artistic experiences.”
But in the earliest planning strategies last spring, the Arsht leadership committed to a concerted effort to provide opportunities for local artists trying to survive the drought. For instance, much of the Arsht@Home output and all of the Arsht on the Road provided paying jobs for local artists.
It’s a give back to local artists “for everything that they’ve done for us…. So there’s some artists who have been able to get a little bit of money from us during this time, which is another priority we felt very strongly about — that the gig industry died and we didn’t want our freelance artists to disappear,” he said.