Longer Shorts to come

Lisa Loeb

City Theatre, the producer of the annual Summer Shorts productions in Miami and Fort Lauderdale, is undergoing a sea change.

The board is reorganizing its staff with some new, but familiar faces. But it’s also ‘considering’ expanding or altering some of its processes, possibly commissioning longer original plays, said Stephanie Norman, producing artistic director.

‘We’ll be changing things up this year, becoming stronger, more viable and healthy,’ she said, while holding off on announcing specifics for a few weeks.

Changes that have been solidified include hiring John Manzelli, a Barry University educator and co-founder of The Naked Stage, as the new artistic director of the summer festival. Former South Florida Theatre League President Barry Steinman, who recently retired from Miami-Dade County’s parks and recreation department, will be the new executive director. Susan Westfall remains the literary director.

About a year and half ago, artistic director Stuart Meltzer was let go at the same time that the theater announced it had a $50,000 deficit ‘ a problem that persists, Norman acknowledges. Meltzer was a full-time employee and Manzelli, Steinman and Westfall are all part-time.

””””’ One of the evolving changes deals with content. City Theatre has produced about 300 short plays in various combinations over 15 years including an adults-only evening and a kids-only afternoon. All were selected from about 1,200 annual entries to the Actors Theatre of Louisville’s Ten-Minute Play Contest.

””””’ But last summer, City Theatre had a financial success with its first commission — a full-length children’s musical Camp Kappawanna written by pop singer Lisa Loeb and former Miamian Marco Ramirez. Encouraged by ticket sales averaging 90 percent of the house, City Theatre is now ‘looking at the possibility’ of commissioning more new work, Norman said.

””””’ It comes at a time when some of its audiences are becoming slightly disenchanted with the varied quality in the theater’s traditional program of 10-minute plays.’ Norman acknowledges that different audience members will relate well to some plays and not as well to others. But she also believes that her staff is culling the best work from the Ten-Minute Play Contest.

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