By Bill Hirschman
An increasingly ambitious season has been announced for Theater Up Close’s 2013-2014 schedule, the initiative which teams the Adrienne Arsht Center with Zoetic Stage, the University of Miami theater program and the House Theatre of Chicago.
Theater Up Close is a rarity in South Florida – an ongoing cooperative effort between a major facility focused primarily on presenting visiting productions and mostly local companies that otherwise would not have access to such sophisticated resources.
This fourth season, like previous ones, provides a venue for new works and/or highly stylistic productions rather than well-known warhorses and wildly popular mainstream titles. They include Mary Zimmerman’s Metamorphoses, House Theatre’s Rose and the Rime, Stephen Sondheim’s musical Assassins, Amy Herzog’s The Great God Pan and two world premieres by Zoetic founders, Fear Up Harsh by Christopher Demos-Brown and Clark Gable Slept Here by Michael McKeever.
Zoetic co-founder and house director Stuart Meltzer said, “Our expansion with four productions and one of them being a musical is exactly the right direction Zoetic Stage needs to grow in order to continue reaching the widest audiences as possible. For me personally, it is thrilling be able to work on the development of two world premiere plays from Chris Demos-Brown and Michael McKeever. I am also thrilled to work on Assassins from my favorite composer Stephen Sondheim and Amy Herzog’s play is a frightening new work that must be seen by audiences. The partnership with the Arsht Center has been a most rewarding one and I look forward with deepening our relationship this coming season.”
First up, Oct. 9-27, is Metamophoses, a radically stylized reinterpretation of Ovid’s classic myths designed by auteur director Mary Zimmeran, mounted here as a joint project with the University of Miami Department of Theatre Arts. The effort features a cast of students and will be directed by UM theater arts chair Henry Fonte, similar to UM’s 2011 production at the Arsht of The House of Bernarda Alba. As in the 2002 Broadway version that Zimmerman a Tony Award, the series of 11 vignettes based on sich tales as “Orpheus and Eurydice” will be staged in and around a wading pool built inside the Carnival Studio Theater.
From Nov. 7-24, Zoetic Stage will premiere Demos-Brown’s Fear Up Harsh, which received an acclaimed reading during the Arsht’s Miami Made Festival in February. The drama depicts how an Iraq War Medal of Honor recipient’s perfect life begins to unravel when a deeply troubled former comrade-in-arms arrives on his doorstep in a tale that examines the corrupting effect of awards and commendations. “Fear Up Harsh” is a term used by the military to designate “enhanced interrogation” techniques that are part of the shared baggage of the protagonist and his visitor. The reading starred Clive Cholerton, Karen Stephens, Stephen G. Anthony and Arielle Hoffman, and was directed by Meltzer.
Starting off the new year, Jan. 30-Feb. 23, Zoetic Stage stages its first musical, Assassins, Sondheim’s excoriating look at the cost of the myth that every person has a right to success through the American Dream – as viewed through the prism of successful and failed Presidential assassins. This marks the musical’s Miami area bow, having been produced only once before locally by Slow Burn Theatre Company in Boca Raton in 2010.
From March 20-April 6, Zoetic offers the world premiere of Clark Gable Slept Here by McKeever who previously wrote South Beach Babylon as Zoetic’s first effort and just won a Carbonell for last season’s Moscow. This satire is described as “As one of the silver screen’s brightest stars charms his way through the Golden Globe Awards ceremony, his wife and staff try to figure out what to do with the dead male prostitute on his bedroom floor…. (It looks) behind the closed doors of the Hollywood elite, and presents a jet-black satire on what it means to be a “man” in the make-believe world of motion pictures, where nothing is ever what it seems and closets are used for so much more than hanging up your tuxedo.”
Continuing the partnership with the House Theatre of Chicago, the April 24-May 18 entry is Rose and the Rime by Chris Mathews, Jake Minton and director Nathan Allen. The Arsht has previously hosted imports of the House Theatre’s imaginatively stylized productions of The Sparrow, The Nutcracker and the wildly popular Death and Harry Houdini.
This work, developed for the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival in 2008 and professionally produced in 2009, is described this way, “Radio Falls, Michigan has been trapped in perpetual winter for a generation and the constant blizzard surrounding the town means there’s no way in or out. The last moment of heated passion brought the town its only remaining youth: a young girl named Rose. It is up to her to save Radio Falls from the vicious curse of the Rime Witch. But when she succeeds, Radio Falls discovers the witch’s magic coin has two sides. “
Closing out the season, May 22-June 8, 2014, is Zoetic’s regional premiere of Amy Herzog’s The Great God Pan. Herzog, who currently has a play Belleville in New York, is one of the hottest young playwrights with two of her works already mounted in South Florida: After The Revolution at the Caldwell Theatre Company and 4000 Miles just closed at GableStage.
The play is described as: “Jamie’s life in Brooklyn seems just fine: a beautiful girlfriend, a budding journalism career, and parents who live just far enough away. But when a possible childhood trauma comes to light, lives are thrown into a tailspin… the intimate tale of what is lost and won when a hidden truth is loosed on the world.”
A season subscription is $150 with individual tickets at $45. For more information, call (305) 949-6722 or visit at www.arshtcenter.org.