By John A. Thomason
Along with presidential campaigns and Black Friday-turned-Thursday-turned-mid-November shopping stampedes, the South Florida arts season seems to be starting earlier and earlier. Which means it’s well equipped to offer blessed cultural relief from the madness associated with the other two.
This year, Sept. 10 might just mark the unofficial kickoff to the season, at least for Miamians. Or as Andrew Goldberg, the Arsht Center’s vice-president of marketing, frames it, the date represents the “kickoff to the awareness of the season.”
This is when the Arsht will present its second-annual ARTSLAUNCH2016, a festive daylong confab at all six of the venue’s spaces plus the parking lot and surrounding area.
Running from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., it’s a veritable catcher’s mitt of free activities and initiatives, where attendees can adopt a pet (from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in Parking Lot C), listen to a talk from best-selling author Brad Meltzer (2 p.m. at the Café at Books and Books), dress up as a Pokemon character at a cosplay contest (10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Ziff Opera House) and experience up-close tricks from comedy magician Jeff Hobson, who will be seen in the Broadway tour of The Illusionists at the Arsht in October (11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. at the Ziff).
There are will be chef demonstrations, a Food Truck Invasion, a choreography class and a handful of workshops and readings from partner organizations like Florida Grand Opera, Miami City Ballet and City Theatre. And visitors can learn about the offerings at approximately 50 arts and community organizations at the Community Village, located directly on the Ziff stage. More than 1,800 people attended 2015’s inaugural ARTSLAUNCH, and the Center is hoping to exceed that number this weekend.
“It’s a day of free events and an opportunity to become more aware of what the season has to offer, not just for the Arsht,” Goldberg says. “You could spend the entire day at the Arsht Center and you couldn’t get to everything.”
Of particular notice to theater devotees is the reading from Zoetic Stage at 3 p.m. at the Carnival Studio Theatre. The Arsht’s resident company will present the “second movement” of Michael McKeever’s world-premiere After, performed by Jeni Hacker, Mia Matthews and Karen Stephens. The world-premiere drama, which explores the emotional shrapnel of a national massacre a year after the event, opens Oct. 27 at the Carnival.
“Zoetic Stage is proud of its illustrious and brave partnership with the Arsht Center and are honored to partake in this celebration of arts for our community,” says Stuart Meltzer, artistic director of Zoetic. “There are so many wonderful cultural events that are on the calendar, and we at Zoetic Stage are especially excited with our 2016-17 season and participation in the Theatre Up Close series.”
At the risk of burying the lede any further, ARTSLAUNCH is also an expected box-office boon. It’s the date when the venue’s 2016-2017 programming will finally go on sale to single-ticket purchasers, who, for the one day only, can avoid ticket-processing fees for every performance at the Arsht.
“The psychological notion [for withholding the tickets] is that summer has ended, it’s right after Labor Day, kids are back at school, people are back in town,” Goldberg says. “It’s time to get into the season. We also think there’s a nice synergy to make everything available to once, to take care of all your entertainment needs in one transaction. We say, come early, get online, get your tickets for the season and go enjoy the day.”
For complete details of ARTSLAUNCH2016, visit arshtcenter.org or call (305) 949-6722.