BootLeg Betty

Broward County Residents See “Short Cuts”

BROWARD ARTS
Off to N.Y. in search of new plays

KEITH CASSIDY

The women who run Miami-based City Theatre flew to New York recently looking for plays to produce this summer in South Florida.

Stephanie Norman and Susan Westfall, the theater’s producing artistic directors, and Gail Garrisan, artistic director of the company’s Summer Shorts program, want to see South Florida become a hot spot for the development of new plays. Each summer, City Theatre presents seven weeks of mostly new short plays in Broward and Miami-Dade counties.

”For us, new work is the most exciting,” Norman says, in keeping with the the company’s goal: developing the work of new and emerging artists.

In New York Nov. 17 and 18, the trio attended Short Talks on the Universe, produced by Oscar- and Tony-Award winning director Mike Nichols. Norman worked for Nichols when he was in South Florida filming the 1996 movie The Birdcage.

The two days of performances boasted many marquee players, including Angela Lansbury, Matthew Broderick, Christine Baranski, Alec Baldwin, Kevin Kline and Bette Midler. Although Norman concedes City Theatre won’t lure stars of their caliber to South Florida, she says her confidence about the company grew after seeing the New York performances.

”[Those] actors had very little rehearsal,” she says, pointing out that City Theatre’s actors rehearse each short play for just three weeks. “We looked at what they did and felt very good about our productions.”

Among the playwrights whose work was presented in New York were Steve Martin, Elaine May, Nora Ephron, Tony Kushner and Jules Feiffer. City Theatre is considering many of the New York plays, as well as submissions from other well-known writers such as Paul Rudnick, Lee Blessing and José Rivera.

The trio also met and shared ideas with Liz Benjamin, associate director of Tuesdays @ Nine, developmental workshops for playwrights and screenwriters.

In addition to Summer Shorts, City Theatre produces Short Cuts, a selection of plays from the summer festival that tours South Florida high schools year-round. The company also hosts regular readings of new plays that are open to the public, giving authors a chance to hear what their plays will sound like when actors speak the lines. Audiences are given a chance to help decide if the play should be included in Summer Shorts.

The theater considers more than 800 submissions for the festival each year, from places as far away as Israel, England, Belgium, Ireland and Monaco. Most of the short plays average 15 minutes, and the theater typically produces about 14 plays in two programs. Summer Shorts 2003 will take place at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts in July 10-20 and the Ring Theater in Coral Gables June 5-29.

City Theatre was founded in 1996 to seek out, develop and produce original work, specifically the short form of drama. The theater has won Carbonell Awards for theatrical excellence.

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