Last year around this time, I reviewed a series of plays called Summer Shorts. I was intrigued by the wide range of short plays with actors going through countless costume changes and portraying a wide variety of different people. Little did I know that this series of short plays is actually a movement.
According to James Randolph, director of two “Shorts 4 Kids” plays called The Monster in Maggie’s Mirror and Regina Flector Wins the Science Fair, many writers in TV, movies and theater got their starts writing short plays for these summer festivals. Randolph also reiterated that these types of festivals began some 30 years ago with the Actors Theater of Louisville.
Personally, I view short plays as allowing one to see ten different plays in one night, and they speak to the entire audience. You don’t necessarily know what you’re going to see, but it’s still exciting nonetheless.
Shorts 4 Kids, the series of short plays dedicated to kids (if you didn’t get that already), is a one-hour, one-act show of eight plays: The Monster in Maggie’s Mirror, Evolution, Regina Flector Wins the Science Fair, Best Friend, A Giraffe and a Half, Tea & Sorcery, Special Features: A Play About a Movie Marvin’s Making and “Shine.”
The plays are now onstage at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County.
Now, I can’t critique all eight shorts because I don’t have enough space, but I will address my three favorites. Monster, Regina and Tea all have some kind of female empowerment spin. I guess because I’m all for feminism, I connected with these three more. Not to diminish the other five plays, but these spoke to me the most.
Monster is about little brothers trying to come up with a reason why their older sisters turn from sweet girls into teenage monsters. It’s quite hilarious and poses a different perspective of teenage hormones. Regina is about little Regina Flector, whose science project is better than her peers’, but they make fun of her because she had to do the entire project by herself. Her family had other things to do. Regina seems to be the underdog, but her project is a winner; a good lesson for young people.
Tea & Sorcery is about three little girls who have a tea party. They discuss the latest happenings and the silliness of their mothers’ not giving them real tea for their tea party. One of them, Emily (played by Vanessa Elise), writes a short story about little girls who get older and fall under a magic spell; they become old and ugly. It’s pretty farfetched, but it does speak to the glorification of youth in our society.
Speaking of glorification, there were quite a few big words used in these pieces. I’m not complaining, though. I think it’s great that the writers decided to use elevated language to get kids thinking about other and better ways to say things and not just be carbon copies.
The writers for these shorts are: Michael McKeever (Monster), Deborah Zoe Laufer: (Evolution), Marco Ramirez: (Regina & Special Features), singer Lisa Loeb, Dan Petty, and Michelle Lewis (Best Friend), Shel Silverstein (Giraffe), Maggie Bandur (Tea), and singer Cyndi Lauper and William Wittman (Shine).
The directors are: Randolph (Monster and Regina), Deborah Mello (Evolution), Stuart Meltzer and Jeff Hess (Best Friend and Shine), Patrice Bailey (Giraffe), Marjorie O’Neill-Butler (Tea), and Sean Paul Bryan (Special Features).
The ensemble cast includes Katherine Amadeo, Christopher Dall’au, Troy Davidson, Nick Duckart, Elise and Betsy Graver. All six performers are terrific actors. But the stand out performers are Amadeo, Davidson and Elise.
Amadeo is a performer at heart. She makes so many faces and uses so many voice inflections, she changes before the audiences’ eyes. Elise is a total chameleon.
She has a different type of character from one short to the next. So it’s no surprise that she is the only actor to perform in all eight of the shorts. Davidson is obviously not afraid to get up in front of an audience of people and be silly for his craft.
Randolph, a graduate of the University of Miami and the University of Florida, is also a theater teacher at the New World School of the Arts in Miami. He wants to teach children and teens alike to be good people to their friends. His passion is not only the theater arts but also empowering young people in the theater arena.
“Shorts 4 Kids” is about change, growing up, and a sense of discovery,” said Randolph who is set to direct his New World students in Miss Saigon in the fall. “It’s about kids standing up for themselves.”
With high hopes like that, how can we not support the arts?
Photo: Pictured above, are Shorts 4 Kids 2009 cast, from left to right, back row, Nick Duckardt, Troy Davidson, and Chris Dall’au: the gals: Betsy Graver, Vanessa Elise, and Katherine Amadeo.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Summer Shorts Festival: Signature Shorts, Shorts 4 Kids, and Undershorts.
WHEN: May 28 to June 21 Thursdays through Sundays at various times. For show times log on to the Adrienne Arsht Center website listed below.
WHERE: Carnival Studio Theater (Ziff Ballet Opera House), Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County, 1300 Biscayne Blvd., Miami.
COST: Signature Shorts & Undershorts $42, Shorts 4 Kids $17.
Parking Ranges from $15 to 20.
CONTACT: Call 305-949-6722 or log onto www.arshtcenter.org