Miami Light Project, give us more Miami Made Weekends

Arts / Article

Here & Now Festival 2011/Miami Made Weekend, a festival of new work by South Florida artists such as Octavio Campos, Ana Mendez, Letty Bassart, Liony Garcia and more, proved to be an overwhelming and reinvigorating experience for Miami theater goers craving Miami made work. Presented by the Miami Light Project and the Adrienne Arsht Center, these 20- to 30-minute performances ranged from the sublime to the deranged, from hysterical to silly, and from deeply intellectual to the absurd. It can be difficult to get emotionally invested in a short work-in-progress, especially when the works are shown back to back with other works-in-progress, however when a performance works, it works.

In Please Don’t Hate Me!, conceived and performed by Octavio Campos and Bill Spring, there was only love for this super duo. The performance began with Campos as a gregarious bi-polar vampy sexpot, which he sustained throughout the piece, singing the Mr. Roger’s show neighborhood theme song. He convinced the audience to sing along:  “It’s a beautiful day in this neighborhood/A beautiful day for a neighbor/Would you be mine?/Could you be mine?/… Please won’t you be my neighbor?” Campos made us feel comfortable, safe and secure with ourselves in this space on this beautiful day. But nothing is ever beautiful or perfect in suburbia.

As the performance progressed, it became clear Campos’ character was prone to violent outbursts (toward himself and toward his pianist, pronounced “penist”), the Holy Bible, the city of Westchester — yes, the one located near Tropical Park — among other topics. Although Please Don’t Hate Me! attempts to get underneath the issues of intolerance and domestic violence, it also addresses an even more important and sinister issue — indifference. Please Don’t Hate Me! reveals (or begins to reveal) how a beautiful neighborhood of good folks can and does allow bad things to happen. Campos and Spring subtly point out our complicity, our indifference, to the violence that swirls around us. Because we let it happen. Because it’s better them than me. I left wanting to see more from Octavio/Spring. Pretty please?

Like a locomotive, Requiem for a Mustard Seed Close in Song Act 1, (Act 2 will be premiere May 11 and 12 at the Gehry Campus) built speed as the performance progressed. Letty Bassart choreographed a work with dancers who danced a game of Marco Polo, hid behind and beneath umbrellas, danced with cabbages and crossed a path on Brussels sprouts. Yes, the dancer walked on  Brussels sprouts, which I guess served as an anti-yellow brick road where life’s journey is bumpy, not smooth. It was an intuitive performance driven by a company of powerful female dancers.

And, finally, the last performance, which was actually the first performance I saw at the festival, Si vas a sacar un cuchillo, USAlo/If you are going to pull a knife, USAlo! (Use it!) was a stark bilingual theater piece collaged from found text by playwright Samuel Beckett and original text by the performance’s creators, Carlos Caballero and Elizabeth Doud.

The visually stunning black and white performance — Caballero was painted black and Doud painted white — explored the problems associated with the petroleum industry, pollution, unemployment and human relationships with nature and one another. From the point of view of a mermaid (Doud) and a petroleum worker (Caballero), the story has a tragic ending. wanted more from Caballero and  Doud whose on-stage presence held the audience’s attention.

Here & Now: 2011 was commissioned by the Adrienne Arsht Center and the Miami Light Project. If you are interested in applying for Here & Now: 2012, visit www.miamilightproject.com.