City Theatre’s Summer Shorts Festival
Interviews with Songwriter Lisa Loeb and Playwright Marco Ramirez
By Marla E. Schwartz
This summer marks the 15h Anniversary Season for Miami’s magnificent world-renowned Carbonell Award winning City Theatre’s Summer Shorts Festival. If you have yet to drive to Miami for this program, make the time to head on down to the Magic City and if you’ve already been, you won’t want to miss this year’s exciting line-up! “The festival has become a nationally recognized event and a must-see/must-be-seen-there social outing for South Florida audiences,” Stephanie Norman, Co-Founder and Producing Artistic Director said. “In fifteen-years City Theatre has produced over three-hundred original “short” plays by the nation’s top playwrights. In honor of this milestone season, we commissioned Camp Kappawanna to set new artistic benchmarks and, as a family musical, create a rockin’ gift for many generations to celebrate summer.” This summer City Theatre will perform at and in association with the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Miami from June 3 – 27, 2010 followed by a new summer residency at the Epstein Center for the Arts at Nova Southeastern University in Davie to celebrate the holiday weekend, performing July 1 – 3, 2010. For ticket information go to: http://www.citytheatre.com/ or call (305) 949-6722.
The acclaimed annual Summer Shorts Festival will feature two shorts series this year: SIGNATURE SHORTS, the original series that put “shorts” on the map; and UNDERSHORTS, a late-night series of shorts for adults that is edgy, irreverent, and completely hilarious. “Mr. Summer Shorts” Stephen Trovillion, a veteran of seventy-one roles in thirteen previous festivals, and the comedic genius of the gifted Elena Maria Garcia, who has appeared in thirty-two roles in six previous festivals, will again delight you with their outstanding performances.
Stephen began his acting experiences with City Theatre in a most auspicious way. “I taught acting for three years at the University of Miami back when Summer Shorts was performed at the Ring Theatre,” he began to explain. “One day the City Theatre people (Stephanie Norman and Susi Westfall) were auditioning my students and several of them were late. I was embarrassed that no one was there to audition so I offered to do a monologue. It was truly an impulsive offer to fill time but I guess it worked out for the best. We’ve been together ever since.”
It turned out for Stephen that being in the right place at the right time eventually earned him the moniker ‘Mr. Summer Shorts’. How do you think he feels about this nickname? “Well, of course it’s a wonderful compliment, brought about by the fact that I’ve been here a long time! I did my first season of Summer Shorts in 1998, so I’ve been around almost as long as the festival and I still enjoy it every year,” he said. “Sometimes when I’m out in the lobby talking to friends or family after the show people will come up to me and say hi – they feel they know me after seeing me on stage for so many years and that’s terrific! I’m glad they come back year after year and even more happy that they like my work. The Summer Shorts group is like a family, both backstage, onstage and those audience members who come every year and compare notes on which plays they like the best. We always welcome them back – if you haven’t been yet, come and join us! As we always say, if you don’t like this play, wait ten minutes and there’ll be another one!”
And after Mr. Summer Shorts takes his leave of Miami until next season he goes back to his teaching job up North. “I’m the Coordinator of the BFA Acting program at the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point. I teach acting and direct as well. It’s a very rewarding and very demanding job,” Stephen said. “I’m a tenured professor and I’m proud to say that this year I was promoted to full professor! Unfortunately, I’m in Wisconsin all winter long when it’s beautiful here and cold there, then come down here in the summer just when it gets beautiful there and hot as heck here! Is there a name for the reverse of a snowbird? Whatever it is, that’s me, but I always love coming to Miami for the terrific work and to see all my great friends. I can’t wait for the festival to open!”
This year’s festival also presents plays written by Christopher Durang, Rich Orloff, Adam Sandler, Dan Dietz (Florida State University Professor who is this years’ Heideman Award winner – Actors Theatre of Louisville for his play Lobster Boy) and Rolin Jones (a writer for the hit Showtime series Weeds) and also features the spectacular acting chomps of some of south Florida’s most gifted thespians including Scott Genn, Breeza Zeller, Chaz Mena, Laura Turnball, David Hemphill and Erin Joy Schmidt. Shorts directors this year include the imitable talents of City Theatre Founding Artistic Director Gail Garrisan along with noted directors Avi Hoffman, Marjorie O’Neill-Butler, John Manzelli, Barry Steinman, James Samuel Randolph and Hugh Murphy. City Theatre’s production team for all three of the series which is under the direction of Festival Consultant Gail Garrisan and Associate Festival Coordinator John Manzelli, includes scenic designer Sean McClelland, lighting designer Sevim Abaza, sound designer Steve Shapiro, and properties designer Jodi Dellaventura.
This year for the very first time City Theatre presents a full-length musical Camp Kappawanna for children that’ll be unveiled for audiences as part of its summer line-up. Stephanie tapped multi–Heideman Award winning playwright Marco Ramirez to write the book and Grammy Award-Nominated Singer/Songwriter Lisa Loeb to write the music and lyrics. Camp Kappawanna will especially delight youngsters of all ages and adults will be able to relate their personal summer camp experiences to the ones taking place on stage. Camp Kappawanna is the story of Jennifer Jenkins an endearingly self-conscious twelve-year-old who is trying to discover her true self. She’s leaving home for the first time to attend an overnight summer camp. This season marks Marco Ramirez’s eighth City Theatre production. “We’ve produced seven of Marco’s plays on our stages, starting with his first professional production and leading to many accolades as one of the nation’s rising talents,” Stephanie said. “His writing is smart, funny and strikes the right chord with kids and adults.” Ramirez comes to Camp Kappawanna from training at the prestigious Tisch School of the Arts and The Juilliard School, and is currently a staff writer on FX’s Sons of Anarchy. The Camp Kappawanna ensemble includes the immeasurable acting talents of Melanie Leibner, Troy Davidson, Jameson Hammond, Tom Anello, Renata Eastlick, Mary Sansone and Gerardo Pelati and is directed by Sean Paul Bryan who is a faculty member in the Drama Department at Ransom Everglades School.
Lisa Loeb started her career with the platinum-selling No. 1 hit song ‘Stay (I Missed You)’ from the film Reality Bites and has parlayed this feat into a multi-dimensional career encompassing music, film, television, voice-over work and children’s recordings. Lisa has recorded two award-winning children’s CD’s Camp Lisa as well as Catch the Moon with noted children’s musical artist Elizabeth Mitchell. She has also appeared in and produced two television series, Dweezil and Lisa for the Food Network and #1 Single, a dating show on the E! Network. In conjunction with her CD Camp Lisa she launched her own non-profit, The Camp Lisa Foundation, that helps underprivileged kids attend summer camp through its partnership with Summer Camp Opportunities, Inc. Camp Kappawanna is inspired by the same CD (with music and lyrics written by Lisa Loeb, Michelle Lewis and Dan Petty) is making its debut in Florida.
Lisa Loeb became involved with City Theatre in last season’s festival. “Stephanie Norman last summer asked if they could one of our songs called ‘Best Friends’ in one of the summer shorts,” Lisa began to explain. “It seemed like a real cool theater festival and so we agreed to let them use it in one of their shorts. That was my first contact with them; of course after we did that we found out that we had different friends and family members from different places that already knew about the theater festival.”
“I’ve always wanted to do a musical theater piece so this has been a perfect collaboration and with the summer camp album Camp Lisa my goal was really to bring summer camp to as many people as possible so I think a family musical is a perfect format for that,” she continued. “We used a handful of songs from the CD (for the musical) and then we wrote a number of new songs once Marco had written the play. We started thinking about what kind of songs we needed to write to further the story of the play. I know from my Camp Lisa record all of the proceeds go to the Camp Lisa Foundation to send kids to summer camp and my manager is going to make sure we have something set up so there will continue to be funds to send kids to summer camp (from this production) and we’re working on the details right now.”
Lisa is over the moon with enthusiasm when she speaks of this collaboration that one cannot help wonder if she attended summer camp as a child. “I did – for years and years as a child,” she said. “At a certain point I started to go to sleep away camp. I think there’s always a tiny bit of trepidation before the summer started which would always convert itself into a feeling of accomplishment and fun; but the idea of going off on a school bus where you’re going to have to meet all new people and try all these things and eat different food and learn new songs and have different challenges that were not typical things I’d do at school where I excelled it was a little bit of a challenge. But by the end of the summer I always had a tan, which was weird for a pale person like me; I could swim farther and longer than I could at the beginning of the summer; I had new friends as well as not losing my regular school friends, but I had a group of new friends, new experiences, learned new recipes, new crafts, and just had a full experience that meant a lot to me; especially in contrast to school which was filled with assignments and doing what you had to do.”
“I loved sleep away camp,” she explained. “Although you get a sense of it when you’re a really little kid going to day camp, a sense of the fun and the challenges, and sometimes fun competitions between campers, one of the things at sleep away camp is that it gives you a sense of independence. You get to be away from your parents in a place that’s safe, where you get a chance to explore new things and even in just getting to know yourself a little bit better in a different way . . . And instead of having just a locker at school you get to have your own bunk.”
Transferring this personal fervor to the stage and working with an award-winning playwright that she hadn’t yet met was something new – yet the challenge allowed her to explore another side of her seemingly endless multi dimensional sense of artistic exploration. “Initially Marco was presented to us by Stephanie as the playwright for the show and we looked at his plays he already wrote and we thought he had a really great voice,” Lisa said. “He has a great sense of humor, is very current, smart, and really great references to current culture and has a timeless element as well. He proposed an outline and we went with it and from there he started developing the characters and then as much as I could here and there I’d pitch in or make comments and participate in trying to help develop the characters in a way that seemed real to me. In rehearsals we do a lot if side sessions and it gives us a sense of how things are playing out and how they feel and if the songs are working right.”
And Floridians – a very, very special treat awaits you because Lisa Loeb will be in town for the show! “I’ll be at the first performance and some of the last rehearsals and I’ll also be appearing on a lot of TV and radio stations, at Barnes & Noble, Summer Camps, schools and all kind of things are lined up. I’m also going to be singing the National Anthem at a Marlin’s Game.”
Born in Bethesda, Maryland and growing up in Dallas, Texas Lisa came from a family that cherished music of all kinds from modern rock to musical of all kinds. “Musical theater was a big part of how I grew up,” she explained. “I listened to the radio a lot, but there were also some musicals that were very popular when I was a kid, like Annie, Grease and my friends and I loved Bye, Bye Birdie and my parents were very much of the generation where that kind of music was listened to in the house along with Oklahoma and West Side Story and all those classic shows.”
Playwright Marco Ramirez grew up in Hialeah and attended Coral Reef High School and was named a Presidential Scholar in the Arts in 2001. A year later his play Singing Stan was producedin City Theatre’s Summer Shorts Festival, followed by Pipo and Fufo: 1969 I Am Not Batman, The Big Brain on Bobby Martin and Becky Meets Mordecai Baxter. Marco is a two-time winner of the Latino Playwriting Award at the Kennedy Center’s American College Theater Festival for work he did while an undergrad at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. In 2007, he won the prestigious Heideman Award for short plays as part of the Humana Festival of New American Plays at Actors Theatre of Louisville not once, but twice, in 2006 and 2009. He did graduate work in the playwriting program at Manhattan’s prestigious Juilliard School. He studied with many well-known playwrights including Pulitzer-Prize winner Marsha Norman (she won for ‘night, Mother, after beginning her career at Actors Theatre). He used to be the Literary Manager at City Theatre and Mad Cat Theatre has produced his play The Beast and recently premiered his play BroadSword at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts.
Marco Ramirez was kind enough to take a few moments of time out of his extremely hectic schedule to answer a few questions for Around Wellington readers.
AW: How did you get involved in this project (the Camp Kappawanna)?
MR: It was essentially Steph Norman’s idea. At some point last year, she approached me and said “Instead of looking for a bunch of shorts for kids this year, I’m thinking of doing one longer – stand-alone piece.” She handed me a copy of Camp Lisa (Lisa Loeb’s summer camp record for kids) and asked, “Maybe there’s a story in there?”
AW: How did you work with Lisa Loeb on this musical? Did you meet in person, email drafts to each other, talk on the phone?
MR: We did a lot of emailing back and forth in the beginning. Our first challenge was nailing down a storyline we all agreed on. I spitballed two or three ideas to Steph, and we presented those to Lisa and her manager, and what they liked, we went with. We met in person only a couple times, but phone conferences and even Skype helped communication along the way.
AW: Did you go to summer camp and if so did any of your personal experiences reflect into this play? Did you have to do any particular research to write this script? Do you have a favorite character in this play?
MR: I didn’t go to summer camp (don’t tell anyone), but I think personal experiences definitely seeped their ways into the play. I think – when you look at me, and look at Lisa – there aren’t TONS of similarities there, but one thing we do have in common is at some point in our lives we had to turn around and face our friends and family and say, “I think I wanna do this artist thing, like forever”. That’s made its way into the show. It’s definitely kind of a prequel/origin story for someone LIKE a Lisa Loeb. When we were going back and forth, Lisa shared lots of her experiences, what camp meant to her, what being a singer/songwriter means, etc. Those made their ways in there, I think. Re: research. I did some. But what came across as more important to me wasn’t depicting the actual summer camp experience, it was answering the question: “Why do people remember it so fondly?” I tried to figure that out while writing. Re: favorite character: He’s not onstage all that much, but the villain is probably my favorite character. He’s got a CRAZY AWESOME song that Lisa wrote for him, and he gets a real moment of tenderness at the end of the play.
AW: Have you had an opportunity to work with any of the actors appearing in the production in your past productions at City Theatre?
MR: Troy Davidson is the man. An all-around great guy. He has SUCH a gift for children’s theatre. Kids just melt. They see him, they know he GETS it. Unfortunately, I don’t know many of the other actors.
AW: How did you decide you wanted to enter the realm of playwriting? I know you were young when you wrote your first play, but how young – and what led you toward the stage? Do you have any writers in your family?
MR: I was 16. I was (am) obsessed with Star Wars. I genuinely thought I wanted to do special effects for movies. As special effects got more and more technically advanced, I realized I wasn’t in love with the effects at all – I just loved great stories. I had always been a reader – the quiet-type loner. Why plays as opposed to short stories? I dunno. I think the collaborative element of it excited me. I think the fact that a short story exists on paper and a play exists on Friday night at 8 o clock made it somehow more alive to me.
AW: Do you find it difficult to switch gears from writing a musical for kids to going back to the writer’s room of ‘Sons of Anarchy’?
MR: I got through most of the writing on the Camp piece right before writing for Sons started.
AW: How did you get the job writing for the television show ‘Sons of Anarchy’?
MR: At school I was lucky enough to sign with a big agency.
AW: Do you have any projects in the works at the moment? Perhaps this is a silly question.
MR: A couple. I’m writing a play about horror movies in the 1940s. I’m also working on a couple screenplays and a TV pilot. Keeping busy, yes.
AW: How many times have you won the Heideman Award and for what plays? Do you think you’ll enter again – or will you begin developing full-length works with Actors Theater of Louisville?
MR: I was lucky enough to win it twice. Once for a play called I AM NOT BATMAN and once for a piece called 3:59AM: a drag race play for two actors. I don’t think I’ll enter it again soon – but you never know. If I stumble across an idea for another ten-minute play I’d like to write, I’d gladly send it in. The people at Actors Theater are fantastic. I’ll take any chance I can get to work with them again.
AW: Who has been your most profound mentor(s)? Please tell me why he/she or more than one mentor has been important to you and why.
MR: Marsha Norman was a great mentor during my time at Juilliard. All the lessons she taught me I carry with me everyday. She has a great sense of why storytelling is important – and why doing it WELL is important. And in addition to being a Pulitzer Prize winning dramatist for serious plays like ‘night Mother, and in addition to writing the book for beloved musicals like The Color Purple and The Secret Garden – she’s a sci-fi/fantasy literature fan. So that was awesome.
AW: You’ve already written a substantial amount of plays – do you have a favorite so far and if so what is it and why?
MR: I don’t think I do. I definitely have LEAST favorites. But favorites? Not so much. I really like I AM NOT BATMAN. I think at some point on page three in that play I “figured out” a lot of what writing IS. I also like a kid’s play I wrote called CHESTER WHO PAINTED THE WORLD PURPLE that unfortunately has never been produced in Miami. The Kennedy Center commissioned me to write a bunch of short plays, this one was my favorites – it was a great experience.
AW: Do you have any advice for people just entering the realm of playwriting?
MR: Go watch plays. Don’t just read them. Watch them. And watch all KINDS of plays. Don’t just stick to things you think you’ll like. Go see things you think you won’t like. You might be surprised.
In partnership with Actors Theatre of Louisville, the nation’s pre-eminent theatre festival, the City Theatre Summer Shorts Festival offers the best in new short plays, a little of this, a little of that: dramas, comedies, musicals, farces, mysteries-an experience that covers the emotional landscape. This company truly enriches the lives of all the children and adults who have an opportunity to be audience members.
The festival is also sponsored in part by Stearns Weaver Miller Weissler Alhadeff & Sitterson, P.A.; Florida Department of State Division of Cultural Affairs; Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs; The Mayor and the Miami-Dade County Board of County Commissioners; Broward County Board of County Commissioners as recommended by the Broward Cultural Affairs Council; The Children’s Trust; America’s Capital Partners; Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts; Shepard Broad Foundation; Citizens Interested in the Arts; Carnival Cruise Lines; Dramatists Guild Fund; Dunspaugh-Dalton Foundation; Wille Family Foundation; Funding Arts Broward; Gibraltar Private Bank & Trust; IBM; Islander News; Manny and Ruthy Cohen Foundation; Miami Salon Group; Northern Trust; The University School Art Institute at the Epstein Center for the Arts; Wachovia and WLRN.
A native of Toledo, OH and a graduate of Kent State, Marla E. Schwartz has been a professional journalist since her teenage years and is a Senior Writer for Miami Living Magazine, and a freelance writer for CRAVINGS South Florida in Aventura, as well as Around Wellington Magazine and Lighthouse Point Magazine. An avid photographer, her images have appeared in numerous Ohio publications, as well as in Miami Living, The Miami Herald, The Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel and The Palm Beach Post. She has had numerous plays published and produced around the country. Her short play, America’s Working? was originally read at First Stage in Los Angeles and in the same city produced at the Lone Star Ensemble. It was then produced at Lynn University in Boca Raton, FL and then taken to an Off-Broadway playhouse by its producers Adam and Carrie Simpson. Her piece, The Lunch Time Café, was a finalist for the Heideman Award, Actors Theatre of Louisville. Feel free to contact her at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
City Theatre Photos by George Schiavone.
City Theatre and the Adrienne Arsht Center present
15th ANNUAL SUMMER SHORTS FESTIVAL
June 3 – 27, 2010
Carnival Studio Theater (in the Ziff Ballet Opera House)
Signature Shorts is the series that put City Theatre’s “shorts” on the map! A “short” is a one-act play running 5-20 minutes. Now celebrating it’s 15th anniversary season, this year’s Signature Shorts features South Florida’s finest talent in a brand-new mix of hilarious comedies and heartfelt dramas in one fast and furious program. Signature Shorts plays in conjunction with City Theatre’s edgy and provocative undershorts. See one program or see them both! City Theatre’s Summer Shorts is the hottest ticket for the coolest night in town.
June 4 – 26, 2010
Carnival Studio Theater (in the Ziff Ballet Opera House)
undershorts is City Theatre’s late-night series of short plays for adults only that are provocative, irreverent, and hilarious. A “short” is a one-act play running 5-20 minutes. Featuring an all-new roster of edgy plays performed by South Florida’s finest talent, undershorts pushes the envelope with social and political material reflective of the times in one fast and furious program. Adult content, language, and nudity. undershorts plays in conjunction with City Theatre’s Signature Shorts, a mix of hilarious comedies and heartfelt dramas. See one program or see them both! City Theatre’s Summer Shorts is the hottest ticket for the coolest night in town.
City Theatre and the Adrienne Arsht Center present
CAMP KAPPAWANNA – WORLD PREMIERE!
June 17 – 27, 2010
Carnival Studio Theater (in the Ziff Ballet Opera House)
City Theatre and the Adrienne Arsht Center bring something completely new to families this summer with Camp Kappawanna – a world premiere musical that celebrates timeless camp experiences with hip, cool music penned by Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter Lisa Loeb and a book by rising national star and South Florida native, Marco Ramirez. Camp Kappawanna creates an interactive environment that, from start to finish, makes everyone in the audience feel as if they are joining in the fun of summer camp! Appropriate for ages 7 and up.
Returning to the Festival this year is City Theatre’s 2nd Annual Art Contest, THE CAMP KAPPAWANNA ART CONTEST. Children in grades K – 8 may visit www.citytheatre.com/campkappawanna to download a template and registration form to enter. The contest runs April 1 – May 15 and winning entries will be enlarged and displayed at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts and Epstein Center for the Arts as an exhibit of Florida’s finest young artists.
The End of the Perfect Game (Southeastern Premiere)
SPORTS COMEDY: It’s the last inning of the last game of the World Series and the pitcher, Al “Train Wreck” Sexton must face down his last batter and an existential crisis!
Matterhorn by Rich Orloff (Revival: 15th Season Festival Favorite)
ROMANTIC COMEDY?! Standing still online while waiting to get on Disneyland’s Matterhorn takes Jerry and Arleen on a wild ride as they consider the hilarious ups and downs of love and marriage – in the most magical place in the world.
Look at Me by Susan Westfall (World Premiere)
Sexy Drama: A young wife tries to bring her injured and bewildered husband back to bed and back to life when he returns home from war.
Poor Shem by Gregory Hischak (World Premiere)
OFFICE COMEDY: Co-workers make an awful discovery when something in the 8.5 x 11 bypass jams in the company copier, and they face the moral dilemma whether to call a priest, a repairman … or just keep copying!
Lobster Boy by Dan Dietz (Southeastern Premiere)
FAMILY DRAMA: A boy hatches a plan to cure his younger brother, who was born without the capacity for pain, in this haunting play about the things we just can’t feel.
Iddle Minglish by John Olive (World Premiere)
SWEET COMEDY: Two strangers from different centuries can’t talk to each other, until they understand they must fight a duel for the woman they love!
Euxious by Bridget Carpenter (Southeastern Premiere)
CONTEMPORARY DRAMA: After a bloody car crash, a Hollywood producer is too terrified to answer her ringing cell phone.
Not a Creature Was Stirring by Christopher Durang (Southeastern Premiere)
WACKY FAMILY COMEDY: Father tries to pass off a classic Christmas poem as his own. Unfortunately his version swaps attack-bats for the traditional reindeer, turning the holiday spirit upside down into a hilarious battle of life and death!
City Theatre’s Undershorts!
Banging Ann Coulter by Michael Elyanow (World Premiere)
BAWDY POLITICAL COMEDY: Ann Coulter’s MANY lovers can’t wait to kiss and tell and compare sex notes. Ann finds out … and it isn’t pretty.
Daddy Took My Debt Away by Bekah Brunstetter (Southeastern Premiere)
A TIMELY FINANCIAL FAIRY TALE: They’re slackers, they’re in debt … and they work in the call center for a student loan payment center. They’re Ty and Ned, and they’re in over their heads after one very unexpected phone call.
Beds by Susan Cinoman (World Premiere)
A GOOD-IN-BED FARCE: Two couples in bed together must tangle and untangle their very tangled relationships.
It Was Fun While It Lasted or I Wouldn’t Drink That If I Were You or You have 4 Hours to Vacate the Premises by Laura Eason (World Premiere)
CONTEMPORARY POLITICAL SATIRE: A frazzled messenger arrives in a loyal bureaucrat’s office to tell him the jig might be up. Not just any jig. Our country is being abandoned. Now. The party’s over – and there’s not much time left!
The Pap by Joshua James (World Premiere)
A GYNECOLOGICAL COMEDY: is in the stirrups for a bumbling young doctor’s first day on the job. This is every woman’s worst nightmare.
Piece of Shit Car by Adam Sandler (Theatrical Premiere)
AN AUTOMOTIVE MUSICAL COMEDY: One of the cultures most original makers of musical mayhem’s keen Caribbean observations on car ownership (complete with back-up singers). It’s reggae, it’s rockin’ … and it’s a “Piece of Shit Car!”
Extremely by Rolin Jones (Southeastern Premiere)
EXTREMELY FUNNY ACTION COMEDY: Two dudes take on life, friendship and injuries in a series of extreme adventures