AW Story of the Month
The Naked Stage
By Marla E. Schwartz
Three shining stars. Three shining stars of the utmost significance. That’s what I think about when it comes to describing The Naked Stage to anybody who has not heard of this truly magnificent award-winning theatre company. These three shining stars are the co-founders of the company – Artistic Director Katherine (Katie) Amadeo, Antonio Amadeo and John Manzelli.
Their most recent production is taking place right now and it’s not to be missed. NO EXIT, a 1944 existentialist French play by Jean-Paul Sartre, is co-directed by Antonio and John. It’s about three deceased characters who are led into their eternal chambers by a bell-boy portrayed by Mark Della Ventura. The other performers in this production include Andy Quiroga as Vincent Cradeau, a journalist who betrayed members of the resistance movement during WWII, Deborah L. Sherman as Inez Serrano, a lesbian postal clerk who seduced a married woman, and Katie Amadeo as Estelle DeLaunay, a social-climber who killed her son and drove her husband to suicide. Antonio’s scenic design certainly offers a stirring vision of the afterlife. One of Sartre’s most famous quotations, ‘Hell is other people’ comes from this play. “I’m pretty sure at one point or another, we have all related to the line ‘Hell is other people’. Although it was written in the 40s, it’s anything but a stuffy period piece; it’s an intense, thought-provoking, exhilarating night of theatre — for all ages,” Katie says.
This thought-provoking and stunning production is at the Pelican Theatre, Barry University, 11300 NE 2nd Ave., Miami Shores, Fl, 33161 until November 21st. Show times are Thurs – Sat @ 8pm, Sun @ 2pm & 7pm. Tickets are $25 single seat, $18 senior (60+), $12 student (w proper ID) and this company is now proud to offer the ‘sevenUP’ Theatre League and Actors’ Equity discount (pay what you can with a minimum of $7) for all Sunday evening performances. For reservations contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 866.811.4111.
“NO EXIT is something that has been in the works for quite some time,” Katie explained. “Before Antonio, John and I even started the company, we’d sit around and discuss what each of our dream shows would be; mine was always NO EXIT. That’s the play that made me fall in love with theatre. In our company’s fourth year, we decided it was the right time to produce it. John’s like a brother to me and we’ve worked together so many times, there is a definite trust that has been built. And Antonio knows me better than anyone else; he can easily tell if I’m not being honest on stage or if I’m struggling with something.”
There’s no disputing that the casting of this play is truly one of pure genius.
“The show was actually cast by Katherine and myself,” John said. “It was awesome working alongside Antonio. We work very unselfishly together. Our priority was always “what was in the best interest of the show.” We used each other’s strengths and talked about everything (almost ad nauseam) from staging to script to visual aesthetics. We would direct sitting next to each other and when one of us was really rolling along, we would sit back and get out of the way. Antonio is the most unselfish artist I’ve ever worked with and a great friend.”
This marvelous production follows their most recent fundraisers, FLASHLIGHT TALES and THE 24-HOUR THEATRE PROJECT.
Flashlight Tales was held at Flavour in the Grove in Coconut Grove. It was an open mic story-telling night in which the general public was invited to tell ghost stories. The best story – chosen by audience participation in a clap-off, won a Naked Stage T-shirt and two tickets to NO EXIT. The winner was Deborah L. Sherman who told a personal story of friendship, love, loss and mediumship that left participants spellbound.
“I’d been brainstorming ideas for a fundraiser and I wanted to find something a bit out of the ordinary and something with a bit of a dark or spooky theme to play off of NO EXIT (which opened Halloween weekend) and really, my love of all things dark and spooky,” Katie explained.
This troupe’s other and now annual 24-Hour Theatre Festival fundraiser was recently hosted by the Caldwell Theatre Company (caldwelltheatre.com) in Boca Raton and co-sponsored by SouthFloridaTheatre.com. It has manifested itself into the place to be for local theatrical VIPs as they avail themselves to the project. The concept begins on a Sunday night when eight playwrights gather together and randomly choose a title, actors and directors. Overnight they write a play. The next morning rehearsals begin and that evening a professional production takes place.
“I can proudly say that the basic idea of doing it was mine. I was on vacation and I saw a sign for a 24-Hour Theatre Project being held in Seattle,” John explained. “I called Antonio and said, ‘hey, why don’t we do one of these in Miami.’ He talked it over with Katherine and the idea was born. I will say that from that seed, the project’s structure and growth has really been the energy and hard work of Antonio and now, Katherine. This year, I helped Katherine make the day run smoothly and I coordinated about ten interns that served as Stage managers.”
“Yes, it was John who brought up the idea. We thought it sounded like a lot of fun and a great challenge,” Katie said. “We knew that we wanted to have a performance based fundraiser that would bring together the community. The first year we donated proceeds to three other small companies: Mad Cat, Promethean and Ground Up and Rising.”
“My favorite part has always been the curtain call at the end of the show, when EVERYONE involved comes up on stage to take a group bow. It’s such an amazing feeling,” Katie said. “It’s like we’ve all gone through war together and come out victorious! There’s so much love on that stage.”
And because the playwrights, actors, directors, stage managers and interns all volunteer their time, lots of food and beverages are provided for everyone to enjoy. “The food on Sunday night and breakfast the next day was purchased with the money made from Flashlight Tales,” Katie said. “Andie Arthur took care of the dinner on Monday night.”
Andie was one of the playwrights involved in the festival and is also the Executive Director of SouthFloridaTheatre.com. “Actually, as a playwright, I’ve been involved all four years of The Naked Stage’s 24 Hour Theatre Project,” Andie said.
Andie’s play, A Rebel’s Guide to (Utter) Compliance was directed by Hugh Murphy and performed by Andy Quiroga, Patti Gardner, Lisa Manuli and David Dearstyne. Patti portrayed a proud mamma of a Southern family whose goes on about her ancestral lineage to Stonewall Jackson. Patti’s acting chomps are a superlative combination of Julie Harris, Kim Hunter and Clarie Bloom all rolled into one.
Other playwrights included: Tony Finstrom’s Henry VIII’s Mail Order Bride, directed with aplumb by Avi Hoffman, who made a very funny cameo. Actors were: Amy McKenna, Julie Kleiner, Lindsey Forgey and Stephen G. Anthony. Michael McKeever’s OMG…ROTFLMAO, directed by Adalberto Acevedo with Adam Simpson, Carrie Santanna-Simpson, Karen Stephens and Nancy Barnett. David Sirois wrote Amputease, directed by Des Gallant with Amy Miller Brennan, Shane Tanner, Mark Della Ventura and Sally Bondi. Chris Demos Brown wrote A Storybook Funeral directed by Michael Leeds with Tracey Barrow-Schoenblatt, Terry Hardcastle, Lorenzo Gutierrez and Matthew William Chizever. Juan C. Sanchez wrote Armed & Hammered directed by Amy London with Dave Corey, Jeffrey Bruce, Jackie Rivera and Clive Cholerton (Artistic Director, Caldwell Theatre Company). Lucas Leyva wrote Fardle’s Bear, ingeniously directed by Shari Upbin, starring Ken Clement, Elizabeth Dimon, Irene Adjan and Ryan Didato. And Andrew Rosendorf’s Dinner with Dracula directed by Barbara Bradshaw with Lela Elam, Christopher A. Kent, Laura Hodos and Andrea Conte literally brought the house down. This play was expertly directed by one of the areas preeminent actresses (Bradshaw) and all of the performances were thrilling, particularly those of Christopher as Dracula and Lela who in essence was actually playing a parody of herself, but only from the head up.
“I’m so thrilled that The Naked Stage includes me in this whirlwind experience. I get the chance to work with people that I’ve never worked with and make new friends,” Lela said. The process is the same as if we had a “regular” rehearsal schedule, only 100 times faster. Antonio, Katie, and John are great people. They work so hard to put this event together and it doesn’t surprise me that these three could unite almost the entire theatre community.”
In addition to checking out NO EXIT, you’ll find some of the aforementioned individuals on local stages soon:
Andrew Rosendorf: CANE, Florida Stage at the Kravis Center’s Rinker Playhouse. Through Nov. 28. Call: (561) 585-3433 or (800) 514-3837.
Antonio Amadeo: A ROUND-HEELED WOMAN along with Sharon Gless, at GableStage. Dec. 30, 2010 – January 30, 2011. Call: 305-445-1119.
Patti Gardner: OLIVER at Actors’ Playhouse, November 17 – December 26, Call: (305) 444-9293 and SUPERIOR DONUTS at GableStage, February 26 – March 27, 2011.
Karen Stephens and Patti Gardner: CLYBOURNE PARK at the Caldwell, January 2 – February 6, 2011.Call 561-241-7432 or 877-245-7432.
Adam Simpson and Carrie Santanna-Simpson: South Florida Playwrights Festival: Part I. Monday, November 15, 2010 at 7:30 PM. Lynn University’s Wold Performing Arts Center, Schmidt Family Studio, 3601 North Military Trail, Boca Raton, FL 33431, (561) 237-9000, email@example.com. Playwrights include: “BONEHEAD” and “LOVE STREET CAFE” by Todd Caster; “HOLD ONTO YOUR DREAMS” by Marla E. Schwartz; “DEAD ON” and “WEEKEND” by David Fleisher.
John Manzelli: The new Artistic Director at City Theatre. “I’m extremely excited about the opportunity to lead City Theatre forward into its sixteenth season. Sadly, it will require me to pull back from my position with The Naked Stage. I’ll remain a company member as long as they’ll have me but I’ll have to leave any official role.”
And don’t forget to follow The Naked Stage on Twitter @NakedStage.
A native of Toledo, OH and a graduate of Kent State University, Marla E. Schwartz is a Senior Writer for Miami Living Magazine and is currently a freelance writer for AroundWellington.com and Lighthouse Point Magazine. Her photographs 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 produced in Los Angeles at both the First Stage and the Lone Star Ensemble theater companies, in Florida at Lynn University and then at an off-Broadway playhouse in NYC. Her piece, The Lunch Time Café, was a finalist for the Heideman Award, Actors Theatre of Louisville. Please check out the re-prints of her interviews with authors Dave Barry & Ridley Pearson and Dexter novelist Jeff Lindsay in the upcoming October 2010 issue of Duff Brenna’s ServingHouse: A Journal of Literary Arts at www.servinghousejournal.com. Please feel free to contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.