Miami-Dade County partnership a win for playwrights

In addition to the nearly 50 workshops we do each year with our fellows and Core Writers, the Playwrights' Center partners with several theaters and organizations on development work. 

This summer the Playwrights’ Center started the workshop season off with two three-day workshops of new plays by writers from South Florida. Each year, selected Miami-area playwrights receive workshops at the Center as a part of the Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs’ Playwrights Development Program (PDP). A two-year grant program, the PDP was established by Remberto Cabrera over a decade ago while he served as Senior Cultural Administrator for the Department. Cabrera noticed a lack of education and career development programs for playwrights in the Miami area and came up with a program to function like a low-residency MFA. Each two-year cycle, facilitated by the South Florida Theatre League, brings three emerging writers together with an experienced playwright mentor who meets with them for a few weekends each year, guiding them through the development of their work. One of the additional resources provided by the program is a development workshop with a director, dramaturg, and professional actors at the Playwrights’ Center.

PDP writers Juan C. Sanchez and Andie Arthur completed their development workshops last month, and their colleague Christopher Demos-Brown will come to town for his workshop in December of this year. Along with the Playwrights’ Center workshop, each writer will have a number of reading and workshop opportunities in Miami-Dade County, and may choose to present a staged reading of their work at the end of the two-year term. Nationally-renowned playwright Sheri Wilner serves as the mentor for these three writers.

Juan C. Sanchez is working on a new thriller called Dead by Night, inspired by the life of Patricia Highsmith, author of The Talented Mr. Ripley and other novels and short stories. We checked in with him at the end of his workshop, which was assisted by director Jessica Finney and dramaturg Alan Berks, to see how the play was developing.

“The workshop was incredible!” he says. “I walked into the room with a first draft of a play, and I feel that I left with a much stronger version of the play. With the help of the artistic team, actors, and interns, a lot of revisions were made and plot, character, and genre elements were strengthened. Everyone was an active and respectful participant in the discussion of the play, and I felt really, really safe.”

Juan looks forward to a public reading of Dead by Night sometime this year, facilitated by the PDP. If you’re in the Miami area, keep an eye on the South Florida Theatre League for this and other readings!

Andie Arthur is a talented playwright who also serves as Executive Director of the South Florida Theatre League. The League supports over seventy member organizations all over South Florida, as well as over 450 individual members, providing professional development workshops, unified auditions, and collective marketing opportunities.

Andie’s workshop this August at the Playwrights’ Center worked to develop her brand-new play, Endless Song.

She is stretching herself artistically with this play, which centers around, “a young woman struggling with depression who fights her Unitarian Universalist congregation that is trying to get rid of their minister, whom she adores. It’s the first time I’ve tried writing something like this,” Andie says, “both in writing directly about some of my experiences with depression and with the style of the storytelling.”

Andie was joined by director Amy Rummenie and dramaturg Christina Ham as she worked through revising this new draft. “The actors and directors and dramaturgs in Minnesota are amazing,” she raves. “Everyone asks such insightful questions. I’ve always been an incredibly open playwright in terms of my process. I feed off the ideas and enthusiasm of others, which is in such abundance at the Playwrights’ Center.”

Endless Song “isn’t quite ready” for a public reading or production, but Andie has a new rewrite to work on and plans to continue workshopping the piece with readings back home in Florida.

Cuban Spring by Vanessa Garcia, workshopped at the Playwrights' Center last year through this partnership, will have its world premiere with New Theatre at the South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center, October 11 – November 2, 2014.