Miami New Drama gives the beloved play “Our Town” a Miami makeover when the edgy production company’s new version of this beloved classic premieres later this month.
“Our Town,” is designed to retain the universal themes that made Thornton Wilder’s play a classic, but, under the direction of Miami New Drama’s Michel Hausmann, is performed by a multicultural, multilingual cast.
As theater buffs know, “Our Town,” tells the story of Grover’s Corner, a quintessential New England town, through the daily lives of its characters over a several-year span. Premiering in 1938, the showfound great success on Broadway, winning the Pulitzer Prize for drama, and later, the Tony in 1989 for best revival.
Hausmann has transported the story to the Miami of today, yet the play retains the essence of Wilder’s vision, so much so that that this is the first time in the play’s history that the playwright's estate has given permission for the text to be altered, according to the director.
He’s dubbed his Miami version “An American Classic, Reborn," which focuses on two families, one that speaks Spanish at home, and the other, a mix of English and Creole. Dialogue is translated into Spanish by Pulitzer Prize-winner Nilo Cruz, and in Creole by renowned playwright, Jeff Augustin. Supertitles will be used for ease of translation.
“This is an experiment,” says Hausmann. “Theater here is very segregated in two languages; English and Spanish. Great theater is going on in both, but actors and audiences have never been brought together, so this is a way of doing that,” he says.
And to tell the story, he’s brought together an exceedingly varied cast of acclaimed international actors, melding them with notable South Florida faces.
" 'Our Town' is not just this Norman Rockwell painting; it is bigger and universal. If you take a picture of our cast, it will look like exactly what Miami looks like, and they can tell the story of what will be an even more compelling community,” he says.
Led by Keith Randolph Smith (Spike Lee’s “Malcolm X,” Broadway’s “Fences”and“Jitney”), the players include Venezuelan television and film star Carlota Sosa; renowned Cuban stage and television actor Javier Valcarcel; and award winning Venezuelan film actor Luigi Sciamanna. Well-known South Florida actors Jeni Hacker, Steve Gladstone (miamiartzine.com's classical and jazz writer/critic), Gabriel Bonilla, and Robert Strain round out the production.
“Our Town” is a favorite of Strain’s. The Carbonell Award-winning actor, who plays Dr. Gibbs, the town’s general practitioner, once performed in a reading of “Our Town,” but has never been cast in a full production.
“We live in a very different kind of America than when Thornton Wilder wrote this play. That place suggested and looked like Protestant America. But the universal themes in it cut across culture and race, so this will be a fantastic production,” he says.
In creating this version of “Our Town,” Hausmann has found the perfect vehicle to kick off Miami New Drama’s second season, he says.
“We don’t do plays because they were popular in New York last year, we do works that we think are important right now, not only for our audience but also for the national conversation. And so we’ve created a season that could only happen in Miami, and not in any other theater in the country.”
Miami New Drama’s “Our Town” runs Oct. 26-Nov. 19 at the Colony Theater, 1040 Lincoln Road, Miami Beach, Fla., 33139. Tickets are $45 to $65. Opening night gala tickets are $100. Call 800-211-1414. www.colonymb.org.