Zoetic's Stuart Meltzer planned to introduce his latest acting find Gabriell Salgado to audiences in a small part in its production of "A Little Night Music" last year, and then through a carefully choreographed procession of parts until the actor was ready for his star turn in "Frankenstein," this fall. But the pandemic upended those plans and the Sondheim musical was postponed, so Salgado will make his debut in the starring role of The Creature, in "Frankenstein," the theater company's season opener.
But Meltzer is unconcerned about his star being ready for his close-up: "Gabriell is already working his magic as The Creature in rehearsals. T his will be a spellbinding breakout role," says Meltzer.
Zoetic Stage's South Florida premiere of "Frankenstein," Nick Dear's award-winning adaptation of the famous Mary Shelley tale, opens Thursday and runs through Halloween. It kicks off the theater company's 2021-2022 season and the 10th anniversary of the Adrienne Arsht Center's "Theater Up Close" season.
"We are thrilled to bring live theater back with such an extraordinary play, featuring incredible actors and creatives at the top of their game. My hope is to bring the community together safely as we revisit this classic tale whose universal themes of humanity and divinity still resonate today," said Meltzer, Zoetic's artistic director.
As for Salgado, a Miami native, he is excited, not only about the role, but about getting back onto a theater stage after the pandemic turned his debut year as a professional actor topsy turvy.
It isn't the first time Salgado, born and raised in Miami, has been forced to rethink his plans. He was a student at Christopher Columbus High School, and was hellbent on a career in sports, but an injury forced him to sideline that idea. He went to see a friend's play, and fell in love with the theater, turning his sites on the New World School for the Arts. He graduated in 2019, ready to embark on his acting career and then came "that awkward year" of the pandemic, he says.
But, although the pandemic shuttered indoor theater, it didn't stop thespian troupes in Miami – or thespians like Salgado, for that matter. Forced outdoors, he participated in Zoetic Stage's "Zoetic Schmoetic," a fast-paced improv show on the Arsht Center's outdoor plaza. He also played one of a pair of bartenders, who actually served up drinks to a socially distanced audience who watched Miami New Drama's award-winning production "Seven Deadly Sins," on Lincoln Road.
And, in between, he gobbled up everything he could about the theater, and also became "obsessed" with preparing for his role as The Creature, which he knew was his role for the taking as soon as the theaters reopened.
"When the pandemic happened, like everyone else, I was a little discouraged at the beginning, but now I realize that, if it hadn't, I never would have been ready for all these shows. I read a lot of books about acting and writing, I did Zoom readings, I got good at making self-tapes for auditions. I did everything I could because I didn't want to get lazy and lose that drive. And it worked, because now I'm more committed than ever," he says.
He's also excited about doing Dear's retelling of the Frankenstein tale, which was originally mounted in 2011 by the National Theatre in London. In Dear's version, instead of focusing on Dr. Frankenstein, as in the original, this retelling takes the point of view of The Creature's plight.
"What I love about this version is that it's a modern version, and a different approach. The story is told from the Creature's perspective. It's a raw story about a man trying to find his way in the world," says Salgado.
"I haven't watched any of the adaptations since I was a child; to do this role, I just imagined being brought into the world; learning to walk and talk to for the first time, trying to create relationships, not having that opportunity and being hideous –what must that be like," he adds.
For his part, Meltzer got the rights to Dear's adaption three years ago, and has been looking forward to mounting the play ever since.
"When it was produced by the National Theatre, they had all the money they wanted, but we have had to figure out how to do it creatively. But there is spectacle –fire, rain and snow," says Meltzer.
But, at its core, is the human story, he adds. "There is a reason that this story has lasted hundreds of years, and that's what it tells us about humanity. It's an incredibly timely story; there are lessons of love, respect for each other, and it also shows what happens when we let our egos get in the way."
Performances of "Frankenstein" will run from Oct. 14 through Oct. 31 at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami. Tickets are $50 and $55 and can be purchased by calling the box office at (305) 949-6722 or online at www.arshtcenter.org