New Playwrights Talk About Debuts at 'Summer Shorts: Homegrown Edition'

City Theatre Presents Emerging Local BIPOC Voices


"Summer Shorts: Homegrown Edition" playwrights are Sefanja Richard Galon, Chris Anthony Ferrer, Ivan R. López, Luis Roberto Herrera, Phanésia Pharel, Joel Castillo, Lolita Stewart-White and Ariel Cipolla (Photo by Gregory Reed)

Jan Engoren, Arts Writer

Eight local playwrights will take center stage when City Theatre and the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts present this year's iteration of "Summer Shorts: Homegrown Edition."  With the Magic City as inspiration, the emerging BIPOC (Black Indigenous, People of Color) playwrights will spin ten-minute tales under the vision of City Theatre artistic director, Margaret M Ledford and under the mentorship of playwright Vanessa Garcia.

"These fresh, funny, and locally sourced plays are every bit as good as previous incarnations of our Summer Shorts program, but with a welcome familiarity of recognizable places and faces of our South Florida region," says Ledford.

LEFT: Brette-Raia Curah, Lauren Cristina López, and Chabely Ponce in


LEFT: Brette-Raia Curah, Lauren Cristina López, and Chabely Ponce in "The Vultures" by Ariel Cipolla (Photo by Morgan Sophia Photography); RIGHT: Playwright Ariel Cipolla (Photo by Gregory Reed)

"I am so pleased and proud to amplify the voices of our local talent from page to stage," she says.

"Homegrown's" goals are to nurture, elevate, and promote Miami's BIPOC writers by providing the time, tools, and training to create their own body of work as a way of diversifying the national theater canon, Ledford says.

Mentored by Garcia, author of "The Amparo Experience" and "Sweet Goats & Blueberry Senoritas," which was co-written with U.S. inaugural poet Richard Blanco, and #GRACED, which ran in May at Zoetic Stage at the Arsht Center, Garcia says the playwrights have bonded over their working time together over the past two years.

"I find these young writers super-inspiring," says Garcia, who has four plays premiering this year. "It's been a productive conversation with a wonderful exchange of ideas. It's exciting for them to have this opportunity to go out into the world as voices of and from Miami."

She credits City Theatre for the opportunity to be involved with the "Homegrown" project and for creating this project "from the heart."

As a mom of two, a playwright, artist, journalist and screenwriter, Garcia says she is exactly where she wants to be.

"I am doing what I love and what I've always wanted to do," she says, adding that future goals include telling more Cuban-American stories from a "true and authentic place."

Lolita Stewart-White, author of the short play "7," says, "I'm over the moon being part of this amazing group of playwrights. I love Vanessa – she's an amazing role model and we have the most generous, amazing people in this cohort."

"It's been an incredible experience," she says. "We all gelled and the process have made us all stronger as artists."

Stewart-White especially credits the women in the group, calling them "trailblazers."

"They have given me a lot to aspire to," says Stewart-White, an accomplished poet from Liberty City, whose work has appeared in The Boston Review, Iowa Review and Ploughshares, among other publications.

Writing a short play is similar to writing poetry Stewart-White says. An admirer of poet Terrance Hayes, past poetry editor for The New York Times Magazine and playwright Suzan-Lori Parks, ("Topdog/Underdog"), in 7, Stewart-White has written about what she knows – marriage.

LEFT: Toddra Brunson and Brette-Raia Curah in


LEFT: Toddra Brunson and Brette-Raia Curah in "7" by Lolita Stewart-White (Photo by Morgan Sophia Photography). RIGHT: Playwright Lolita Stewart-White (Photo by Gregory Reed)

Married 20 years, she says she came up with the premise – what would happen if couples had to renew their marriage license every seven years – from life experiences and listening to friends and family go through different phases of their marriage.

To write, Stewart-White conjures her inner "duende," or creative spirit.

"To me, she's a gentle, sweet woman who embodies passion ad inspiration," she says. "She brings an other-worldliness or mystical presence to the writing process."

"It's unexplainable, but if she's not there, there's a problem," Stewart-White jokes.

She has already written her second play titled "Liberty City Vignette," about the gentrification of Liberty City from the vantage point of its residents.

Having grown up there and in Carol City, Stewart-White is sympathetic to the concerns of the residents who are getting priced out of their neighborhoods.

"Writing is writing," she says. "I want to write something artistic as well as socially relevant. I want to make an impact with my work and to help be a part of the healing process."

Cuban-American playwright Ivan Lopez's short play


Cuban-American playwright Ivan Lopez's short play "I Found This on the Web" is a comedy about dating in the age of infinite intelligence. (Photo by Gregory Reed)

Cuban-American playwright Ivan Lopez, 42, has also written what he knows with his short play, "I Found This on the Web," a comedy about dating in the age of Artificial Intelligence.

"I'm very excited to be part of this edition of 'Summer Shorts,' " says Lopez. "We have a wonderful group of emerging artists who have captured the spirit of Miami. This edition will be extra special because the stories are uniquely Miami."

A long-time theater artist and actor, Lopez is on the theatre faculty at FIU and has directed and acted in Miami, New York, Denver, and Atlanta, but says he has wanted to write for a long time but put it off.

"It's the scariest role in theater," he says. "It's the most vulnerable – you are putting your ideas and yourself out there for others to judge." He's grateful that the "Homegrown" program has given him the gift of time and space to focus on becoming a playwright.

Raul Ramírez and Roderick Randle in


Raul Ramírez and Roderick Randle in "Banana Bread" by Sefanja Richard Galon. (Photo by Morgan Sophia Photography)

He loves the classics writers  – Henrik Ibsen, Eugene O'Neill and Tennessee Williams and the dark humor of contemporary British playwright Martin McDonagh, who directed the Academy-award nominated film, "The Banshees of Inisherin."

While he doesn't have a daily writing routine, Lopez says he is constantly thinking about story ideas and has been thinking about his latest play, "Nightmares of a Loving World," for the past ten years.

He's written 25 pages of what he expects will be a 100-page play (no intermission) and says, "Writing is an act of discovery."

"Inspiration finds me," he says. "I'm a curious person and a listener. Ideas and characters pop into my mind."

He references Luigi Pirandello's "Six Characters in Search of An Author," as something he relates to when his characters find him.

A spiritual person, Lopez says creativity is a way to connect to something bigger than oneself and the thing that connects us all.

"That's what great theater and storyteller can do," he says. "They show us that we have more in common than not."

And, as Garcia says, "These are the voices that need to hit the mainstream and represent what it means to be American today."

From left, Chris Anthony Ferrer, Luis Roberto Herrera, Lolita Stewart-White, Ivan R. Lopez, Phanesia Pharel, Ariel Castillo, Sefanja Richard Galon and Joel Castillo are the playwrights of


From left, Chris Anthony Ferrer, Luis Roberto Herrera, Lolita Stewart-White, Ivan R. Lopez, Phanesia Pharel, Ariel Castillo, Sefanja Richard Galon and Joel Castillo are the playwrights of "Summer Shorts: Homegrown Edition." (Photo by Gregory Reed)

Additional playwrights in the "Homegrown" series include Joel Castillo, Ariel Cipolla, Chris Anthony Ferrer, Sefanja Richard Galon, Luis Roberto Herrera, and Phanésia Pharel.

Performances begin with previews on Thursday, June 8 at 7:30 p.m. The show opens at 7:30 p.m. Friday, June 9 and runs through Sunday, June 25. Tickets are $50 - $75. City Theatre performs in the Carnival Studio Theater at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, 1300 Biscayne Boulevard, Miami. Information at (786) 468-2000 or  A limited number of VIP tickets are available. VIP access includes up-front, cabaret-style seating and a complimentary cocktail, glass of wine or beer. Use promo code VIP to purchase at

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