Shakespeare in South Florida – Part I

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GableStage at the Biltmore

GableStage at the Biltmore

South Florida is truly about as far from Elizabethan London as you can get, and the tropical atmosphere certainly doesn’t seem like the ideal setting for producing and experiencing the Bard’s works.

I’m a 17 year-old who has lived in South Florida for my whole life and I’ve been seeking out the best local Shakespeare productions ever since I memorized the entire “To Be or Not To Be” soliloquy when I was 4.  Over the years, I have been very surprised and impressed with the diverse Shakespeare scene that South Florida has to offer, and I’m going to share a couple of my favorite Shakespeare-related experiences in my hometown area in an extended three-part post.

It might come as a surprise to many South Florida theatregoers that GableStage, a theatre that produces some of the most modern and cutting-edge works around, was once dedicated solely to Shakespeare.  GableStage is one of my personal favorite production companies in the area, and I was very excited to speak to its Producing Artistic Director Joe Adler about the theatre’s Shakespearean background as well as Mr. Adler’s plans to expand on this foundation in the future.  GableStage was actually known as the Florida Shakespeare Theatre up until 14 years ago, and while the name may have changed, Mr. Adler has kept the theatre’s Shakespearean spirit alive.

Every year, GableStage mounts a tour of one hour scaled-down versions of Shakespeare’s plays to high school students in the area.  Last year they performed an abridged version of Julius Caesar, and next year the second mainstage production of the 2012-2013 season will be a one act 90-minute version of Hamlet.  This production will be adapted and directed by Tarell Alvin McCraney, an emerging young playwright and writer-in-residence at the Royal Shakespeare Company.  McCraney is a graduate of Miami’s New World School of the Arts High School who received his Master’s Degree at Yale School of Drama, and his relationship with GableStage has been crucial to the creation of their expanded Shakespeare programming.  Their 2012-2013 production of Hamlet will run for 5 weeks at their home at the Biltmore Hotel and then will travel to the Caleb Center in Overtown and finally to the brand new South Dade Cultural Auditorium where it will run for public school students free of charge.  According to Mr. Adler, “It’s a new adaptation- Kenneth Branagh’s four-hour version is great but I’m happy doing a one hour version for our audiences and the Miami-Dade students.”

GableStage has brought Shakespeare to over a million students in the Miami-Dade area over the years and Mr. Adler suspects that tens of thousands of high school students will see next year’s production.

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Author:Dara Solina

Dara Solina is a 17 year-old from Aventura, FL who has been part of the South Florida theatre community for her whole life. For the past 5 years, she’s written about her experiences performing and seeing theatre on her blog at Groundlings.net. She hopes to devote her life to theatre, whether composing music for new musicals, writing reviews from the audience, or performing on stage.
  • Erin

    Hi Dara, so fun to read about the Shakes-scene in FL and also to ‘see’ you again in the Shakespeare world. Looking forward to future installments!

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