Call it theater for the attention-span challenged generation, with guerilla style and cultural chic.
The Microteatro por dinero Miami festival, a Spanish import that opened this week at the Centro Cultural Español de Miami downtown, brings a highly successful Madrid cultural concept here through the end of April.
Thursday to Sunday, audiences can pick from nine micro-length original plays, just 15 minutes long, staged in cargo containers lined up in the Center’s parking lot-turned courtyard patio. The cost is $5 per play, and between artistic mini-experiences, people can mingle over tapas and drinks at an outdoor café, stepping out for another dose of theater.
Ana Vidal, the center’s cultural manager for visual, literature and cinema, said the Microteatro concept should appeal to younger audiences used to getting their entertainment in youtube bursts. “It’s very short, very original, and very real,” she said. “People don’t have time or desire to see a two-hour film anymore. This is in the format of a video clip.”
Jorge Monje is one of four people who originated Microteatro in Spain in 2009. There the event runs year round, with new plays selected each month from approximately 150 submissions. The concept has drawn 120,000 people since they moved into a permanent “Microteatro por dinero” site in Madrid a year ago. From Miami, Monje and his collaborators hope to bring the idea to other U.S. cities.
Monje, who was on hand at the Miami version’s press opening Wednesday, said the idea was born out of creative need.
“It came from the necessity to do a project that was simpler and easier,” Monje said. “Theater is very expensive and difficult. This is simple and easy to see. And it exploits the creative capacities of many people.”
He said the title “por dinero” — “for money” was meant ironically. “It’s exactly the opposite — we don’t do it for money,” Monje said. We do it very cheaply and very creatively.”
The nine Miami plays, two in English and the rest in Spanish, were selected from 50 submissions, mostly from artists based here. The sets are raw and simple, and the atmosphere inside the containers, where actors gesture and stare into your eyes from just a few feet away, intense.
In La Ultima Pregunta (The Last Question), written by Nancho Novo and directed by Alexis Valdes, host of Mega TV’s popular Esta Noche Tu Night, a game show hostess (Paulina Galvez) and her contestant (Denise Sanchez) face off in a contest where the stakes could mean life or death, with the characters stepping out of the action to ask the audience to make crucial moral and practical decisions. Wednesday evening, the small group watching inside the container, where the set consisted of a blue plastic backdrop and two small podiums, quickly became complicit in the drama.
. “It’s a very special experience for any actor,” Galvez says. “The audience will feel just like the competitors in certain TV programs.”
In Blue Jellyfish, actor Carolina Sa undulated through a miniature landscape of construction paper butterflies, strings of twinkling lights, and a tiny cardboard shack, in a surreal, erotic monologue of memory and fantasy.
Jesus Quintero, Jellyfish’ writer and director, praised the Microteatro concept.
“One of the most difficult things about being an artist here is we don’t have a way to see our work contrasted with the rest of the world,” he said. “As Miami grows from a city where you take vacations to a city with its own personality and culture, it’s important to have these exchanges with the rest of the world.”
Quintero also thought the festival, despite its theater-as-web-surfing format, offered a natural, easy way to help people socialize in real, as opposed to virtual, space. “We need that sense of community,” he said. “Sometimes we connect more online than we do live. Here you can watch a show, then if you see someone, you can hang out and talk.”
El Nuevo Herald staff writer Arturo Arias-Polo contributed to this report.