By Vanessa Garcia
Questionable pardons and campaign contributions; sex; the significance of the Declaration of Independence and Family Values – no, this isn’t a day in the life of the 2008 Presidential campaign, it’s a Free Night of Theatre.
On Oct. 16, all over Miami Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties, theatres will be joining a national movement started in 2005 by the Theatre Communications Group (TCG), the national organization for the not-for-profit American Theatre. The program, simply called Free Night of Theatre, was launched as an initiative to draw new audiences and spread awareness about local theatres around the country. From Austin to Seattle, theater companies are opening their doors for one day, absolutely free of charge. All you have to do is reserve a ticket in advance.
Locally, some of the best and most renowned theaters, as well as some of the newest, are participating: Actor’s Playhouse at the Miracle Theater, GablesStage, Florida Stage, The Women’s Theatre Project and the Promethean, just to name a few. "The night gives people a risk-free chance to see what we do," says Deborah Sherman, Producing Artistic Director of The Promethean Theatre, which will preview of Still the River Runs by Barton Bishop.
"People in South Florida need to be more aware of what is here and the wonderful performances that we have to offer," says Andie Arthur, Executive Director of The Theatre League of South Florida. It was the Theatre League that connected with TCG and began to draw in SoFla theatres one by one. "I was really impressed with the focus and accomplished goals of the program," says Arthur about TCG, "it caters to a younger, more diverse audience than normally seen at theatres, and it’s even more impressive [how many of them] come back." (About 40 percent, says Phillip Matthews, Director of Communications for TCG.)
"I would try anything, TCG suggested," says Joe Adler Artistic Director of GablesStage at the Biltmore Hotel. He has hopes of bringing new people to the theater, and for the occasion is previewing November by David Mamet for the occasion — a topical play that involves civil marriages, gambling, casinos, American Indians and the Presidency.
"South Florida is not just about clubs and the beach, there are smart, interesting, cultured people [here]," says Sherman, who emphasizes the importance of an audience. "If the audience doesn’t come then it doesn’t matter how great a show is… we need them to help us be successful, in return we promise them an experience which is not only different but an exchange of emotion and energy with other human beings."
For reservations go to www.freenightoftheatre.net. Tickets are free and going furiously fast. Note: Some theatres show listings for days following the 16th, expanding the Free Night of Theatre into a week of free South Florida Theatre.