Theater is a magical space, and no one knows it better than Miami New Drama Artistic Director Michel Hausmann.
He opens the doors to the main stage of the Colony Theater and flips the switch to turn on the lights. All 417 seats are empty, and the area is ready for the closing party of Papa Cuatro. In the center of the scene is a single light bulb attached to the top of a large black stand. Ghost light is an old theatrical tradition that some say is meant to protect the stage from – you guessed it – ghosts. Others say it’s for security reasons.
For Hausmann, it’s probably a bit of both.
The Venezuelan is seated with his back against the stage; however, he looks up at the theater ceiling from time to time. He said mischievously, “I’m going to let you in on a little secret. It shows a spot on the ceiling with a large square vent. On either side of the vent are two bulb holes that look like a pair of eyes, and just above is another small square that looks like a nose. This, says Hausmann, represents the omnipresent gaze of Dionysus, the god of the theatre.
“Sometimes I sit and watch the god of theater, and I can feel the weight of what we’re doing in this tradition that’s been around for over 2,500 years,” he says.
“Theatre is theatre. We will always be on the brink of extinction, but we will always be here.
“Theatre is an extraordinary art form that has a transformative power that very few art forms have,” he says. “It is our responsibility to use this transformative power in a way that people are passionate about. And we do it in a way that resonates with our community because it looks and sounds like our community.
Hausmann kicks the ground and leans on the two back legs of his chair. As he looks around at the empty seats, he puts his hands in his pockets.
The creative director describes planning a season for Miami New Drama as stepping into a garden. Throughout the year, he commissions various plays on all kinds of subjects. And just like vegetation, each is in its own stage of development. Some might be more fully trained and ready to pick, while others need more time and attention. This is where the expert gardener, Hausmann, comes into the analogy.
He pulls his hands out of his pockets and pulls out his car keys. As he plays with the keys in one hand, he says, “Before each season, I go into the garden and find [plays] are ready for production.
Hausmann and his team are set to deliver a memorable 2022-23 season with three world premieres and a special anniversary production.
Kicking off the company’s sixth season is Elian, written by Rogelio Martinez, who talks about Elián Gonzalez and the infamous events of 2000 that put the Magic City – and the Cuban community – on a national map. The show will run at the Colony Theater from October 27 to November 20.
“Although you know the end, [the show] is completely captivating because you don’t know exactly how you’re going to get there,” says Hausmann, who also heads up production. ” In the process [of telling the story]we discovered that what the country remembers and what was shared by the media at the time does not correspond to what happened. Elian is one of those plays where you’re going to walk into the theater expecting something and have a completely different experience.”
He stops, searching for the words in his head. “It will pull the curtain behind [to reveal] what you haven’t seen through the media.”
The second production of the season is not your typical Miami New Drama commissioned play. Instead, the company will offer a special anniversary production of the Pulitzer Prize-winning show. Anna in the tropics by Nilo Cruz.
“I realized that this year was going to be the 20th anniversary of Anna in the tropics“said Hausmann, “and I thought it hadn’t been professionally remounted since the first time it was made…it’s a made in Miami achievement and we wanted to give it a real 20th anniversary production .
Cruz himself will direct the Miami New Drama production of his award-winning play about a Miami cigar factory and the lives of its workers.
Earlier this month, the Miami Herald reported how the Miami-Dade County Public School System blocked students from seeing Cruz’s play due to “racy” scenes. Hausmann and his team at Miami New Drama are moving forward with the production and released a statement on the controversy, saying, “We want to continue to inspire the next generation…because we believe theater and art are the best tools for this. ; tools for change, empathy, reflection and exploration.”
For the past four years, the theater company has produced a new original work by playwright Aurin Squire. In keeping with this accidental tradition, the third production of the season will be Squire’s Degrade Michael Jackson.
“It’s a play that looks at the race riots of the 1980s,” says Hausmann. “It’s a coming of age story. It’s funny and offbeat at times, but it really tells the story of Black Miami. It’s a story about Opa-locka told by a Black Miamian from Opa -locka.”
Closing the season in May next year is the piece de resistance, as Hausmann puts it, an adaptation of author Edwidge Danticat’s book of essays titled Creating Dangerously: The Immigrant Artist at Work. The play, which bears the same name, was adapted and directed by Lileana Blain-Cruz.
Hausmann admits he’s wanted to work with Blain-Cruz for years. “I think she’s the most important theater executive of my generation — and she just happens to be from Miami,” he says with a smile.
“It’s truly amazing that we’re working with these world-class artists this season.”
Rogelio Martinez, veteran, award-winning playwright. Nilo Cruz, Pulitzer Prize winner. Aurin Squire, great television writer. Lileana Blain-Cruz, Tony nominee. Edwidge Danticat, winner of the National Book Prize.
“We have to defend our [Miami] artists,” adds Hausmann proudly. “And it’s so easy to defend them because they’re so good.