Sweat Equity

Across the causeway on Espanola Way in South Beach, the Edge Theater finds itself right in the center of the madding crowd. Edge founder Jim Tommaney opened his theater in April and plans to mount an interactive performance piece by Mark Holt, which will be followed by Michael McClure's The Beard and To Recognize an Orange, a one-act by New World senior Adam Littman, during July. But Tommaney also stresses that he does not consider his company a commercial enterprise. Instead he's trying to establish a cultural hub in the Espanola Way Art Center, a loft space that houses twelve artists. "Theater," Tommaney asserts, "is a temple of truth in the midst of a materialistic culture...an alternative to disco and drugs." Avoiding last year's off-Broadway hits that other area theaters do so well, the Edge plans to stage the work of contemporary local playwrights as well as twentieth- century classics.

Meanwhile up in Hollywood, South Florida theater pros Jerry Waxman, David Taylor London, and Amy Tarallo have worked tirelessly to convert the Hollywood Performing Arts space, gutted after Ed Schiff abruptly closed down the storefront theater earlier this year, into the Hollywood Boulevard Theater. Permit delays forced Alfred Uhry's Driving Miss Daisy, scheduled to open the theater in the middle of June, to debut last week (it plays through July 9). Hardly new kids on the block, producing director Waxman and artistic director London still manage to convey tremendous excitement about their venture, which they've undertaken with some financial support from the City of Hollywood. The newly renovated storefront boasts a three-quarter- thrust stage, with audience seating on three sides. The season's diverse lineup includes Terrence McNally's Lips Together, Teeth Apart and Jon Robin Baitz's The Substance of Fire, as well as Oscar Wilde's classic The Importance of Being Earnest, scheduled for next February and March to commemorate the comedy's 100th anniversary. And Tony Award-winning singer and actress Melba Moore presents a one-woman show this July 27 through August 20.

All this new competition doesn't daunt Marta Garcia, artistic director of Coral Gables' year-old Akropolis Acting Company and midwife to her company's first season. "The more theaters we have, the better it is for all theaters," Garcia insists. "The more theaters there are, the more collaborators we have for raising people's awareness that there are things to do besides go to the movies, watch television, or spend 30 dollars for a night out at a bar." Like the Edge's Tommaney, Garcia believes theater provides not only an alternative to what the culture offers, but also the satisfaction many of us are seeking elsewhere. "People going to clubs waste their time, their money, their minds, and get nothing," she sighs. "For less money they can discover at the theater what they are looking for in clubs -- mystery, ritual, and magic.

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