By John Thomason
By Benjy Caplan
By Artburst Miami
By Carlos Suarez De Jesus
By Daniel Reskin
Henderson and Massa debuted Big Wind in New York, then traveled with it to Rochester and Cape Cod before bringing it to Miami. As collaborators, they take advantage of the one-person format, effectively using the concerns of a half-dozen characters to draw us in. Although the production is saddled in places with over-the-top acting that might make you squirm, the show's undeniable spirit will sneak up behind you, grab you, and not let you go.
"If the young people of today don't begin to understand and learn about theater at a young age, they won't have the appreciation for theater and [eventually theaters] won't have an audience," asserts Earl Maulding, director of Theatre for Young Audiences at Actors' Playhouse in Coral Gables, a program that was founded in 1987. "We're up against a lot with television and videos and everything else that's out there. So our main mission to begin with was to provide a future for ourselves and for other theaters."
However, in 1984, after eight years of producing children's shows, Maulding felt that first-rate original work was drying up. "I was getting extremely frustrated in finding the kind of work I wanted to do," the director notes. "Work that challenged our audiences, didn't talk down to the kids, and was entertaining to the parents as well." To remedy this dilemma, Maulding and the staff at Actors' Playhouse started the National Children's Theatre Festival in the fall of 1994, an event that includes a national play-writing contest. "We decided to start a national festival to encourage works for young people and to try to give [such work] recognition," states Maulding.
The second annual festival kicks off on Monday, April 22, and runs through Saturday, April 27, culminating in back-to-back performances of the two winning entries. Thirty-five manuscripts were received from around the nation and judged by a local panel of six that included Actors' Playhouse artistic director David Arisco, Books & Books owner Mitchell Kaplan, and New World School of the Arts high school musical theater student Gwen Hollander. First prize in the musical category went to Phoebe's Closet, by Mary Gail of California. An intergalactic musical adventure drawing on the traditions of Alice in Wonderland and The Wizard of Oz, it can be seen on April 27 at 10:00 and at 2:00. Anna's Dream, by Phillip Policoff of New York, snared first prize in the play category. The story of a teenager who finds herself through the help of a zany fortuneteller, it also will play on April 27, at 11:30 and 3:30. For further information on the festival, call 444-9293.
Big Wind on Campus. Written by Gregory Henderson; directed by Joseph Massa; with Gregory Henderson. Through April 28. For information call 673-8002 or see "Calendar Listings.