"I had the whole nine yards -- the tunnel, the colors, and the lights," recalls actor/director Adalberto J. Acevedo. Not of his illustrious stage debut but of a difficult time in the hospital two years ago; after enduring open-heart surgery, he suffered a bout of ventricular tachycardia and nearly took his final curtain call. "At age 32, you're hearing things like life-ending event," he relates somberly. "It was really hard, and then a wonderful nurse at Cedar's gave me a pen and a paper and I remember writing down: 'This is about living not dying.' And from that moment, on the next page, I started planning the theater company."
Acevedo's turbulent real-life drama led him to pursue his true passion by founding The Modern Stage, a small ensemble that debuted last year at Drama 101 with the play Seascape with Sharks and Dancer. Modeled after Chicago's Steppenwolf company, which chooses its material with certain actors in mind, the troupe is Acevedo's vehicle for "taking audiences to the edge and finding new voices out there."
Acevedo knew he wanted to act as a child, inspired by entertainers such as celebrated Cuban comedian Leopoldo Fernandez (a.k.a. Tres Patines) and local kiddie thespians like the Pied Piper Players. "Even in high school, I was always directing the other kids," he admits, conceding he's not really the bossy sort but more apt to be walked all over. Gravitating toward directing was only natural. "I think that's how I work out my issues," he laughs.
After attending Florida State University, he toured with Teatro Avante, subsequently joining the well-regarded Acme Acting Co. ten years ago. When that group folded, he became a middle-school drama teacher. Perhaps tougher than teaching kids, though, is finding plays for his troupe to perform, says Acevedo, who scours bookstores in New York City and Chicago, haunts stages, and reads trade journals in search of new work. "You don't want to do what other companies are doing," he declares. "We want to be able to cater to a different audience. We want to fill a gap."
The Modern's latest attempt to do that: Nocturne, a discomfiting one-man show written by erstwhile novelist Adam Rapp. The story of a man attempting to make sense of his tragedy-stricken life, the play boasts a captivating first line -- "Fifteen years ago, I killed my sister" -- bold enough to grab the attention of even the most distracted. Acevedo will direct actor David Perez in the Pulitzer Prize-nominated 90-minute drama, which he says includes some light moments too. "I'm not passing out razor blades at the door," he assures.
Two more plays (including a comedy) are planned for this season; next season will feature four works. Eventually Acevedo hopes The Modern Stage will hold an original play festival, to develop new works originating in Miami. In the meantime, intriguing audiences with challenging theater is his prime objective. "Not that you want to shock people, but any emotion is a good emotion," he notes. "If somebody is moved to tears, that's great. If somebody wants to look for me after the show and beat the shit out of me, that's okay too. I'm a big boy, though: Watch out!"