Ray of Local Light

Meet Miami's multiculti, multitalented mob of homegrown heroes

Eclectic by design and multicultural with a vengeance, Miami Light Project's Here & Now: 2006 is the riskiest and most ambitious edition yet.

This innovative performance, multimedia, and film festival — produced in collaboration with the new Miami Performing Arts Center — is a hothouse for local talent.

Through February 18, a breathtakingly colorful garden of delights, including salsa, hip-hop, classical, and techno sounds, will vie for attention with silent motion, spoken word, mime, buto dance, film, and video. And they're delivered in as many accents as you might hear while sitting at a Lincoln Road café or strolling along Calle Ocho on a cool Viernes Cultural.

Natasha Tsakos in Up Wake Part III
Natasha Tsakos in Up Wake Part III

Details

February 4 through 18. Insanity Isn't by Rudi Goblen, Something Awful by Clifton Childree, Boomtown Fever by Lisandro Perez-Rey, I Spy by Nikki Rollason, Temporary Americanary Confusionary by Paul Tei, Some Assembly Required by Helena Thevenot, and Up Wake Part III by Natasha Tsakos
Miami Light Project, Light Box Studio, 3000 Biscayne Blvd, #100, Miami; 305-576-4350; www.miamilightp roject.com.

The multicultural mix is "no accident at all," says Miami Light Project's artistic director Beth Boone, who has been the festival's curator since its beginnings seven years ago. "It is very much a reflection of the natural ecosystem of Miami."

For audiences, the festival provides a one-stop shopping opportunity to stock up on news from the arts front. The intimate feeling of its setting — Biscayne Boulevard's Light Box Studio — also helps. The venue conveys an air of conspiracy in which audience and performer seem to forge a pact to share a slice of South Florida history. And make no mistake, past festivals suggest this is the place to discover what's new right now, right here in our own cultural back yard. If some of the work looks rough and decidedly in progress, sharing that progress with the artists becomes part of the fun.

Certainly some of the Here & Now headliners qualify as stars: The beloved director Paul Tei has a strong local following, and both filmmaker Lisandro Perez-Rey and the otherwise unclassifiable mime Natasha Tsakos pack in the crowds whenever their work is shown.

"We look for a mix of emerging artists with other young artists who are already midcareer," says Boone.

It was almost a year ago that Tsakos unveiled her improbably touching, zany character Zero in Up Wake Part II, a crowded solo piece that mixed computer animation and projections, house music, silence, and the artist's gifted stage presence. Now comes Up Wake Part III, "longer, with better 3-D animation projected on the floor and the back wall, everywhere," explains Tsakos, "going deeper into Zero's world." It's a bittersweet, funny, but definitely tragic world, with existentialist shades of Samuel Beckett and especially Marcel Marceau — though Tsakos has never seen Marceau live and she swears, "I don't consider myself a mime. Zero is not a complete clown either."

"I think he's always been inside me," says Tsakos. In addition to performing her unforgettable New Wave mime creation, she's been spotted vamping it up with the local street theater troupe Urban Disturbance, being outrageous in front of a screen at the Miami Beach Cinematheque, and clowning on the street for kids as the red-nose creature Kokoff. Tsakos confesses she'd like to aim Zero's Up Wake adventures toward garnering the sort of success enjoyed by Blue Man Group. She also admits her show is tough to classify: "I don't know what to call Zero."

Perez-Rey's Boomtown Fever "is purposely not complete," says Boone. This acclaimed Cuban-American filmmaker previously chronicled the down-and-dirty Cuban homeboy scene in LA Fabri-K: The Cuban Hip-Hop Factory — a Miami Light Project commission — and the plight of the Mariel boatlift balseros in the festival cult hit Mas alla del Mar (Beyond the Sea). Boomtown Fever documents the dizzying transformation of the Miami and Biscayne Boulevard skylines. The picture might be complete for the October opening of the Miami Performing Arts Center, with a premiere promised for the 2006-07 season. "This is the largest excerpt yet of Boomtown Fever," says Boone.

In addition to Tei, Perez-Rey, and Tsakos, Here & Now: 2006 presents new work by Clifton Childree, Rudi Goblen, Nikki Rollason, and Helena Thevenot.

Rudi Goblen's Insanity Isn't actually isn't what fans might expect from this local poet — unless they were paying attention, that is. The Nicaraguan writer, who grew up in Miami, recently showed another side of his talent by slamming his way through Scratch and Burn and making dance out of poetry. His new piece is a dance melodrama about work, sleep, and the rest of an American nightmare visited on a b-boy named Acey. A film and video creation by Clifton Childree called Something Awful will likely be the festival's most unusual love story, as a fisherman's net yields a surprising catch: a Victorian woman's derrire.

Nikki Rollason's I Spy involves viewers in her choreography by turning them into voyeurs. Paul Tei's Temporary Americanary Confusionary details a twentysomething trio's road trip, shot with what seems like a cross of Blair Witch goose bumps and This Is Spinal Tap mockumentary giggles. Helena Thevenot's Some Assembly Required uses found images of Hiroshima and 9/11 as a background for a work that bites off ideas and chews scenery in a dance investigation of the proliferation of mankind's destructive designs.

Is there a unifying trend here?

"I see a lot of cross-disciplinary work emerging," says Boone."

The work of someone like Tsakos would not be out of place on the wildest stages in Berlin or Paris. But mixing these works with the recurring themes of acculturation, immigration, cross-culturation, reinvention, and rebirth truly signals something distinctive. This really is Miami, here and now.

 
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