By John Thomason
By Benjy Caplan
By Artburst Miami
By Carlos Suarez De Jesus
By Daniel Reskin
Miami is not known for its profusion of bona fide black theater.
But that is about to change at least for a weekend.
Through August 5, the first Urban Theatre and Entertainment Festival/Awards will showcase a variety of films, plays, musicals, lectures, and workshops at various locations throughout Miami-Dade and Broward counties.
The festival was orchestrated by local PR giants Julia Brown and Ed Haynes, of JEBA Enterprises. After recently participating in the popular National Black Theatre Festival in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, the duo realized about two percent of the estimated 55,000 filmmakers, playwrights, thespians, and industry giants in attendance hailed from the Sunshine State.
So they decided to create a South Florida event that would highlight predominantly local talent. The response, Brown says, attracted the likes of Opa-locka native and star of the longest-running African-American TV series, Family Matters: JoMarie Payton. "She contacted us when she heard about what we were doing," Brown says. "She was raised here and wanted to give something back to her community."
The festival also enticed local playwrights Stephen and Cheryl Quant. The husband and wife are scheduled to star alongside a cast of thirteen including four youths in their hit play, Go and Get Your Life Back, on Thursday, August 3, in Miami Gardens.
"It's a family-oriented play that deals with the issues and struggles of family life," Cheryl explains. "We use the arts as a healing tool for families." Set to a soundtrack of R&B-style songs, the two-hour show premiered three years ago.
On the bill for Friday is a lively tale of life in the Jamaican ghetto, Jamaica Dance Hall Vibes Play. "There is a common misconception that the ghetto breeds only violence," quips Ann McKenzie, who hails from the island and co-wrote the musical in 2005. "We take a positive look at the ghetto, and music plays a very important part of that lifestyle." Although the cast of seven is entirely Jamaican, McKenzie assures that the use of the native patois does not make the plot unintelligible.
For a complete list of events, call 305-835-0321, or visit www.jebapresents.com.