Out in the Tropics is a weeklong celebration presented by FUNDarte that boasts a diverse lineup of talented artists and performers. In its seventh year, the fest will feature music, theater, and dance events in locations throughout Miami and South Beach.
The founder and executive director of the performing arts organizer, Ever Chavez, says the idea of the event was brought to him by Robert Rosenberg, founding director of the Miami Gay & Lesbian Film Festival. Chavez says it was an opportunity for his organization to "showcase what gay artists – both from the U.S. and abroad – were doing out in the world."
The executive director is quick to point out, however, that the arts festival isn't interested in attracting only members of the LGBTQ community. "We are presenting this for everyone," he says. This year's acts include "Spaniards, Latinos, Anglos, and African-Americans. This is a way for us to engage all communities."
Out in the Tropics, which runs this Wednesday through Saturday, is more of a weeklong series than performance festival because there will be panels, workshops, master classes, artist talks, and live shows.
"We're not only presenting performances but also hosting many workshops that are free and beneficial to the community," Chavez explains.
Toshi Reagon and her band BIGLovely will kick off the live performance side Thursday inside the Gleason Room at the Fillmore Miami Beach. The singer will bring a four-piece version of her band instead of the usual larger version. She says the congregational vibe of her show is what gets audiences to participate in a way she believes is vital to what Out in The Tropics is all about. "This is how they'll get inspired to go out into the world and challenge what's going on," Reagon says.
She grew up around artists who used their music to be influencers. Her mother is Bernice Johnson Reagon, founder of Sweet Honey in the Rock and cofounder of the Freedom Singers, a folk group that sprung out of the civil rights movement. Toshi is also folk activist Pete Seeger's goddaughter.
"I really learned early on that there are no limitations in terms of what was possible, and that was very important," the musician adds.
Chavez approached Reagon a few years ago to perform during the festival, but scheduling conflicts prevented her from participating. "We always wanted Toshi to be part of the event because most of the performances through the years have been by Latino artists," Chavez says. "With Toshi, we have a chance to showcase someone who is a voice for so many people."
Other performances include Spanish theater company La Saraghina de Stalker, choreographer and dancer Juan Carlos Lerida from Seville, Spain, presented as a double-bill with boundary-breaking artist Belen Maya, all inside the Gleason Room. Maya will also present a free workshop open to the public. And Queer Flamenco with artist/scholar Fernando LR Parra will take place at the Miami Beach Botanical Garden.
Chavez jokes about how popular being part of the LGBTQ-focused celebration has become with performers. "Artists want to be included. People are coming out of the closet to be part of the event. But we aren't here to preach about gay issues; this is an inclusive performing arts event for everyone."
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In light of the tragedy that took place over the weekend at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Out in the Tropics can remind us all that art and culture can help heal and unite. “What happened in Orlando not only affects the LGBTQ community, but it should matter to all communities. This showcases how vulnerable we still are. We are all humans," Chavez adds.
"We decided to donate 50 percent of our ticket revenue for the event to the victims of the Orlando shooting," he says. "[It's difficult] as a small organization to make events like this happen, but we firmly believe that if we do not become part of the solution, there is really no point in all the effort that goes into creating socially conscious programming. In order for this to work, we need to make sure the community comes out and really supports the program."
— Michelle F. Solomon, artburstmiami.com
Out in the Tropics Series 2016
Wednesday, June 15, through Saturday, June 18, at the Fillmore Miami Beach and Miami Beach Botanical Garden. Tickets cost $30. Festival passes cost $60 for all three performances. Panel discussion and performance at Miami Beach Botanical Garden and series educational events are free. Call 305-673-7300 or visit fundarte.us.