Jai Rodriguez, formerly of the Emmy Award-winning Bravo reality show Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, has been working at breakneck speed, perfecting his lines, sharpening his choreography, and hitting the right notes, all for the sake of putting on what promises to be the summer's show-of-shows when he headlines City Theatre's 16th annual Summer Shorts.
For last year's festivities, City Theatre premiered Camp Kappawanna, a family rock musical penned by Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter Lisa Loeb (the show is back for a return engagement this year). This year's offerings, however, are not so kiddie-friendly. The 16th anniversary of Summer Shorts calls for something spicier, hipper, and more provocative — all meshed into a series of seven short plays performed back-to-back at the Arsht Center's Carnival Studio Theater beginning this Thursday. And it looks like City Theatre found its man in Jai Rodriguez.
"It's really rare you get to show many different colors of yourself in one evening," he says between rehearsals that have him playing an eclectic mix of characters — some serious, others outrageous. Rodriguez, who many viewers will remember as "the Culture Guy" on Queer Eye, has an impressive theater resumé that includes stints on Broadway in Rent and The Producers. In Summer Shorts, he flexes his stage-performer muscles as an actor, singer, and dancer.
Summer Shorts: 7 p.m. June 2 through 26 at the Arsht Center, 1300 Biscayne Blvd., Miami; 786-468-2000; arshtcenter.org. Tickets cost $45.
Among the diverse and assorted short plays Rodriguez will star in are Chronicle Simpkins Will Cut Your Ass, a play about a gang war set on a playground; Aboard the Guy V. Molinari, a tale of two ship passengers thrown overboard who unexpectedly find their port in a storm; and Mickey Herman Saves the *%#@^* Universe, a manga-like comedy about a broken-hearted gamer who wagers the fate of the planet against alien invaders.
Not all of the plays are comedic and lighthearted fare, though. One of the more serious is the Southeastern premiere of Israel Horovitz's thought-provoking play What Strong Fences Make. Horovitz wrote this emotionally charged drama, about two friends who clash at an Israeli checkpoint, as a response piece to dramatist Caryl Churchill's controversial play Seven Jewish Children, which Horovitz found an offensive, distorted, and manipulative take on the ongoing conflict in the Middle East.
"There are funny plays, and there are plays that are going to make people cry," Rodriguez says, "so there really is something for everyone."
Among the other premieres at this year's Summer Shorts are Dos Corazones, about two dissimilar new mothers who discover they have more in common than they think, and Quiet Please, in which two patients awaiting therapy find the courage to say hello.
The main attraction will be Rodriguez's Dirty Little Secrets. Billed as an irreverent comical musical revue filled with dish, dirty little secrets, and stimulating moments, Secrets looks to be an out-of-the box, modern-day vaudeville-style performance for adults. "Kinda like Glee," Rodriguez says, "if Glee were rated R."
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In the show, Rodriguez candidly shares oftentimes funny, cheeky, and intimate stories about his own life — from growing up a strict born-again Christian, to winning an Emmy for Queer Eye, to his first sexual experiences, which were, as Rodriguez puts it, "surprisingly not with men."
Rodriguez promises Dirty Little Secrets will be one hell of a hot show and invites all of Miami to experience it with him once we're done sunbathing on South Beach. "Beats seeing a movie or just walking down Lincoln Road for the millionth time," he says. "It's theater for the remote-control-loving American — fast, fun, and an overall good time."
Rodriguez will perform Dirty Little Secrets June 10, 17, 19, and 24. All Dirty Little Secrets performances begin at 10 p.m. Tickets cost $35 for general admission and $17.50 for seniors and students.