Donald Trump's critics derisively refer to him as the nation's Cheeto-in-chief. But for groundbreaking theater company Miami New Drama, the president has been a bloated orange sack of inspiration, and promoting the upcoming production of The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity was no exception. The production company has caused a bit of a stir in the wake of the president's reference to "shithole countries."
A day after the Washington Post reported Trump referred to African nations and Haiti as "shithole countries," Miami New Drama pounced. Displayed on the marquee of the Colony Theatre in Miami Beach, where Miami New Drama makes its home, are the words "Colony Theatre proudly presents artists from sh!thole countries."
Miami New Drama, led by the dynamic artistic director Michel Hausmann, strives to be at the forefront of the political landscape through its choice in productions. The company has found in Trump its ugly muse. The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity plays right into Miami New Drama’s desire to not only start a conversation through art but also steer the conversation into wild imaginative places. According to Hausmann, Chad Deity — a play ostensibly about WWE-style wresting — is an exact representation of our current political climate thanks to Trump.
“It’s a play about class and cultural stereotypes, set in the world of professional wrestling,” Hausmann says. “It’s beautiful because it’s a play that was written ten years ago and performed ten years ago, and yet when you revisit it today, under Trump’s America, you’re like, Oh my God, this play is written exactly for this moment in time!”
Coproduced with Sarasota’s Asolo Repertory Theatre, one of the premier regional theaters in the nation, Chad Deity is a powerful, prescient comedy set in the flamboyant and crazed world of pro (AKA fake) wrestling. It tells the tale of a New York-raised Puerto Rican wrestler, Macedonio "Mace" Guerra, who is paid to be a perpetual loser to African-American star wrestler Chad Deity. Along the way, Mace is forced to also fight racial caricatures, including a Mexican immigrant character and a Muslim terrorist character, all to appease the blood-thirsty crowds that come to see these stereotypes get their comeuppance. It’s a satire steeped in the flamboyance and circus-like affectation found in the world of professional wrestling — all as a way to show the distorted view of race many Americans have come to embrace.
“Trump’s whole aesthetic is that of a WWE wrestler,” Hausmann says. “He is very bombastic, comes at you with a lot of big words, but with nothing really underneath the surface.”
To promote the play, Miami New Drama has hung a trio of posters, each depicting a faceless cartoon representation of one of the characters. Written above each character is “Terrorist,” “Thug,” or “Illegal” — all descriptions Trump’s America would likely use to describe these characters. Miami New Drama has placed the posters around the Colony Theatre and has tried to hang similar banners around Miami Beach to promote the play, to no avail.
"Our permit to place the street banners on the MacArthur Causeway has been held up,” Olga Granda, New Drama’s executive director, told New Times last week. Granda says the city had not given the troupe a reason for the delay; her guess is that officials aren’t comfortable with visitors seeing signs like these strewn about South Beach.
As for the production itself, Hausmann promises it’ll be different from anything most theatergoers are used to seeing.
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“It’s something really fascinating,” he says, describing the scene that awaits those who come to see the play. “We are transforming the Colony Theatre into something that does not resemble a playhouse. We’re transforming the theater by extending our stage about 30 feet forward and turning it into a wrestling ring. It’s going to be insane. It’s going to be one of the largest productions in recent memory.”
This production of Chad Deity, directed and choreographed by Jen Wineman, will feature actors involved in actual pro-wrestling-style matches, complete with flips to the mat, flying dives off ropes, and the usual antics viewers see in televised wrestling matches.
“It’s a rollicking, chilling parable for the era of politics-as-reality-show,” Hausmann says. “The play speaks of what’s going on in the country today in a very loud way.”
The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity. Thursday, January 25, through Sunday, February 18, at the Colony Theatre, 1040 Lincoln Rd., Miami Beach; 305-674-1040; colonymb.org. Tickets cost $30 to $59; opening-night tickets cost $100.