Lili Renteria believes the stage doesn't exist just to present theater. The stage exists to present possibilities. Hence the choice of an elegant hand fan as the logo of her brainchild Teatro Abanico, a 200-seat theater and gallery space in Coral Gables. "The fan is not just a visual symbol," emphasizes the Cuban-born actress and producer. "It's a concept, a vision, and a desire. The fan opening represents our desire to offer audiences a sampling of the cultural and aesthetic diversity that Miami has in abundance."
One of the things Abanico (Spanish for the word "fan") has done to that end is produce a variety of works in Spanish. "Miami is a crossroads for artists from all over Latin America, but this hasn't always been apparent on our stages," says Renteria. In conjunction with the nonprofit organization Acting for All, Abanico opened its doors in November of 2002 to debut the Venezuelan play Strippers Del L'Inferno. The Argentine comedy Y Cómo Quedo Yo? came next. Last Friday the season's third show opened: a Spanish-language adaptation of Tennessee Williams's Sweet Bird of Youth, the story of an aging movie star trying to recapture her youth, and a driven, unscrupulous young man who is seeking stardom and true love. Later in the season, the theater will present an adaptation of Neil Simon's Last of the Red Hot Lovers and an original work honoring Spanish poet/playwright Federico Garcia Lorca.
Renteria's concept of diversity extends across not only cultures, but languages too. She hopes to make Abanico fertile ground for theater to experience the kind of crossover that the music and film industries have enjoyed: "We plan to do plays in English. We also want to translate contemporary cutting-edge American plays into Spanish." Other future projects include weekly children's theater performances and a children's summer camp for the plastic and performing arts. No doubt, Renteria is attacking her new role as producer with the same ferocity that won her accolades throughout Latin America as an actress. Miami audiences can look forward to watching this ambitious work in progress unfold.
Sweet Bird of Youth
Teatro Abanico, 22 Giralda Ave, Coral Gables
Runs through Sunday, April 13. Tickets cost $25. Call 305-448-1100 for showtimes.
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