Act Up Eighth Street

Cigar-chomping, fatigues-wearing Fidel Castro impersonators. Flamboyant flamenco dancers in drag. Political humor geared toward older Cubans, who erupt in laughter at the thought of Fidel's brother Raul scurrying about in a tutu. Until recently live theater on Eighth Street (with a few exceptions) has included such a hodgepodge of acts. Now a few alternatives are emerging for their bows.

"This sort of popular humor and crass political satire has its place in the spectrum of theater and entertainment," explains Cuban-born actress Magaly Agüero. "We're not trying to change that. We just want to add something completely different." Agüero has organized a weekly event called Varieteatro (variety and theater) at Casa Panza, a popular Eighth Street restaurant known for tasty tapas, refreshing sangria, and captivating flamenco acts. Varieteatro shares the mission of just about any Miami-based arts group: to create a forum where multigenre artists from disparate backgrounds can present their work. But it also springs from the actress's own eclectic aesthetic, which includes Japanese kabuki and Afro-Cuban orisha worship. This truly is a variety show. A few weeks ago a boxer was spotted giving a demonstration during happy hour, but the event also hosts actors and actresses performing dramatic monologues as well as live music, comedy, independent film, and art shows in the restaurant's gallery.

Just down the street at the Tower Theater, innumerable screenings of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone augmented by Spanish subtitles have come to an end. Miami-Dade Community College has taken over programming and is putting the space to good use. Films, readings, art exhibitions, and plays are already going strong. Later this month look for Cuban-born actress Rosie Inguanzo's adaptation of Malecon, a monologue based on the book of the same name by Cuban novelist Joaquin Baquero. Starring Luz Marabel, the performance, featuring video by photographer Pedro Portal and original music by Mike Porcel, explores the sordid world of prostitution in contemporary Havana.

Known for excellent house bands and now-famous Fuácata nights, Eighth Street nightclub Hoy Como Ayer has an ongoing love for theater too. In 2001 the club hosted a few International Monologue Festival events. Recently it brought in the comedy El Sueño Americano (The American Dream). Venezuelan actress Alexa Kuve, who produced that play, is now working with Venevision producer Miguel Ferro to coordinate a series of events. On July 28 they'll start with Mr. Juramento, a monologue that pays homage to celebrated Ecuadorian singer Julio Jaramillo, starring renowned Latin-American actor Franklin Virgüez. Now that's entertainment -- with a Latin twist.

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Mia Leonin