Ground Up & Rising's Jails, Hospitals & Hip-Hop: This Ain't Your Abuelita's Theatre

What's better than diverse and subversive stage readings presented by young, hungry driven actors? Nothing. Except when those stage readings are boundary busting, thought-provoking plays, have the actors interacting and discussing said play with the audience, and when it's cheap. Cheap is good!

Ground Up & Rising, the award-winning theatre and film organization, is doing just that with their Zero Point project. It aims to build a young, theatre-going audience through minimalist, nontraditional productions like tonight's Jails, Hospitals & Hip-Hop.

A young theatre audience, you say? Preposterous!

"Zero Point is powerful art in its purest, rawest form," says Ground Up & Rising artistic director, Arturo Fernandez. "We aim for it to always be engaging, thought-provoking theatre that aims to attract a broader audience base beyond the traditional theatre patron."

​The Miami theatre scene has always been a bit chickenshit when it comes to the productions it chooses to perform. It showcases to the elderly crowd, which is fine. But the challenge for local theater troupes is to have some balls, man. Don't be afraid to put on edgier productions that'll bring out a younger crowd to the theatre. Don't be afraid of plays by young artists who say "fuck" a lot. Kids like that, theater people. Trust me.

And Ground Up & Rising is quite passionate about making that happen, taking great pains to choose the right plays to get out there.

"We conduct an annual, three-day, symposium with our Board and ensemble, "Fernandez zays. "We read materials up for consideration, and the company exchanges thoughts and criticism before I make the final decision."

And the aim for this intense comb-through is pretty clear.

"We want to provide the non-theatre goer -- especially the youth -- a refreshing introduction to the art form in a manner that will surprise, enlighten, and challenge their perceptions about what theatre is," says Fernandez. "Our aim is to entertain, and inspire our audiences. To push their imaginations through the barriers of perception."

And you can totally get your imagination pushed through the barriers of perception tonight at when actor/writer Danny Hoch's Jails, Hospitals & Hip-Hop is performed at GableStage in the Biltmore.

Hoch's mastery of the Manhattan Boricua, Brooklyn Polish, Bronx Dominican and Jamaican patois gets mashed together in a blend of New York street idioms through varied monologues from diverse and colorful characters. Starring Curtis Beiz, the play features, among other characters, a wheelchair-bound kid with a crack smoking mom, a white kid who wants to be a gangsta rapper, and a cop who can't figure out what race a hotdog vender is.

A theatre production without people singing and dancing to the oldies hits of the 1960s? A performance that features gritty reality and not, say, some overwrought Liza Minnelli wannabe belting out the same tired show tune for the one billionth time? Well, shit. This is right up our alley.

Catch Ground Up & Rising's Jails, Hospitals & Hip-Hop tonight and tomorrow night at GableStage in the Biltmore (1200 Anastasia Ave., Coral Gables). Tickets are $7 (cheap!). Showtime is at 8 p.m. Call 305-445-1119 or visit groundupandrising.org.

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