Lip Service Tells Miami Stories for Out in the Tropics at the Miracle Theatre

Last night marked the latest installment of the quarterly Lip Service writing/performance mash-up event, and it provided further shining hope for local writerly types. Apparently, not only are there other people in Miami willing to give aspiring scribes a forum for their real-life stories, but there are people who will pay to come hear them -- and lots of them!

The premise of a Lip Service event is simple: Anyone who can hit pen to

paper or fingers to keyboard can submit a 1200-word story in advance.

The producers pick a handful, and their authors take the stage one night

to read them out loud. The stories may be alternately sad, thoughtful,

funny, or sexy, but the thing they all have in common is that

the authors have enough guts to read them to hundreds of strangers.

And there were in fact hundreds last night at the event, which took place at Actor's Playhouse at the Miracle Theatre in downtown Coral Gables. The evening marked a number of occasions for event co-producers Andrea Askowitz and Esther Martinez. It was the 20th local Lip Service show overall, and the second time it hit the Actor's Playhouse. This also mark the second show in a row to sell out its $15 tickets.

At the same time, this was also the first time Lip Service had been performed as part of Out in the Tropics, a GLBTQ-themed weekend-long series of cultural events put on by FUNDarte. Further, this year marked the second annual Out in the Tropics.

After explanations of all those milestones, Martinez, the host for the evening, explained there was yet another one! Lip Service is in the running for its own ongoing show on WLRN, so the evening was to be a test show of sorts and was being recorded. As such, audience members were encouraged to generally over-emote, a request the crowd willingly obliged.

Overall, it was a pretty warm and fuzzy reception for each of the seven storytellers who appeared onstage, a group that, refreshingly, seemed to include only one "professional" writer, people from their early 20s to 50s or 60s, and lots of women -- five out of eight!

And though this was technically part of a GLBTQ event, the subject matter was broad. Martinez explained before the show that, this time around, they hadn't asked for a theme, and they were taking "queer" at its most basic definition. "We looked up 'queer' in the dictionary, and it said it meant 'strange or odd from a conventional standpoint," she recalled. "So we said, 'Oh, thank god, we're totally queer!'"

While same-sex partnerships and, well, sex figured into a few of the stories, they were mostly incidental to the sort of personal essay-type illuminating realizations that ran throughout. For David Rosenberg, in his story "All Women Scream," it took killing a possum in a rotting Coconut Grove cottage to make him feel like a man and a worthy protector of his wife. In Jeanne Panoff's "Heart," a grave illness made her stop nagging her husband so much, and made him change his own tune.

Adriana Paramo's "Naked" was a funny but touching story of realizing her best friend and crush of the year was actually gay -- his reaction to her naked body? "Interesting," he said, shivering. Meanwhile, Andrea Zarchin's "Closet Kvetch" recalled the days of working as a teenage waitress in an old-school Miami Beach deli. Remember those baskets of free rolls? You didn't think they came fresh to the table, did you?

Things got a little racier in the evening's home stretch. Lisa Merritt's "The Hiding Place" recounted the woes of a mother of young children reduced to hiding her favorite vibrator in the mini van. Nick Garnett, meanwhile, recalled a crystal-meth fueled weekend of public sex on Fire Island ... with his wife, of all people.

Christopher Gilbert, at 23, was the youngest participant, and willingly played the naif as he remembered almost getting cougar-hunted as a 19-year-old virgin. (Um, Christopher, as Martinez pointed out onstage -- a 35-year-old lady is not a cougar, but we'll let that slide.)

Finally, Lip Service co-producer Andrea Askowitz brought things home with a hilarious, though cringe-inducing, tale of an unwanted Brazilian bikini wax foisted upon her by her mother.

Through it all, the audience willingly roared with laughter, whooped at the naughty bits, and gave thunderous applause to every entrance and exit. A writer couldn't hope for a more welcoming environment for something so personal and potentially scary.

It's also hard to think of a more fresh, entertaining, or truly local idea for a new WLRN show, so hopefully the pilot recorded last night gets approved. In the meantime, you can read a new fresh Lip Service story every month in City Link, or put yourself out there and submit a story yourself. The next live edition of Lip Service is October 1, and the deadline to submit is September 9. Visit the Lip Service web site for full details.

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Arielle Castillo
Contact: Arielle Castillo