There's a thin line between painting and directing. Both inherently visual mediums, painting and directing can often inform each other. Vincent Gallo, Steve McQueen, and Jean Cocteau all had their creative starts in the visual arts, before moving on to direct plays and films. For local playwright Wendy White, the transition from abstract expressionist painter to director was practically seamless.
This weekend, White injected a local's dose of reality to The Third Annual One-Minute-Play Festival, at the Deering Estate. The event showcased over 70 original short vignette-like plays from 30 different local playwrights. The New Times sat down with White, as she rehearsed a small band of actors for the festival at her gallery and workspace located in Wynwood's GAB Studio.
"Right now we're just coordinating the blocking," explained White.
Taking a step back and watching her manage the troop, you can readily see a painter's eye at work. As players move about the rehearsal space, White scans the scene like a skilled artist surveying an unfinished canvas. It's a skill she developed as a child assisting her father, a professional painter, becoming his eyes in the studio as he slowly lost his vision to a degenerative illness.
"Where did I exit from last scene?" asked Luis Navarro, a local actor featured in White's block of eight plays she's directing for the festival
"You went stage left," answered Jessica Pusceddu, another actress in the troop.
"That's right," murmured White from the corner of the room.
As a director White takes the back seat while the actors coordinate among themselves. Originally trained under famed abstract expressionist master Milton Resnick, she's used to letting the creative process run its course. Instead she lets the players do their work while carefully adjusting from afar. But unlike her abstract paintings, White's plays are taken directly from her personal life.
The One-Minute Play Festival is America's largest and longest running short-form theatre company in the country, founded by Producing Artistic Director, Dominic D'Andrea. It is barometer project which investigates the zeitgeist of different communities through dialogue and performance. In each city of the 20 cities where it has occurred, the festival works with partnering organizations to identify programs or initiatives in each community to support with the proceeds from the work. The goal is to find ways give directly back to the artists in each community. For a city with a blossoming arts, the need for local writers, directors and performers has never been greater.
"We told the writers to try and encapsulate themes from the local community," D'Andrea told the New Times. "It's about speaking to the cultural zeitgeist in the here and now more than anything else."
The plays ran the gamut of topics from the lighthearted, to informative, and even the emotionally gut wrenching. "Waterfront South Florida" by Matt Stabile addressed the ironies of Miami Beach's thriving real estate market with the city slowly sinking into the Atlantic. "Tinder Hooks" by the Deering Estate's resident dramatist, Vanessa Garcia, caricatured the new ways urbanites can establish relationships in the digital age.
On the other hand, "Victims" by Bob Bowersox tackled the issue of police brutality, a topic of both national and local significance. In particular Bowersox was interested in the tasering death of 18-year-old street artist Israel Hernandez last year.
The large breadth of motifs, not only speaks to Miami's diverse and ever growing community, to the large swath of playwrights commissioned for the festival.
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"Our youngest playwright is about 17, and we have writers in their 60s too, it runs the gamut," explained White. "The festival commissions work from the playwrights, throws all the plays into a pot, then divides them into large blocks based on related themes and assigns them to one of seven directors."
Apart from directing a chunk of plays, White also wrote a couple of original pieces for the festival, including a short riff on Art Basel. "It's a locals take on the absurdity of having the world's largest art convention and a huge protest rally that shut down the Julia Tuttle Causeway all in the same weekend."
In case you missed this year's One Minute Play Festival, you can watch a recording of the performances online at OneMinutePlayFestival.com, or wait for next year's installment. Either way, it's your chance to support a locals take on Miami's ever expanding cultural relevance on the national stage.