Miami-raised Playwright Sebastian Fabal Jumps From The Tenth Floor

Even though we've become accustomed to losing our artists to L.A. and the Big Apple, the truth is that their bond with the 305 can never be truly broken. Playwright J. Sebastian Fabal grew up in Miami and moved to New York for graduate school. Miami stayed with Fabal, though. His latest work, The Tenth Floor, tells the story of Victor Alvarez, a fictional teenage boy incarcerated for the murder of a German tourist. And it's set to music.

Follow the cut for our Q&A with Fabal and find out why he's so proud to have rhymed chonga with conga for the song "Get Me Outside" from The Tenth Floor.

"How do you write a musical about a juvenile murderer? I guess I

wrote a coming-of-age prison musical? Yeah...that sounds right." Fabal's writing has come a long way since the

first musical he wrote back in high school. "It was about a rock

singer who was such as asshole that he developed colon cancer." 

The Tenth Floor may be making its way

to Made in Miami, a series of

Miami-centric independent works supported by the Arsht Center. "We've

been invited to do a reading of The Tenth Floor at the next Miami

Made event at the Arsht Center. I've always wanted to bring this show

down to Miami and this seems to be the perfect scenario to do so. I've

also been very curious if a Miami audience would respond to the show


New Times: What was it like growing up in Miami?

J. Sebastian Fabal: I grew up poor, so my parents would take us out to a lot of free events. This could be some artist fair on Espanola Way or standing outside of the old Lucky Cheng's on Lincoln Road Mall and watch the drag queens. My family was a big fan of the free arts.

While in high school, I was part of a mime troupe that did a lot of events around Miami. Although I've hung up my white gloves, this experience was incredibly formative. It allowed me to view the arts through a lens of "if you work hard enough, you'll make room for your artistic voice." Mime in Miami? Yeah. You bet. We were the talk of the all the state theatre festivals.

Tell us about The Tenth Floor.

The music includes a hip-hop, latin, and rock-influenced score. I wrote the music and lyrics, [and] my collaborator, Sara Cooper, wrote the book for it. It follows Victor Alvarez, a young Cuban-American boy who's been put on the tenth floor of a Miami-Dade correctional facility after having just murdered a German tourist.

The really cool part of the show is that there are these two apparitions or "ambassadors" of the tenth floor who come out through the walls, a la the ghosts from Dickens's A Christmas Carol. It allows for the show to be really theatrical by having some great dancing and exploring the imagination of this young boy while removing, if only temporarily, the walls of Victor's isolated cell. I'd hate to explain more without giving the show away, but these apparitions want something from Victor. The quicker they can earn his trust, the quicker they can move on with their plan. Mwahahaha... 

What did you hope to achieve with the character Victor Alvarez?

I guess from an intellectual standpoint, I wanted to show a broken boy and explore the reasons for his being broke. Was it the lack of a nurturing mother that led Victor down such a dark path? Was it the government failing to succeed in reaching out to him time after time? Or was Victor just born bad? One of the inspirations for telling the story was a picture of a two-year-old boy, sitting on his uncle's lap, holding a gun. What type of future is that boy supposed to have and why are we so shocked when he grows up to kill someone?

My parents were very involved with juvenile delinquents. My father has a history working with Severely Emotionally Disturbed (S.E.D.) kids, my mother was a social worker for a number of years and still does mitigation work across the country, and my step-father was one of the lawyers who abolished the juvenile death penalty at the Supreme Court. I've had dinner with three different juvenile murders over the course of my life. The show and Victor are inspired by one of their stories.

Where do you see the Miami indie theater scene in the next ten years?

We're a fair weather town -- this applies to the arts as much as it applies to our sports teams. That's unfortunate.

What part does Miami play in The Tenth Floor?

I've been waiting for someone to ask this question for the past two years.

Miami is the show's muse and very much my muse.

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Ily Goyanes
Contact: Ily Goyanes