Hidden in a small lot between two tall buildings is a gateway to the arts like you would never imagine.
Underneath a string of bulb lights are seven steel shipping containers covered with the faces of well-known artists. Humphrey Bogart, Charlie Chaplin, and Salvador Dali all sit looking picturesque and inviting.
This, ladies and gents, is Microtheater Miami.
The concept of Microtheater originated in Spain and was brought over to Miami a few years ago. Up until recently, it only featured Spanish language shows. The idea is simple: seven shipping containers equal seven mini, intimate stages and seven short plays going on simultaneously.
Though this version of a theater sits partially outdoors (guests sit inside the containers but the waiting game takes place out in the open), evenings can be susceptible to Miami's bipolar weather disorder. One rainy night, such as the evening Cultist visited, guests trickled in much later than expected. Since Miamians are used to the weather, a little rain won't stop us from getting our culture fix.
Using original works submitted by local playwrights, organizers at Microtheater select seven shows to be performed for a mini-five week season. Part of the September season were shows Plenty of Shrimp, What If's Revealed, A Song A Day Keeps the Doctor Away, Good Luck Gina, Cracked Eggs, Love at First Tinder, and The Unfortunates, all which wrap up this week.
We sat down with the two-person cast of Plenty of Shrimp, Jennifer Zabalo and Andres Maldonado, to talk all things Microtheater, online dating, and split personalities.
New Times: Can you tell us a little bit more about what exactly is Microtheater Miami?
Jennifer Zabalo: Microtheater Miami started actually in Spain and they brought it down here to Miami three to four years ago. We're really well known in the Spanish industry, and what it is is 30 minutes of a play -- all original work. They started off in Spanish and now they're expanding into English, which is where we come into play. It's seven different plays, with different genres. And it's our first season here with Microtheater, so we're learning what it's like to do six shows a night -- back to back, 30 minutes each -- so it's been a great experience.
That sounds pretty grueling doing six shows a night! You're here from 8 until 11 p.m. Isn't that just a little bit more demanding than Broadway?
Zabalo: I guess we're getting a taste of that. Both of us have day jobs, so coming after your day job to do this is a real treat. It's great because you get to see the nights when you weren't really feeling it; because we're so close to the audience and it's so intimate, I feel as if it's a lot more demanding. As actors, we really have to 'bring it', and you really want to make it good every show, every performance.
Andres Maldonado: It's a treat because I feel like every show can have its own personality depending on the audience you have and how they play with you -- what they give you -- is also really, really fun. Aside from the length of the play being so short, up to 30 minutes, we also have a maximum of 15 to 17 people in the audience, so it's intimate in many ways.
You guys are doing the show Plenty of Shrimp written by your colleague, fellow New World School of the Arts alumni, Joshua Jean-Baptiste. How was it working with someone you went to school with?
Maldonado: I think it's really great, because when you get to work this closely with somebody and [you already] know them so well, you kind of already have an idea of what those people are capable of. I know when Joshua was in the writing process, he was taking into consideration our personalities and our performance style, so he was able to write something that was close to us but was still a bit of a stretch.
So Jennifer plays Betsy, and you, Andres, play three different characters. How is your relationship on stage with these characters?
Maldonado: It's awesome, I mean, I like them all. But they all have something different to offer her character and the audience. I think the audience can relate to all three of them, because obviously everybody has different experiences with different people and different relationships, so each [character] has something special to offer. They're all fun.
Do you want to tell us more of what the show is about?
Zabalo: I didn't know that there's a website called Plenty of Fish, so it's like a mock of that. It's about this girl, Betsy, and she's crushed for time and really needs a date for tonight and she wants to ask her ex-boyfriend and it's all this pressure that she's under. She ends up meeting people over the Internet...because of the pressure from her family to have a date.
Maldonado: She takes a journey and she tries to find what she wants, besides her just going out with someone. So, as she talks to each person, she realizes more and more who she is, who she wants as a partner, and then she's able to make a good choice for herself, not just because she has to have somebody there.
Zabalo: In the end, she realizes that she can't bullshit herself, you really just have to follow your heart and if you're in the shit, just face it.
Other than Plenty of Shrimp, any other shows you guys recommend checking out at Microtheater?
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Zabalo: There are a lot of fun shows -- the one right next to us, A Song A Day Keeps the Doctor Away, which is with some New World students there as well. Cracked Eggs is great! I, personally, love seeing older actors on stage and there are these elderly women who are doing these great roles and it's just fun. But they're all pretty great, they're all original works, and they're all fun.
Maldonado: And you can make an event out of it. You can customize what you want your experience to be, depending on what you want to buy or what you want to see, you can just pick and choose what you want to see when and if you want to come back and see more, you can, which is why this is so much fun.
Perhaps Microtheater is picking up some good vibes from their sister in the arts, the Adrienne Arsht Center right across the street. English shows are Wednesday and Thursday nights; Spanish performances are Friday and Saturday nights. Showtimes range between 8 p.m. and 11 p.m., with tickets at $5 per show. Current season ends Thursday, October 2. Visit microtheatermiami.com.