Some say the Bahamians built Miami. Early immigrants, they laid down the first roads and then laid out the towels and sheets for the area's first tourists. The drums and horns of Bahamian junkanoo music certainly have marched willy-nilly through the Miami soundscape since the beginning of the Twentieth Century. In Overtown Bahamian migrants founded the Sunshine Junkanoo Band in 1957 under the direction of Bruce Beneby. In 1993 former Sunshiners Langston Longley, David Dean, and Eddie Clark recruited more recent arrivals to create the Bahamas Junkanoo Review, which invades public school classrooms with whistles and bells, plays for tourists at hotels, and livens up nearly every local parade. The tireless Longley and his whistle-blowing, foot-stomping crew move back and forth between Miami and our nearest neighbors, taking with them the most brilliant costumes and latest Bahamian beats.
In many American political plays, a guy (it's usually a guy) comes onstage and talks. The set, the costumes, the lighting -- they're all window dressing, which helps to explain the sorry state of political drama. Doug Wright's 1995 work Quills, however, dissects the issues of censorship through the trials of the Marquis de Sade. It's a play of ideas, driving home the notion that you can't get rid of art you don't like merely by destroying its author. But it's also a play of images. In the exquisitely designed Florida Stage production, Jim Fulton's lighting design reproduced the Marquis's naughty writing as luminescent streaks across the theater walls. Allen D. Cornell's inventive turntable set gave rise to multiple arresting scenes, not the least of which was the yanking out of the Marquis's tongue. Suzette Pare's costumes smartly outfitted the small-minded denizens of nineteenth-century France as well as the increasingly-more-disrobed Sade. And Scott Burgess's sound design created an asylumwide orgy we could "see," though it happened off-stage. At the helm was artistic director Louis Tyrrell, whose fluid hand and wicked sense of humor proved to be assets the Marquis would have loved.
In a season fraught with top-drawer solo performances (Charles Nelson Reilly in Life of Reilly, Kathleen Turner in Tallulah, Melinda Lopez in Medianoche, and Jean Stapleton in Eleanor: Her Secret Journey), Judith Delgado towered over all. Playing fashion diva Diana Vreeland, the actress delivered a performance that lived up to Vreeland's motto: "Give 'em what they didn't know they wanted." Vreeland's life story garnered 1996 Drama Desk and Obie awards for creators Mark Hampton and Mary Louise Wilson when Wilson starred in it. Elizabeth Ashley did the honors when the national tour passed through South Florida in 1998. Nonetheless Delgado, a genius at transforming herself, turned the tastemaker and long-time Vogue editor into something of her own (and director Joseph Adler's) making. Even the actress's elegant, oversize hands conspired to become a perfect physical match for Vreeland's elegant, larger-than-life personality. It was a performance that reached out and grabbed us by our lapels.
In a county with woefully slim public-transportation options, Miami Beach planners looked out their windows, past the backed-up traffic at the stoplights, and saw the future. It was pretty, environmentally friendly, and didn't cost a lot. The ElectroWave shuttle buses premiered two years ago and have proven to be a wonderfully hassle-free way to navigate the often congested streets of South Beach. And a good thing was recently improved: In April the routes were expanded to cover more city blocks north of the original South Pointe-to-Seventeenth Street loop. Plus the fleet grew from seven to eleven vehicles, and payment options were increased (you can now use your parking debit card to pay the 25-cent fare). The shuttles are completely electric, with propane-powered air-conditioning units. "We are the only all-electric transit system in the country," exclaims Judy Evans, executive director of Miami Beach Transportation Management Association. "We've become a model for other cities."

Last year's winner got even better this year. In Motion Dance Center expanded from its base on Bird Road and is now contributing to the Biscayne Boulevard renaissance with a new studio in a quaint converted house. Local dancers finally get the facilities they deserve, with high ceilings, exposed beams, a wide expanse of mirror, and an enormous floor. Offerings range from staples such as ballet, modern, and jazz to West African, hip-hop, contact improvisation, and the posture-enhancing Pilates technique. During off-hours In Motion instructors and local choreographers use the studio as a rehearsal space for upcoming performances, commercials, and music videos.
Remember WAMI, the overly hyped television-station startup? The one with the glamorous sidewalk studios on Lincoln Road? The one that was going to revolutionize TV by returning it to its extremely local roots? The City Was Their Studio or something like that? As anyone who has spent any time in this town knows, the real Miami is not South Beach glitz but rather a gritty Hialeah warehouse, like the one from which Channel 41 continues to broadcast handcrafted, exceedingly local, often wonderful programming, absent the self-absorbed fanfare. A Oscuras pero Encendidos (In the Dark but Turned On) is a typical success story. A riskier, sloppier, often more fun variant of the Late Show with David Letterman, A Oscuras proves that young affluent Latins will watch Spanish-language television. With puppets and spokesmodels and strippers and an opera-singing, keyboard-playing sidekick, A Oscuras is fun, irreverent, and perfectly Miami. WAMI should take notice -- if WAMI is still on the air.
He slept with Anna Kournikova. That alone is enough. His incredible talent, his prolific goal-scoring, his All-Star game MVP award? The fact that he's the most dominant athlete in his sport? Just icing on the cake. He slept with Anna Kournikova.
Relatively new to the Fusion, he's already making a contribution both as a playmaker and a scorer. Indeed Captain Wynalda could very well be labeled Captain Wonderful by season's end if he continues to fulfill his reputation as the highest goal-scorer in Major League Soccer. One drawback, of course, is that Wynalda is known to be weak in the knees -- literally. His multiple surgeries and lengthy recoveries cause some fans concern. But we're confident his joints will not only survive the season, they'll see us through victory after victory.
Shy and retiring, poet Judith Berke doesn't always come to mind in this era of feted writers receiving gargantuan prizes. Yet her work epitomizes our region, not as a visitor or as a tourist, but as a long-time resident. In "Vizcaya," from her book White Morning, Berke brings us wisdom from another time that is no less valid today: "Under here/are the runaway slaves, and the Indians./On their sides, listening./White now. Almost completely white."

Or in "The Shell": "We hadn't seen a shell on this beach for years./If an Indian had come by/it would have been no less strange -- /and we would give him the shell/and he would give us the beach/and we would think/for a while we owned it."

Even when Berke is not speaking directly about Florida, she evokes it when penning lines like this: "How lovely, to lie under the/rushing out of the leaves/of the mangos, to nibble the grass/even if it's bitter, and look up at the stars/even if there are none...." Berke's Miami is the true, original homestead, just as she is a poet who remains true to herself and the art of poetry.

Aye, matey, it's truly an indoor playground designed just for the wee ones. In fact kids over the height of 42 inches are restricted from entering (parents are permitted; strollers are not). The centerpiece is a play pirate ship, complete with slide (instead of plank) and ship's wheel. "Leaping" dolphins are scattered over the floor and make for great climbing toys. Go during any holiday season, and the playground is complemented by a miniature train the kids love to ride (for $1.50 a shot). All the romping and riding may not be restful for you, but for toddlers it's a good break from boring shopping.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®