For his quirky, muscle-powered opus, Neraissance, avant composer Juraj Kojs relied on good old-fangled elbow grease to explore kinetic energy in an artistic context. As part of the Miami Light Project's Here & Now Fest at the Arsht Center this spring, the Slovakian artist combined human performers, experimental sound, and bleeding-edge analog and digital gadgetry in a rollicking 20-minute spectacle of stunning visual poetry that left spectators breathless with wonder. Kojs used two dancers on stationary bicycles to produce the energy to activate sewing machines, alarm clocks, fans, and strings of holiday lights for his dazzling multimedia extravaganza. Kojs, who is director of music and multimedia programming at Wynwood's Harold Golen Gallery and a postdoctoral associate at Yale's Department of Music, conjured a trance-inducing reverie in which a silver-winged fairy and a bride on a tricycle, who later peeled off her wedding gown as part of the surreal display, collided onstage for a performance that was both striking and unforgettable.
Liberty City is in desperate need of a leader. When native Houstonian Rev. Gaston E. Smith took over the pulpit at the Friendship Missionary Baptist Church on NW 58 Street, it seemed the troubled community had found one. The fiery preacher was a role model, a diplomat, and a father figure, all stuffed into a linebacker's build and a flashy three-piece suit. When he's not booming the Word on Sundays, he's visiting ailing parishioners in the hospital or coaxing gangbangers off the street. His potential made it even more tragic when Smith betrayed the flock that adopted him: Last year, he was convicted of stealing from a county grant named after Martin Luther King Jr. His supporters claim he was railroaded by trumped-up charges, but the fact remains that he was careless and irresponsible, not the leader Liberty City needs. His sentence was suspended, and Smith remains the church's pastor, so he'll get a second chance to make a difference.
It wasn't particularly brave of director Joseph Adler to mount a production of this extremely controversial play, and that's because he couldn't have resisted anyway. Blasted is the ideal play for Adler's GableStage — a powerfully moral tale wrapped in extremely weird and frequently disturbing packaging. In it, Adler introduced us to a girl with developmental disabilities, and then he introduced us to the man who would soon rape her. He staged the rape and then blew apart a hotel room. He made us feel sorry for the man who committed that rape — even though he was more of a reptile than a person, and even though he probably deserved everything he got. Then Adler brought a baby onstage, which he had killed. Then he made the rapist and his victim reunite — sweetly — and he made us happy they did. Then he made us realize we loved the rapist, because his humanity had been made so obvious and so luminously lovely. Having achieved this, Adler made rain fall from the hole in what used to be the hotel room's ceiling, and it was beautiful. Look past the rape, the cannibalism, and the mind-numbing violence that made this play infamous, and you'll find actor Todd Allen Durkin giving the performance of a lifetime, a set design as shockingly ingenious as the script is weird, and a story more soulful than any sweeter tale.
OK, technically the bombshell star of ABC's hit sitcom Modern Family is not originally from Miami. But this Colombian-born actress made the Magic City her home way before she became a famous actress. While living in Miami, she modeled, hit the nightclubs (as Chris Paciello's onetime girlfriend), and hosted a slew of shows for Univision. After making a noticeable splash in Miami in the '90s, she moved to La La Land to pursue acting full-time. Vergara scored small parts in TV shows (Entourage, Dirty Sexy Money, Hot Properties, and The Knights of Prosperity) and movies (Big Trouble, Four Brothers, and Meet the Browns). At one point, the sexy brunette even "auditioned" for a real-life role as Tom Cruise's paramour via a high-profile date at Jerry's Deli in Los Angeles. Fortunately, that "job" went to Katie Holmes. Otherwise, we would never have seen Vergara play the fiery Gloria who puts Al Bundy — um, Ed O'Neill — in his place repeatedly on Modern Family, which was picked up for a second season. Success is finally coming fast for the 37-year-old Vergara, who has a teenage son named Manolo. She just landed the female lead in the new live-action Smurfs movie (opposite Neil Patrick Harris and Hank Azaria), which is filming in New York. She is also a spokesperson for Cadillac and has her own charity, Peace and Hope for the Children of Colombia. The most remarkable thing about Vergara: The actress has remained as down-to-earth, unpretentious, and spunky as she was when she was modeling in Miami and trying to make it.
Miami Theater Center
Though Broadsword has not, as of this writing, had its official world premiere, it certainly appeared to be a finished piece of work when it spooked audiences at the Light Box. The farcical concept — basically "old metal band reunites to rescue its savant lead guitar player, who has written a guitar riff so darkly perfect it opened a portal to Hell" — didn't for a moment obscure the play's big heart or serious subject matter. This was a play about temptation, loyalty, and friendship, given a fantastically atmospheric production by a ceaselessly inventive theater working at the top of its game. Moving and fun.
Celebrity is a fickle beast. When nude photos of Miami rapper Trina showed up online and were not exactly flattering — think a mysterious pancake-size rash on her arm — her next album suddenly became a "comeback" project. And unlike Kim Kardashian, Paris Hilton, Pamela Anderson, and other sexpots who had their most intimate moments revealed to basement masturbators from Topeka to Bombay, you really can't blame Trina for the leak: The photos got away from her after her cell phone was stolen at an awards show. So, no, it's not fair that Trina has to fight to get her career back on track. But when your lyrics are all rote sexual boasts — "Eat me like Hannibal Lecter" — you have no one to blame but yourself when your own fetishization comes to a screeching halt.
Equus is a dangerous play. It's both talky and impassioned, and in clumsy hands can tend toward bombast. But in a sparse, surreal production at New Theatre, Ricky J. Martinez revealed a heretofore unsuspected sensitivity, imbuing the play's labyrinthine lines with complexity and nuance. He was mightily assisted by actors David Hemphill and Samuel Randolph (who receive awards elsewhere in this issue), but you can't thank them for the play's dark, spare aesthetic — the way skeletal horses' heads seemed to float like ghosts through the dark or how even Dr. Dysart's bright office felt haunted. Equus's elements fit together perfectly and composed perhaps Martinez's finest work.
Before a movie plays at the Gusman Theater, Darrell Stuckey lumbers to his balcony box two floors above the stage. He puts on the slippers he keeps there, sits on his wooden bench, and with the push of a button, turns on the wind turbine on the other side of the stage that powers the 85-year-old pipes of the theater's Wurlitzer organ. Stuckey is Gusman's organist, a job he's held since 1984. At 75, he's only a decade younger than the instrument he plays year-round. During this year's Miami International Film Festival — his 17th — he played ten nights in a row. A rare feat anywhere. Few theaters have Wurlitzers anymore, and even fewer use them before the projector is turned on — the organ was popular during the silent movie era, when it provided the sound effects and score to the films. As a volunteer at the Gusman, Stuckey plays at high school graduations and special gatherings, but his favorite gig is the film festival, where he plays the Wurlitzer as it was first meant to be heard. His body is not unlike his instrument: He carries it slowly up the stairs as if the whole thing were being pulled by a complicated system of pulleys and levers, each step creaking louder than the one before. But then he sits at the organ, taps the wheezy keys, and the whole theater shakes, brought back to life by a sound that's spectral and captivating — like the first time Garbo spoke onscreen.
A tie is a terrible thing, but there was simply no way that either of these performances couldn't win. Todd Allen Durkin is a veteran actor who, year after year, blows minds in theaters across Florida. He has won every award known to man, save for a Tony, a Nobel, and a Darwin. And in this spring's Blasted, he turned in a performance that made everything he has ever done before look like amateur hour. As a sociopath journalist/soldier, he was a man seemingly incapable of feeling, but he turned his cold placidity to pain without seeming to try. Later, when he was degraded beyond all measure — when he is lying next to a dead baby in a hole in the floor of a bombed hotel room, newly eyeless and recently raped — he bellowed for redemption, and it was a sound that haunted your car ride home. As the sensitive yet surly — and more than a little deranged — young protagonist of Equus, David Hemphill delivered the year's most surprising and most career-making performance. Nobody had played Alan Strang better. In the play's long and wrenching final scene, Hemphill was more naked on the stage than any actor we've seen — and his lack of clothing was the least of it.
While Marco Rubio and Charlie Crist have battled it out on the right, throwing tea bags, credit card receipts, back wax allegations, and pictures of man hugs at each other, Kendrick Meek has quietly held his head high and pursued the U.S. Senate seat, one he might actually have something of a chance of winning now. Don't get us wrong — Rubio and Crist are both adept politicians (perhaps in a slightly more cynical definition of the word politician), but Meek has balanced his duties in the House and on the campaign trail and still found time to do more than just talk about the Haiti earthquake and BP oil spill. In his fourth term in Congress, Meek has gained a respectable amount of power and influence, sitting on the powerful Ways and Means Committee and the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee. When Meek entered the Senate race, he seemed a sacrificial lamb. Crist was supposed to wipe the floor with any Democrat. Now that Crist is running as an Independent, there just might be a chance Meek could win. We know he can do a good job holding office; the only question now is if he's as good at getting elected to do a bigger job.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®