Wonky TV dramas have nothing on the real-life soap opera that is Miami politics. Take Michelle Spence-Jones's acceptance speech upon being re-elected to her city commission seat in November 2009, moments before being led away in handcuffs on grand theft charges. The thing was a work of art that would have made The Wire's indignant-when-indicted Sen. Clay Davis blush with pride. Spence-Jones spoke in third person, quoted the Bible and Don King, and vowed to return like a vanquished villain at the end of a Batman sequel. Of all the choice quotes, though, our favorite was the one where she called herself "nappy-headed," obliquely referencing racist shock jock Don Imus and thus equating prosecutors with the cowboy-hat-wearing schmuck. If race-baiting were an Olympic sport, even the mean German judge would be waving a perfect 10 for this one.
David Castillo Gallery
Photo by Carolina Del Busto
David Castillo is a rare bird among Miami's intrepid flock of art dealers. He is the only one of his tribe other than Fredric Snitzer or Kevin Bruk to crack the mysterious Art Basel blockade on Miami galleries in recent memory. And this year, he became only the second Miami dealer accepted to participate at the Armory Fair in New York. His artists love him because he keeps his stable small and manageable and works tirelessly to place their pieces with museums and private collections, sometimes spending 12-hour days in his Wynwood office. It doesn't hurt that the Yale grad, who also studied art at the Vatican on a special program, can negotiate with clients in five languages and has expanded his collector base beyond the United States and Latin America to Asia and Europe. Since opening his eponymous space in Wynwood in 2005, the young dealer has also organized more than 60 shows that have consistently ranked among the most memorable of the season, while his artists have been covered by publications ranging from the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal to ARTnews and the Art Newspaper. Oh, and when one of his artists isn't preparing for a show at the Whitney, Castillo can be found operating behind the scenes on the secondary market, selling works by the likes of Jean-Michel Basquiat, Andy Warhol, and Frida Kahlo or quietly holding a clinic on how to build an art business without the smoke and mirrors and chest-thumping typical of the local art scene.
Anyone watching the Oscars in March would have seen the normally staid Best Documentary speech shaken up by the unfurling of a sign reading, "Text DOLPHIN to 44144." It's no surprise that Ric O'Barry, a Coconut Grove native, pulled a stunt like that. Not only was he featured prominently in the film The Cove, but also the dolphin activist has become synonymous with the movement to free these intelligent sea creatures from aquariums and other unnatural habitats all over the world. Ironically, O'Barry actually worked for the entities he now decries, such as Miami Seaquarium. His brief stint there in the 1960s, and as a dolphin trainer for the popular TV show Flipper, made him aware of the horrors of keeping these mammals in captivity. Since then, O'Barry has founded the Dolphin Project, freed more than 25 dolphins, written two books, spoken at countless international conferences, and become a celebrity in his own right. His latest cause, to stop the slaughter of dolphins in Taiji, Japan, resulted in the documentary The Cove, which won an Academy Award. After that coup, O'Barry was given a show on Animal Planet called Dolphin Warriors, which is being produced by his son, Lincoln. Dolphin Warriors is set to premiere this fall. Despite his fame, O'Barry has not forgotten his roots. The 70-year-old was recently spotted on a sweltering sunny Saturday on Key Biscayne protesting keeping Lolita, the Seaquarium's killer whale, in captivity.
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.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®