In the theater world, the Summer Shorts Festival is a big deal.
And the spate of short one-act comedies, running June 12 through July 6 at the Arsht Center in Miami, is getting bigger. The festival’s 19th season will present works from Paul Rudnick (“Jeffrey” and “Addams Family Values”) and the team of Deb Lacusta and Dan Castellaneta (“The Simpsons”).
“The two of them, in addition to ‘The Simpsons’ stuff, are playwrights,” explains John Manzelli, producing artistic director of Miami’s City Theatre, which produces the festival. “We got [their] play because our reputation nationally has grown so large. And we got the Paul Rudnick piece that way, too.”
Manzelli says Summer Shorts’ reach is increased through City Theatre’s other summertime undertaking, CityWrights, a weekend of workshops and seminars for professional playwrights. (The next CityWrights will take place June 26-29 at the Epic hotel in Miami.)
“People come from everywhere,” Manzelli says. “In the last couple of years, because of the work we do and the people we started to bring down for the last four years [at CityWrights], 30 or 40 producers and playwrights see our work … And they say to us, ‘You don’t understand: This is the best shorts festival in the country. You may not know it, but it is.’ So what has happened is that we are getting work from everywhere.”
Castellaneta, who provides the voice of Homer Simpson, and his wife, Lacusta, will have the world premiere of their play “Shock and Awww” at Summer Shorts. Rudnick’s “My Husband” will make a second appearance in South Florida. In 2012, it was a part of “Standing on Ceremony: The Gay Marriage Plays” at the Broward Center.
Local talent is represented, as well. This year, “The Scottish Play,” by New World School of Arts graduate Theo Reyna, will be a part of the performance.
“The play is about politics,” Reyna says. “My inspiration was … the biases and prejudices that have been between Scotland and England for hundreds of years. I was thinking, ‘What if we project this onto a relationship, a marriage?’ It seemed like a good idea to pull out a lot of the feeling that Scots have about the English, and vice versa. And then, America gets thrown into the mix, as well.”
Reyna, who was born in Portugal and grew up in Miami before studying theater at Southern Methodist University in Dallas and teaching in London, premiered the playlet at another short-play performance this past January. “The Scottish Play” made its debut at “Mixtape 2,” a collection of short plays and films produced by Mad Cat Theatre in Miami Shores, where he is one of five recipients of a James L. Knight Foundation Grant this year.
“I’m very excited and honored they [City Theatre’s Summer Shorts Festival] decided to put it on,” he adds. “To be in there with Dan Castellaneta, who’s been the voice of Homer for, like, 25 years, and I’ve been watching in my home, and Deb Lacusta … and Paul Rudnick, as well, is a big deal.”
Summer Shorts’ lineup this year includes 10 short plays, with seven getting a world premiere, including the Castellaneta-Lacusta one-act.
“ ‘Shock and Awww” is clearly written in ‘The Simpsons’ model,” Manzelli says. “It’s about two roommates, and one of them has a cat. And the cat turns out to be this diabolical cat attempting to take over the world through the use of videos and YouTube.”
Unlike its brief run at the Broward Center, Rudnick’s “My Husband” will get a fully mounted production this time. “I’m really glad to bring it to the community for a real run,” Manzelli says. “It’s a wonderfully funny little satire. It’s about a liberal, Jewish, New York mother who feels all this pressure that her gay son is not married. So she goes ahead and stages one and puts an ad in the ‘New York Times’ announcing his marriage ceremony. Of course, he’s mortified that he’s getting married to someone he’s never met.”
For the past seven years, the Arsht Center’s Carnival Studio Theater has been the home of City Theatre’s short-play festival. The stage there has just been named the Susan Westfall Playwrights Stage in honor of City Theatre’s literary director and co-founder. It will be officially dedicated on June 14 during a special ceremony.
IF YOU GO:
City Theatre’s Summer Shorts Festival
When: June 12-July 6; 8 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays, with 4 p.m. matinees Sundays
Where: Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, 1300 Biscayne Blvd., Miami
Cost: $40 and $45
Contact: 305-949-6722 or ArshtCenter.org.