Before he wrote the Broadway phenomenon “Hamilton,” composer Lin-Manuel Miranda came up with a mini musical titled “21 Chump Street.”
Based on a South Florida event, the musical is about a high school student who sells drugs to an undercover policewoman in a desperate attempt to impress her. “21 Chump Street” is part of City Theatre’s “Summer Shorts Festival,” running June 1-July 2 at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in Miami.
“The piece itself is about a news story that happened near West Palm Beach,” explains Margaret Ledford, the artistic director of City Theatre. “The story was about something called ‘Operation D-Minus,’ where they put undercover cops in schools [in Palm Beach County in 2011], sort of like ‘21 Jump Street.’ ”
“21 Chump Street” premiered at a 2014 Brooklyn Academy of Music showcase. The 15-minute show is now one of eight playlets, each running eight to 15 minutes in length, that make up the 22nd year of the “Summer Shorts Festival.”
Ledford says that there was no effort to choose short plays along a theme. “It’s really about trying to find the best possible plays,” she says, “and find the best possible plays that work together … and works with our cast.” But a thematic thread did eventually reveal itself.
“In hindsight, I think the program is a little edgier this year,” Ledford says. “They’re funny, some of them. Whether it’s our current political climate or because it’s really hot already here [in South Florida], I have no idea. There’s more bite.”
This year, for the first time, City Theatre will produce a holiday-themed “Winter Shorts” at the Arsht Center Dec. 7-23.
We asked Ledford to break down the eight short plays.
“21 Chump Street” by Lin-Manuel Miranda — “Actually, this was inspired by an episode of [Showtime’s TV series] ‘This American Life.’ Then, they partnered with the Brooklyn School of Music … putting new stories to music.”
“Adorable Kitten Image Collapse” by Steve Yockey — “This is a commissioned piece … He has a great insight about freedom of speech, in a very funny, ethereal kind of way. He’s a playwright on the rise, but a lot of people know him for his television and film work in L.A.” [Yockey has appeared in CW’s “Supernatural” and MTV’s “Scream:The TV Series.”]
“Choosing Love” by Chisa Hutchinson — “It’s super sexy and funny. It’s about a psychic who is telling a man’s fortune.”
“Just Desserts” by David MacGregor — “This is an office comedy about a woman who gets tired of other employees stealing items out of the refrigerator, so she takes matters in her own hands.”
“The Best Seller” by Susan Westfall — “It’s a beautiful play about a woman who confronts someone from her past about his terrible writing.”
“Missing Karma” by Timothy Huang — “This is the one we refer to as our ‘grown-up play.’ It’s about a couple who bury their dog, and once it’s buried they realize that have nothing in common. And it’s a musical. The music is beautiful.”
“Baked Goods” by Charlie Cohen (book), Helen Park (composer) and Christyn Budyzna (lyricist) — “It’s about a Girl Scout who is the worst Girl Scout and can’t sell cookies, and it makes me pee in my pants every time. And it’s based on a true story about a Girl Scout that sets up outside of a marijuana dispensary.”
“Real Art” by Louise Wigglesworth — “[This is] about an artist who has just won a prestigious award and a woman who just won the lottery wanting to buy her painting. So you can imagine the class difference.”
“Summer Shorts Festival” runs June 1-July 2 at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, 1300 Biscayne Blvd., in Miami. Showtimes are 7:30 Thursdays-Saturdays, with 2 p.m. matinees Saturdays and 4 p.m. matinees Sundays, and a 7:30 p.m. performance Wednesday, June 28. Tickets cost $39-$54. To order, call 305-949-6722 or go to ArshtCenter.org.