Mini guide to summer theater festivals in South Florida

Elena Garcia and David Hemphill in a play from last year's Summer Shorts festival. Photo by George Schiavone

Many stages go dark during the spring and summer, but others light up with theater festivals.

Here are four happenings in South Florida over the next few weeks.

"From the Mouths of Babes"

May 25-26; 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday; 7 p.m. Sunday


Pictures: Miami Fashion Film Festival closing party

Description: "[We've] been working with the students at G-Star School of the Arts [in West Palm Beach] to write six short plays interspersed with four monologues that the kids have written and are being acted by students and professional actors,” says Lou Tyrrell, artistic director of the Theatre at the Arts Garage in Delray Beach, which has partnered with Take Heed Theater Company in Lake Worth for the program. “Some of them have been writing throughout the course of the school year and refining it and rewriting it, several rewrites [with Take Heed resident playwright Matt Stabile] over the last several months. The last three weeks they’ve been rehearsing and rewriting ‘on the hoof,’ as it were.”

What you really need to know: “I’d say that was the eclectic nature of all the plays. You just won’t believe the ability of these kids to write in a very sophisticated style … from magic realism, to think a 16-year-old student would have an understanding of that is thrilling and a little shocking, to another piece where the playwright goes into the heart of theater of the absurd. Another is in a kind of noir style. There’s a monologue on bullying with a really original take: the point of view of the bully-er.”

Address: Arts Garage, 180 NE Street, Delray Beach

Cost: $10 and $15 in advance; $15 and $20 at the door

Contact: 561-450-6357 or ArtsGarage.org

The South Florida Theatre League’s “Summer Theatre Fest”

June 1-Aug. 31, times vary

Description: “There are three major components,” explains Andie Arthur, the South Florida Theatre League’s executive director. “The first one is this [campaign] Get in Bed With the Arts, which we premiered at the Carbonell’s. From June to August, the bed will be in a different theater. People can be photographed on the bed and interviewed about what the arts mean to [them], and maybe we’ll post their comments on our website. Then in September we will race the bed in the Coconut Grove Bed Race. The second part is the Play Reading Series, where every Monday from June to August, there will be a play reading at a different member theater company, sometimes two readings in one night. These are by South Florida playwrights. And then, there’s the Free Night of Theatre, which is the fun part. We are offering up to 10 different shows in lotteries.”

What you really need to know: “[The Free Night of Theatre] allows audiences to see something that they’ve never seen before. Maybe they’re saying, ‘I don’t have a lot of money. I don’t know if I want to pay for a full-price ticket. But maybe I’ll take a chance on these guys and once I found out they are great I can go back and buy a ticket.’”

Address: Various theaters throughout South Florida

Cost: Free

Contact: 954-557-0778 or SouthFloridaTheatre.com

City Theatre’s “Summer Shorts 2013”

June 7-30; 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays; 4 p.m. matinees Saturdays and Sundays

Description: “We always try to blend comedies in with some more-serious pieces,” says John Manzelli, the producing artistic director of City Theatre. “Most of the work this year falls on the comedy side. But some are not comedies, just really great work. But people in the summer like to have some laughs. And the audience will laugh, and then we will show them some pretty good art, as well.”

What you really need to know: “We’re not your usual summer festival or your elitist theater company in that way. We’re like ‘Saturday Night Live,’ except we’re actually live. It’s a great date night, and you don’t have to be a theater lover to enjoy this evening.”

Address: Carnival Studio Theater at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, 1300 Biscayne Blvd., Miami

Cost: $40 on Saturday evening, $35 all other performances, $15 for students

Contact: 305-949-6722 or ArshtCenter.org

The Women’s Theatre Project’s “Girl Play” Lesbian Play Reading Festival

June 21 – 23, 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday

DESCRIPTION: “Lesbian playwrights just don’t get a lot of play,” says Genie Croft, artistic director of both The Women’s Theatre Project and the “Girl Play” festival. “We’re the perfect company to have this festival. Even though we have male directors and male actors [in “Girl Play”], because the stories are still relevant to people wanting relationships, and all the insecurities etcetera of being out there - and those voices need a place to be heard. This is the fourth time we’ve done ‘Girl Play’ [the festival wasn’t staged last summer because the company was moving into their new Boca Raton home] and I can remember that all the pieces we were getting for the first ‘Girl Play’ were coming out stories and about confusion…starting out straight and bi and finally declaring who they really [were]. This year I’ve noticed that [a lot of the plays refer to] legalization of same-sex marriage and losing a partner, whether to another person or death.”

WHAT YOU REALLY NEED TO KNOW: “We have the audience vote on the ones they like best. So you vote on which of the eight 10-minute plays you liked Friday night and then you do the same thing Saturday night with new plays and then Sunday we present the top eight.”

ADDRESS: Art Gallery 21 at The Women’s Club, 600 N.E. 21st Court, Wilton Manors

TICKETS: $15 for one show; $25 for two shows and $35 for all three shows

CONTACT: 561-705-0470 or WomensTheatreProject.com.