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Miami Made Festival: Where reality becomes fiction

DanceThe Office (tv program)

David Hemphill's idea of a play set in a Miami Beach hotel begins with his audience and ends with a "screwed-up" cast of characters, which includes a Zen-practicing bartender, a shirtless playboy and a feisty Hialeah party girl.

Naturally, this is a reality show. Or, rather, "Extended Stay" is an immersive play constructed like one, in which audiences become VIP guests on the set of a faux-reality program about unruly staff shenanigans at the Riviera South Beach hotel. The "obnoxious" troupe of irreverent characters, however, are actually actors in Hemphill's Miami-based Project [Theatre] troupe.

"It's like an episode of 'The Office' on steroids, but as a faux-reality show," says Project [Theatre]'s 30-year-old artistic director, who likewise acknowledges, with a laugh, that "faux-reality show" is probably redundant. "It's more of an experiment for us than it is for the audience. We've never been interested in an audience that comes in, sits down and waits to leave, so we literally made the audience a bunch of characters."

"Extended Stay," concluding Wednesday at the Riviera, is among the several experimental, work-in-progress, performance-art pieces debuting at this year's Miami Made Festival. The showcase of new works directed, written and starring locals shifts to Miami's Arsht Center for the second half of its programming, which includes a staged reading of the Christopher Demos-Brown-penned, Stuart Meltzer-directed "Fear Up Harsh" on Thursday; the Stuart Meltzer-penned, Margaret Ledford-directed "Dinner Parties (Ironic and Themed)" on Friday; and the comedy "Two-Merz" from Mark Della Ventura, Gabe Hammad and David Michael Sirois, opening Sunday.

Choreographer and director Letty Bassart bookends Miami Made with her dance-inspired piece "Good, God, Go," debuting at 3 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Arsht. She describes the project as an "exploration of the canary in the coal mine metaphor," incorporating flamenco footwork, a cappella singing, a uniformed marching band and a 50-piece installation of wooden canaries designed by artist Laura Luna.

"It's a weird but fascinating study of enthusiasm in the dance space," says Bassart, 39, who's a New World School of the Arts graduate. "The relationships that exist between the dancers, the audience and the canaries. It's all a conversation about the energies that move us and stop us."

The Miami Made Festival will continue 9 p.m. Wednesday with the play "Extended Stay" at the Riviera South Beach, 2000 Liberty Ave, and continue thereafter through Sunday at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, 1300 Biscayne Blvd., in Miami. All events are free. Call 305-949-6722 or go to ArshtCenter.org/MiamiMade.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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