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McCraney's 'Radical Edit' of Shakespeare Play Lands In Miami Beach

Hugo Glendinning

It’s a long distance from the rough streets of Liberty City to the bright lights of Stratford-Upon-Avon in England.  But playwright and director Tarell Alvin McCraney has made that journey – and along the way, acquired a resume that would make many artists green with envy.

McCraney grew up in Miami, went to the New World School of the Arts High School and honed his playwright skills at Yale University.  Just a few months ago, he received the 2013 MacArthur “genius grant.”  Now he’s back home, directing a production of Shakespeare's “Antony and Cleopatra.”  The show, which opens today, represents a unique collaboration between Miami’s Gablestage, New York City’s Public Theater, and the Royal Shakespeare Company.

The whole idea came about while McCraney served as playwright-in-residence for RSC a few years ago, when the company’s former artistic director, Michael Boyd, asked him for a “radical edit” of “Antony and Cleopatra.”

“This project came about mostly through trickery,” says McCraney, with a laugh.  “At some point [Boyd] was really interested in seeing it onstage.  I don’t normally direct.  And I said, ‘Okay, well, I would love to do it -- but only if we could do it in Miami, somehow'.”

After McCraney finished the edit, he approached Joseph Adler, producing artistic director of Gablestage and Oskar Eustis, artistic director of The Public Theater in New York City.  A partnership between the three theater powerhouses was formed, a transatlantic casting call was put out, rehearsals began last September and the play debuted in Stratford-Upon-Avon in November.

Credit The Royal Shakespeare Company
Playwright Tarell McCraney, director of 'Antony and Cleopatra,' during a rehearsal in London

McCraney says he set the piece in Haiti during the 18th Century because he “needed to set the play where history would be of a visceral nature.  Something that wasn’t so distant, something that felt more immediate.  And because, growing up in Miami, I have such a strong connection to the Caribbean, it just really felt like that was the best place.”

“Antony and Cleopatra” runs at Miami Beach’s Colony Theatre through Feb. 9, before completing its run in New York City.

Antony and CleopatraFriday, Jan. 10, through Feb 9 at the Colony Theatre, 1040 Lincoln Rd., Miami Beach.

Tickets cost $65 to $75.

Showtimes are 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday (no matinee on Sunday, Jan. 12.)

305-445-1119 or www.gablestage.org; Colony box office 305-674-1040; Ticketmaster 800-745-3000 or www.ticketmaster.com