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"Melt" Play Dissects Miami's Various Ethnic Experiences

Michael McKeever

When Michael McKeever started out as a playwright 21 years ago, he had a peculiar writing process. He would imagine his characters and say out loud what they would say. He wasn't a trained writer, but had a knack for dialogue.

"I'm sure I sounded like a loon in those first years," McKeever recalls. "But that's how I got my dialogue. It was very natural for me to write the dialogue as I would act out the scene."

The full-time playwright has since changed his process and doesn't think out loud, so to speak. He's written 22 plays thus far, and about a quarter of them use South Florida as a backdrop. The 52-year-old was born and raised in Miami and always found the city a fascinating place.

In his play "Melt," Miami is personified and functions as an important character. McKeever and a cast of actors will conduct a reading on Wednesday, May 14, at the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science, to accompany the museum's current exhibition, "RACE: Why Are We So Different?"

McKeever's 90-minute drama explores the diverse ethnic makeup of three families and follows the six characters -- African-American, Jewish-Cuban, and LGBT -- dealing with the tension of life through snarky lines that move the story along. 

Each character talks about how Miami is evolving. They look at the past, and what the city would be like in the next 20 years. Miami as a character ties the three families together.

A poignant scene features the African-American siblings Adelle and Jackson arguing about lost heritage. They grew up in Overtown. But now Adelle is a prominent lawyer wearing Prada shoes.

McKeever admits this scene was incredibly hard to write. Adelle explains her point of view on how she busted her butt to get out of Overtown, but still loves it fondly. And Jackson, a gay male nurse, says his sister has lost her roots. They insult one another as a brother and sister would, and at the end of the scene Adelle second-guesses her choice in shoes.

The "Melt" reading will occur at 7 p.m. Wednesday, May 14, at the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science. A Q&A will follow. Admission costs $6.

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