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Culture

Alternative Theater Is Small -- And Fun

For the last three years, Spanish-speaking theater goers in Miami have enjoyed a growing, but still little-known secret. It's alternative theater found in a parking lot behind a high fence and under the Metro Mover. 

Instead of champagne, patrons drink beer and eat tacos. Instead of cushioned seats in high-ceiling theaters built for optimum sound, these folks are led (still by an usher) into cargo containers. Once inside they sit on foot-high stools, snuggly pressed against each other and the wall, watching one, two or three actors perform 15-minute plays. This is Micro Theater Miami.

Since its inception in 2012, tens of thousands of patrons have made it a Friday or Saturday night event to attend three, four or five shows all packed into one night. And on these nights it's likely one will see a few recognizable actors from some of Spanish-television's telenovelas (in the crowd and performing). 

But, about a year ago, Micro Theater producers decided it was the perfect time to start offering English-speaking shows to attract new audiences.

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Credit Luis Hernandez / WLRN
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WLRN
Micro Theater Miami offers shows in English on Wednesday and Thursday nights. The most popular shows though remain the Spanish shows that run Friday through Sunday.

It's still trying to find its footing. The shows run Wednesdays and Thursdays, so not always the best times. And much of it has been word of mouth, especially from the Spanish-speaking actors and directors trying to help the program expand.

Just like the Spanish programs, the English shows play three at a time in seven different containers, and each show will play three times in an hour. It's possible to see up to six shows (seven if timed right and a sprint is involved) within a couple hours. The plays are all originals, many written by local playwrights and anyone who wants to submit (they're taking submissions all the time).

Jonathan Cabrera and Marcela Paguaga are the stars of a show called Love At First Tinder. It's a comical commentary on trying to find love, or even just a match, on the ever popular Tinder app. The set is unconventional, unlike traditional theater with an audience sitting behind that fourth wall. The actors are sitting among the audience, the stage cuts the audience in half in this show. Cabrera and Paguaga seldom ever talk to each other - except through the Tinder app. Instead, they talk to the half dozen audience members, making them part of the show.

But, that's where the similarities end. The bulk of the investment is still in the Spanish plays. Those seem to have the most intricate sets (and you'd be surprised the sorts of props they can bring into such a small space. One show, "Aguilas Calvas" (Bald Eagles) has actors Andrea Escalona and Francisco Porras hanging from the ceiling, performing the entire show as though they were skydiving. You'll spend the entire show looking up.)

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Credit Luis Hernandez / WLRN
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WLRN
The show Termodinamica (Thermodynamics) entails a forbidden love between a student and professor.

The Spanish shows have known-name actors. Like Anna Sobero, Roman Camara, Guillermo Quintanilla and Daniella Macias. The content at times can be racier and intense. In the show "Yo So La Otra," a comedy about stealing someone's lover, the show has a dark ending with quite a bang -- literally.

In "Termodinamica" the actors strip down, one to his underwear, the other to wearing a bed sheet. And there are no topics or jokes that seem to be off limits. 

Many of the shows in Spanish are submitted by writers throughout Latin America and Spain. 

And anyone who has been to Spain will laugh at the fact that the Spanish shows go until 1 a.m., a typical social behavior. 

There's a good mix of shows in English spanning the spectrum from comedies to dramas and a few that don't fit comfortably into a common category.  Take for example the "Dinner Date," another show involving dating -- and cannibalism.

The current season's theme at Micro Theater Miami is "For the Love of Mexico," a tribute to Mexico's Day of Independence, as well as Hispanic Heritage Month. Shows are written and performed with an ode to the Spanish soap operas that remain so popular today.

The current season ends Oct. 8.

But a new season will begin immediately after. The theater's coordinators and producers are already looking through submissions for future seasons. Anyone can submit an idea for a micro-play, it just has to be original and never before published.