Area Stage Company: John and Maria Banda-Rodaz

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Maria-+-John-Rodaz

Theater and Conservatory

John and Maria-Banda Rodaz have a passion for the theater and unending devotion to educating children in the art of acting, singing and dancing. Founders of the Area Stage Company (ASC), John and Maria have been bringing world-class theatrical productions to South Florida audiences since 1989. ASC functions as an art center offering visual arts, music and dance series, a professional theater program, and the Conservatory program.

ASC was launched in a 50-seat theater located on Lincoln Road in Miami Beach. In 1989, Lincoln Road was nothing like it is today and nothing like it was in the 1940s and 1950s. The once high-end shopping district had fallen on hard times, with vacant storefronts offering inexpensive rents. It proved to be the right place for ASC where they created a renowned showcase for contemporary plays.  Considered one of the community’s most precious cultural treasures, ASC brought the innovative works of modern playwrights to local audiences with a mixture of contemporary plays and the development of new works.

The Lincoln Road story is akin to the meteoric rise of the Wynwood arts district. Artists move in because the place is affordable, create lively and popular venues, and then are forced out when the rents rise astronomically. Pioneers who attracted other artists to Lincoln Road, the Rodazes were no longer able to sustain the cost of operating  with a rent that had effectively increased about 158 percent in 10 years’ time.

“We contributed to the success of today’s Lincoln Road,” said Maria.

After the loss of the Miami Beach location, ASC continued to expand and produce plays at different locations. In 2007, it found a new home in the old Leow’s Riveria movie theater on Dixie Highway in Coral Gables. With the change in venue came a redirection of the non-profit theater company’s mission.

“We had to re-think the mission. We wanted to participate in new forms of theater, new challenges and to develop new audiences,” said Maria.

Added to their record of theatrical successes for adult audiences, Maria and John’s business model would include a conservatory to educate children in the theater and the arts of acting, singing and dancing. And from the Conservatory they would cast children for performances at ASC’s new theater.  Adults, too benefit from the classes at the conservatory, finding it a form of therapy in their professional, workaday routines.

The Conservatory was a “strategic solution” to the challenge of America’s aging theater-goers. The program inspires new audiences of parents, relatives, and friends while providing a vehicle for the professional development of young artists.

“This is a labor of love. We believe in what we do. Here students can do what they were born to do,” said Maria.

The Rodazes also believe in doing well for the community with outreach programs for children who are disabled, providing scholarships, and fundraising for causes focused on children.

Maria Banda-Rodaz is the executive director with a professional background in dance and as a member of the William Chason Dance Company. She has vast experience in the television and film industries.

Like his wife Maria, John Rodaz has a performing arts resume that can fill several pages. He is the artistic director and founder of ASC and winner of numerous Carbonnel Awards for acting and directing.

The Area Stage Company is located at 1560 South Dixie Highway in Coral Gables. For more information call 305-666-2078 or visit at www.areastagecompany.com.

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