While the bright lights on the “GREAT WHITE WAY” in New York have been darkened during the pandemic, we now have bright lights and LIVE THEATRE here in SOMI thanks to the AREA STAGE COMPANY and The Shops at Sunset Place.
For over thirty years the Area Stage Company (ASC) has been bringing world-class theatrical productions to south Florida. Breathing life back into our greater south Miami community in the midst of dealing with the exigencies of the pandemic, theater comes alive with performances in an outdoor theater with safe and socially distanced setting hosted at the Shops at Sunset Place.
Over the course of three decades Founder and Artistic Director John Rodaz and Executive Artistic Director Maria Banda Rodaz have a passion for the theater and unending devotion to educating children in the art of acting, singing and dancing. Their son Giancarlo Rodaz is the Associate Artistic Director. ASC functions as an art center offering visual arts, music and dance series, a professional theater program, and the Conservatory program. The history of the ASC began in a 50 seat theater on Lincoln Road in Miami Beach in 1989, where rents were low and an artistic community blossomed. Once Lincoln Road caught on, rents were raised, and in 2007 they moved to Coral Gables in the old Loew’s Riviera movie theater on Dixie Highway. Twelve years later, with plans to demolish the theatre to make way for a new Publix, they negotiated for space at The Shops at Sunset Place, and it is here they have mounted live theater and lifting the spirits of young and old.
SOMI Magazine interviewed Maria Banda Rodaz two years ago, on occasion of their thirteeth anniversary. Moving to the Riviera theater, Maria spoke of the opportunities which arose in a new location and a new mission. She spoke of the Inclusion Theater Project (ITP) that sprang from their belief that performing arts training provides vital tools for life. ITP serves student actors across south Florida from ages five and up, with developmental disabilities who wish to expand their talents. Additionally, ASC sends coaches to local schools to provide performing arts training. The Project helps to develop the skills needed via an innovative and comprehensive format. Students enrolled in the ITP receive free training thanks in part to grant funding and private donations. The Company reaches out to the community by giving performances to the Nicklaus Children’s Hospital, retirement homes, and at local festivals. Three shows per year are performed and ticket prices are kept affordable. They have a high success rate for students in the theater arts with a number of students now performing professionally in theater. “We are committed to our mission to create world class theater and we believe in artistic excellence,” said Maria.
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 Riviera 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.
After 12 exciting years at the Riviera Theatre, the company has a new home at Sunset Place. New headquarters, built from the ground up to fulfill temporary needs, with new dance and acting studios. As the current climate improves, the company will perform at venues all across Miami, cultivating new audiences and providing even more for the people that have been with it from the beginning.
OVER A DECADE OF AWARD WINNING PROGRAMS AND PRODUCTIONS
The future of Broadway is right here in Miami! As part of ASC’s mission to educate the next generation of theatre artists, the Area Stage Company offers group classes, private lessons, and professional-caliber performance opportunities to aspiring artists. The Conservatory is a place where young artists can learn from, and perform alongside working professionals. Our students learn and grow from witnessing the power of live, professional theatre in action in ASC’s Mainstage productions.
Their in-house developed, performance-driven curriculum has produced hundreds of successful now working professionally all around the world. Whether it’s in acting, singing, or dancing, the Area Stage Company is the perfect place for your artistic instruction.
Since its inception, ASC has presented a mix of contemporary plays and original new works, producing numerous world premieres, quickly “changing the perception and standards of what South Florida’s theatres can and should be,” according to the Sun-Sentinel, which described the organization as “one of the most influential theatres in the region.”
Conservatory productions are of a professional caliber. As New York is shuttered during the pandemic, John Rodaz reached out to Charlie Sutton, a dancer, choreographer and Co-Artistic Director with almost two decades of Broadway experience. Charlie has originated and danced in 10 Broadway shows, and has worked with Tony award-winning directors and choreographers. He is working directly with young talent in presenting the Conservatory programs this season.
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. Giancarlo Rodaz is the Associate Artistic Director and like his parents, is involved in all aspects of theater arts from set design to directing.
Maria Banda Rodaz is urging the community to help her find a new home for the ASC with 16 foot ceilings, 8,000 square feet of space, and a theater with great acoustics.
Here in our community is a first-rate theater company providing the very finest in theater arts training for the youth of south Florida. You can support them by attending their performances, volunteering your time, donating, and by adopting a student via their scholarship program.
– John Edward Smith
In late January 2021, ASC presented its first outdoor production in Sunset Place, a revival of their critically acclaimed reimagining with the mainstage professional production of Shrek the Musical: book and lyrics by David Lindsay-Abiare, music by Jeannine Tesori, and based on the hit Dreamworks animated film. This dynamic, stripped-down, renaissance theatre troupe-style production, was directed by Giancarlo Rodaz and performed by seven irrepressibly talented young actors, earned rave reviews and had audiences shrieking with laughter in its 2018 run. Theater-goers enjoyed picnic blanket seating in front, four tops and behind that individual seating. This safe and socially distanced return of their uproariously imaginative, critically acclaimed was well received and a celebrated return to live theater.
2021 Conservatory Season