A couple of summers ago, on this website, I wrote one of my most critical blogs to date about a South Florida cultural institution, focusing on what was then the Kravis Center’s 2010-2011 season announcement. I wrote about the “inescapable sense of deja vu” when reviewing the upcoming season and the parade of comedians, musicians and shows recycled from previous seasons.
These were people like Jackie Mason and Frankie Valli, and shows like Neil Berg's "100 Years of Broadway." Not the most cutting-edge material, nor did any of it cater to young people. The Kravis, I felt, was becoming a bastion for the old and white, offering very little for ethnically diverse audiences under 50.
I don’t know if my complaints, or similar ones from others, had anything to do with the development of the Kravis’ upcoming 2012-2013 season, but the level of improvement is remarkable. The full season schedule, which was released last week, does feature its share of safe, conventional entertainment (Paul Anka, Irish tenors, Catskills comedians, etc). But the season also debuts an eight-show series that feels like a direct response to my recurring gripe.
It’s called P.E.A.K., which stands for Provocative Entertainment At Kravis. The concept, according to a press release, “will focus on ethnic diversity and contemporary themes, to elevate the creation and understanding of artistic expression — with an emphasis on performers drawn from diverse cultural backgrounds and communities.”
The series includes the following:
Nov. 17: Haitian guitarist and activist BelO will infuse the Gosman Amphitheatre with the kind of music rarely heard on the Kravis complex. The award-winning, multifaceted musician plays his own, invented musical style he calls “Ragganga,” combining reggae, jazz, rock, worldbeat and traditional Haitian vodou rhythms.
Dec. 6-8: Arguably the Kravis Center’s hippest, most streetwise dance booking to date, Guggenheim fellow Rennie Harris brings his Puremovement dance collective to the Rinker Playhouse for a hip-hop dance theater production. Hip-hop dancing, which has become a popular attraction on shows like “So You Think You Can Dance,” will be expressed in its myriad forms, from popping and locking to House, B-boying and poetry.
Jan. 18 and 19: How often does Josh Kornbluth tour South Florida? Practically never, which makes this two-day stint in the Rinker Playhouse a surprising pleasure. Kornbluth is a renowned monologist based in San Francisco who has written and starred in three films (“Haiku Tunnel” was the biggest) and written six comic monologues on everything from calculus to Benjamin Franklin to mime troupes. The Kravis performance is titled “Andy Warhol: Good for the Jews?,” which finds Kornbluth riffing on the cultural and scientific luminaries spotlighted in Warhol’s controversial 1980 series of important 20thcentury Jews. Show up to this one with your thinking cap on.
Jan. 27: The thought of having Margaret Cho as your mother is, perhaps, a scary one. But as far as listening the controversial comedian speak about motherhood for an hour and a half? That will probably make for one of the year’s funniest nights out. Cho’s new show “Mother” will do just that for one night only at Dreyfoos Hall; expect forays into race, drugs, sexuality, celebrity, culture and politics.
Feb. 15 and 16: The aesthetic of fringe theater invades the Rinker Playhouse for two separate performances by versatile rapper – and, apparently, educator – Baba Brinkman. The Canadian showman is known for distilling dense literature and scientific concepts through the language of hip-hop, and these two performances are classic Brinkman. On Feb. 16, he’ll “remix” the “Canterbury Tales,” translating Chaucer’s high-school-lit staple with a mixture of physical theater, dramatic storytelling and virtuoso lyricism. On Feb. 17, he’ll take a similar approach to edify us about evolution.
Bravo for taking chances! For the Kravis’ full season schedule, visit kravis.org.