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FIU STUDENTS, FACULTY AND ALUMNI PUT ON AN ALTERNATIVE THEATER FESTIVAL THIS WEEK

BY RODOLFO ROMAN
Special to The Miami Herald
Florida International University student Fadoua Hanine has been acting since middle school.

Now Hanine, 21, will share the spotlight with classmates and alumni as part of FIU’s Alternative Theatre Summer Festival, which kicks off Wednesday.

Three productions by FIU students and alumni will be presented at the DM 150 Studio Theatre at the main campus, 10910 SW 17th St., Thursday through Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 5 p.m.

Tickets are $10 general admission, and the festival runs until July 25.

“I love performing, so any opportunity I get to be on stage is a blessing,” Hanine said.

A fine arts performance major, Hanine will be playing the role of Angie in Caryl Churchill’s Top Girls, directed by Shani Bernard.

Top Girls is set in the 1980s and revolves around Marlene, an independent career woman celebrating a big promotion. She meets various women from history as she explores the price she has paid for success.

Also part of the festival is A Bicycle Country by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright and former Miamian Nilo Cruz. That play takes a look at the lives of three Cuban exiles inextricably linked by their dream of finding freedom and peace. The third play, Prodigal: The Execution of William Spencer, is a piece that describes the final day of a prisoner on Death Row.

FIU theater professors Phillip Church and Marina Pareja created the festival in an effort to bring Miami’s cultural diversity to the stage and to encourage students to experiment.

“ATSF encourages our students to take risks and not to play safe. Try things. Explore. Fail,” Church wrote in an e-mail. “Learn from mistakes instead of pursuing the perfect production.”

Church believes each play is a lesson learned.

“We need to do plays that are constantly challenging the students in all areas of theater production,” he said.

Actors auditioned at the beginning of the summer for the program that is open to all FIU students regardless of major. Alumni also participate, and faculty work on a volunteer basis.

“It is a great learning experience for our ongoing students to work with those who are now in the profession,” Church said. “And it helps sustain a connection with FIU alumni, something that as a young university we are in constant need of maintaining.”

The author of Prodigal: The Execution of William Spencer is FIU alumnus Edward G. Excaliber. The play, which features a cast of six, is Excaliber’s first full production at his alma mater. He is grateful for the exposure.

“The fact that it is happening so early in my career is helping me learn to stay humble and to admire my colleagues, for they are remarkable at what they do,” he wrote in an e-mail.

Aside from delivering entertainment and education, Church said the productions also bring culture to the FIU neighborhood.

“The productions we offer allow the community to have stimulating theater on campus at a time when there is very little in this West Miami region,” he wrote.

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