jakub | April 1, 2024

AMERICAN THEATRE | 6 Theatre Workers You Should Know


Our newest edition spotlights theatre workers in the Miami area. If you would like to recommend a theatre artist (from anywhere) for a future Role Call, fill out our open Google Form here.


Carmen Pelaez (she/her)

Carmen Pelaez.

Profession: Playwright and actor
Hometown and current home: Miami
Known for: Pelaez is best known for her solo play Rum & Coke and most recent new work The Cuban Vote, a loose adaptation of The Taming of the Shrew set amid a Miami mayoral campaign. The locale of her writing is “where laughter and devastation live in the same breath,” as she put it. “I love when the audience laughs then suddenly I hear a deep inhale. I know I’ve hit the mark when that happens.”
What’s next: She’s acting in a play she wrote, Waiting in America, as part of Miami New Drama’s The Museum Plays, directed and conceived by Michel Hausmann and presented through March 31 at the Rubell Museum. She is also developing an Antigone adaptation for Loretta Greco at the Huntington Theatre, with Jane Ann Crum as dramaturg, through a Cuban cultural and musical lens. Said Pelaez, “I do hope Sophocles is enjoying his guaguanco—it’s the best tip of my hat I can think of giving the guy.”
What makes her special: Michel Hausmann, Miami New Drama’s artistic director, said that Pelaez “is the playwright we have produced the most. She writes about our community, using the languages of our community. We are doing our fourth world premiere with her. Her last play, The Cuban Vote, directed by Loretta Greco, is one of our all-time box office successes.”
Character by character: No matter where she is, Pelaez draws inspiration from her surroundings and appreciates some humor. She first began to develop her plays “character by character” by performing monologues at variety nights around New York City on what she called “a sort of random cabaret circuit in small theatres…and it was glorious. Nobody was playing to a specific audience, we were all telling specific stories, and it all worked.” While she’s grateful for that NYC experience, she said she finds Miami “incredibly inspiring. It’s a surreal, ridiculous city with tons of pathos and generous laughs. Cognitive dissonance makes for great drama. Every time I leave my house, I come back with a gem I’ll use in my work eventually.”


Gladys Ramirez (she/her)

Gladys Ramirez, executive director of City Theatre. (Photo by Morgan Sophia Photography.)
Gladys Ramirez. (Photo by Morgan Sophia Photography)

Profession: Arts administrator, producer, director, actor 
Hometown: Miami and Boca Raton, FL
Current home: Miami
Known for: Ramirez is City Theatre‘s executive director, a role she began after making her mark as an artist in the city, with such notable credits as include The Motherfucker with the Hat (actor) and La Gringa (director).
What’s next: Gladys is working with City Theatre’s artistic director, Margaret M. Ledford, to bring the 27th annual Summer Shorts to life at the company in June. Featuring world premieres from Miami playwrights alongside winners of the Susan J. Westfall National Short Playwriting Contest, it will be brought to the stage by a talented collective of 40 local theatre artists.
What makes her special: Ramirez’s recommenders underscored her advocacy and dedication to Latine stories. On working in the room with her, actor Emily Garcia said, “Gladys is absolutely inspirational. Her direction for the production of La Gringa brought the magic and light to the show. I knew I could ask her anything and communicate my concerns and thoughts. An underdog who fought for her place in the scene, she sees the potential in all people and is a blessing for the Miami theatre world.”
Right where we are: Ramirez’s vision for theatre, she said, “is simple. Theatre is for everybody everywhere. I believe theatre has the power to spark dialogue, forge community bonds, challenge us, and bring people together. It should transcend financial, geographic, and artistic barriers. It’s about inclusivity for artists and audiences; it should be for every person and every body. The idea that theatre is just for ‘theatre people’ limits its potential…Theatre is about celebrating stories that matter to us, right where we are.”


Krystal Millie Valdes (she/her)

Actor Krystal Millies Valdes. (Headshot by Emily Lambert.)
Krystal Millies Valdes. (Photo by Emily Lambert)

Profession: Actor and musician
Hometown and current home:
Miami
Known for: A founding member of New City Players and director of NCP Lab, Valdes is known for standout performances as an actor and a generous spirit in uplifting other creatives. Having worked professionally in film, voiceover, and onstage for the past decade, recent credits include Miami New Drama’s 7 Deadly Sins and Dangerous Days, plus National New Play Network’s rolling world premiere of Refuge at Theatre Lab.
What’s next: After I Am Me at the Arsht Center, she’ll perform in the world premiere of Dangerous Days at Miami New Drama through April 28. The feature film Fallen Fruit will premiere at the Miami Film Festival on April 5, and the movie Thank You, Places, created with New City Players, will come out later this year. She’s also in the midst recording her first full-length folk music album.
What makes her special: Community member Nathalie Mazo calling Valdes “quite literally one of the best kept secrets in Miami theatre. Her spirit is vibrant and contagious, and she has a way of really drawing you into every character that she plays. Being born and raised in Miami, she has shown vested interest and dedication into her community in and outside of theatre. Perhaps the most significant and special quality about Krystal is her love of service to the youngest members of the Miami community, its children. On a weekly basis at a park in downtown, you will find her surrounded by a group of toddlers and their parents as she reads and plays music to them. I mean, who does that for free?”
I am theatre: “I have purposely stayed in Miami to be a product of the art in the city,” Valdes said. “I like the shock of people who are used to hearing performers are based in Chicago or L.A. hearing me say, ‘I’m from Miami!’ At first they’re shocked because it’s not one of the cities they were initially associating with our medium of theatre. But then they also love the city for its culture and art—and I am its culture and its art.”


Rebecca Montero (she/her)

Lighting designer Rebecca Montero. (Photo by Daniel Swerdlow.)
Rebecca Montero. (Photo by Daniel Swerdlow)

Profession: Lighting designer
Hometown: Salem, Va.
Current home: Miramar, Fla.
Known for: By day, Montero works as the production manager at NSU University School, and by night she’s the resident lighting designer at Zoetic Stage, where she’s been designing for the past decade. A Carbonell winner for her lighting design, she’s been nominated four times.
What’s next: Zoetic’s Cabaret has opened to enthusiastic reviews and will run through April 7. Coming up, Montero designs Cuban Chicken Soup When There’s No More Café, which will run at Zoetic Stage May 2-19.
What makes her special: Having collaborated frequently with Montero, Vanessa McCloskey said, “Becky is pure magic. She creates the most exciting, striking, unexpected looks on show after show. Her ability to communicate and collaborate are unmatched. Besides designing, she teaches (which is an understatement—she runs a program which produces multiple full length productions and is a wonderful mentor to her students) and is a mom of two. I have no clue how she manages to do it all, and with joy and humor every step of the way. Sharing a tech table with her is one of the most special parts of my job.”
Staying in the background: It was while pursuing a theatre degree at Radford University in Virginia that professors David Wheeler and Carl Lefko steered her toward lighting design, but she received “a well-rounded education” that included working in the scene shop, acting onstage, directing in the school’s black box theatre, and working as a lead electrician. She described her work as striving to “enhance the performance and bring it to life without the audience being aware of the technical aspects of the production.”


Vanessa McCloskey (she/her)

Zoetic Stage resident production stage manager Vanessa McCloskey. (Photo by Chris Headshots in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)
Vanessa McCloskey. (Photo by Chris Headshots)

Profession: Stage manager
Hometown and current home: Miami
Known for: On her third season as resident production stage manager and production manager for Zoetic Stage, McCloskey works with artistic director Stuart Meltzer on the Adrienne Arsht Center’s Theatre Up Close series, which reimagines contemporary works and develops new ones. Favorite projects include Frankenstein, Mlima’s Tale, Next to Normal, and the Finstrom Festival of New Work.
What’s next: She’s currently stage managing Theatre Up Close’s Cabaret, running through April 7, which uses an intimate traverse staging that, she said, “forced us to simplify in the best way possible; the focus is on the storytelling alone. There’s a freedom to having (almost) no stage.” Zoetic will next turn to premiere Cuban Chicken Soup When There’s No More Café, from writer Elena Maria Garcia, known for ¡FUÁCATA! A Latina’s Guide to Surviving the Universe.
What makes her special: Actor Diana Garle said McCloskey has gone above and beyond to ensure a streamlined and joyful process, calling her “hands down the best stage manager I have ever worked with. She is not only diligent and organized, but is also an actor’s No. 1 advocate—as well as being kind and respectful to everyone!”
Carry that weight: From her early days as a production intern at the Arsht Center to now, McCloskey said she aims “to create positive, supportive, creative environments for everyone I work with. The rehearsal period is so special to me—when the creative juices are flowing, and people are laughing, or digging deeper, or making new discoveries, that’s when I feel I’m doing my best work. It’s a team effort, of course, but I am a part of that team, and I know the weight that my energy as the stage manager can carry throughout the process.”


Victoria Collado (she/her)

Miami-based director and creative producer Victoria Collado. (Photo by Silvio Padilla.)
Victoria Collado. (Photo by Silvio Padilla)

Profession: Director, creative producer
Hometown and current home: Miami
Known for: Collado was the director behind the immersive production The Amparo Experience, the story of Havana Club rum that hit close to home for many Miami audiences. She also co-founded the Abre Camino Collective to uplift creatives “redefining the American narrative through radical storytelling.”
What’s next: In a conversation, we were honored to receive the exclusive on a new project: Collado and Vanessa Garcia, the writer behind Amparo, are crafting a new immersive theatrical experience based around Hialeah staple Stephen’s Deli, run by Kush Hospitality and preserved as an old deli-style restaurant with a rich history shaped by Cuban and Jewish immigrants. “This is the place where every immigrant, especially of Latin America and the Caribbean, comes to start again,” said Collado. “We are telling the stories of Hialeah inside the space.”
What makes her special: Miami playwright Ariel Cipolla appreciates Collado’s relentless creativity and care, saying that her work “has a positive impact in our community, telling stories that reflect the audiences of our city, in unique and compelling ways. Deep down she is a collaborator at heart, meaning that she views her work as a director and producer as a way to uplift other people’s talents instead of taking the spotlight for herself. She deeply cares about those she works with and will go out of her way to make sure they are finding their path and getting the recognition they deserve.”
Selling innovation: “The world has changed—so how will we as an industry change?” Collado mused. “The hope is that we’re able to adapt, knowing what parts need to stay and what needs to change.” Ultimately, she said, “I hope we’re led back to questions. What is the thing that ‘sells’ but still stands by our values? What is pushing or innovating versus going down the same route? As a director, I think we need to be okay with testing something and not feel ready. But I also understand the producer role—we have to make sure the work sells right. That’s where I think immersiveness comes in. People want it, want to feel, want to connect.”

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