GableStage is Born Again 

GableStage is Back, With a New Director and a New Season 

When Bari Newport was announced six months ago as just the second producing artistic director in GableStage’s 23-year history, she knew that among the many challenges facing her at the award-wining company, one was key. “I was hired to scale the company up, to attract new audiences,” says Newport, who moved here after nine years at the helm of the Penobscot Theatre Co. in Bangor, Maine. 

So, while taking a deep dive into the arts and culture world of her new community – she estimates that she has met with more than 500 people, individually and in groups, since March 1 – Newport has begun growing GableStage itself. Already, she has expanded full-time staff, increased the annual budget to $2 million, and added two more performances plus an extra performance day per week to each show’s run in the company’s 138-seat space at the historic Biltmore Hotel.

GableStage Director Bari Newport
Director Bari Newport, at the Biltmore hotel swimming pool where movie star Esther Williams once swam

“[Bari’s] commitment to audience development is directly related to her expressed determination to diversify and expand the reach of GableStage’s work, and her first season clearly signals this intention to broaden and deepen the company’s work here,” says Michael Spring, director of Miami-Dade County’s Department of Cultural Affairs. 

Soon, about 20 months after the theater’s abrupt pandemic closure and the passing of its celebrated artistic leader, Joseph Adler, it will be showtime at GableStage again. And with an eye toward serving the company’s existing audience and attracting new theatergoers, Newport has chosen her first season. 

It’s an eclectic lineup featuring an American classic, a world premiere solo show, a play about racism by a MacArther “genius” grant poet, a world premiere musical, a Florida premiere comedy, and a two-character piece by a Latin playwright, plus an add- on summer show starring and coauthored by Cuban-American film and television actor Ruben Rabasa. The majority of the pieces have been written or co-written by women, nearly all will be directed by them. 

Before the season officially begins in mid-November, Newport intends to kick off her GableStage era with a (literally) splashy fundraiser. At 7 p.m. Oct. 28, the hotel’s 23,000-square-foot pool will become the setting for “SPLASH!,” a one-night-only event that will launch the memorial Joseph Adler Legacy Campaign to help finance the company’s growth. Newport got the idea in February when she visited Coral Gables, GableStage and the Biltmore. 

“Someone walked me around the pool and said,‘This is where Esther Williams swam,” says Newport, recalling the champion swimmer-turned-movie star. “I had a vision of an Esther Williams pool play, which sealed the deal for me about coming to GableStage.” Williams headlined aquacade spectaculars at The Biltmore, and in a nod to that history, Newport has hired the Miami-based Aqualillies synchronized swimming troupe to perform as the audience watches from the terrace above. 

The new season begins Nov. 12 with Arthur Miller’s “The Price,” a 1968 drama about at-odds brothers and the rippling after effects of life decisions. Miller’s play was about to open in March 2020 when the pandemic forced the theater to close as Adler was putting the finishing touches on the last production he would ever direct. After a long battle with pancreatic cancer, he died the following month. “The set is still onstage,” Newport says. “I’m honored to have the opportunity to take Joe’s vision, to use his notes, and bring his vision to life the best I can.” ■