April’s Ambassador, Stephanie Ansin, is bringing excitement and joy to South Florida theater fans of all ages. As Artistic Director of the Miami Theater Center, Ms. Ansin has overseen the growth of the organization from a children’s theater company, to one that produces a full range of productions, from performances for adult audiences to multi-generational shows for the whole family.
In 2004, Ms. Ansin, a Miami native, returned to her hometown after earning her MFA in Theater Directing at Columbia University, where she successfully co-founded the non-profit Stari Repertory Theater. She didn’t come empty handed. The repertory theater moved to South Florida with her. That year she founded The PlayGround Theater in Miami Shores. The company quickly earned rave reviews and developed into a well-respected theatrical destination. In 2012 the organization became the Miami Theater Center, and now provides productions for adults in addition to shows for multi-generational audiences.
After reading about Ms. Ansin, you’ll no doubt share her enthusiasm and love of theater. So run and catch a show at the Miami Theater Center. You’ll love it!
When did you fall in love with theater? Was there a particular production?
The summer after 7th grade I played Pap (Huck Finn’s angry, alcoholic father) in the musical Big River at a girls’ performing arts camp in Lenox, Massachusetts. That’s when I was bitten. I was cast completely against my “type,” shocked all the grownups because they thought of me as a shy pianist and writer, and received a lot of encouragement to keep acting.
Who are your favorite playwrights?
William Shakespeare & Anton Chekhov
How did the Miami Theater Center, formerly The PlayGround Theatre, come to focus on multigenerational productions and audiences?
In 2000, while I was in New York getting an MFA in Theatre Directing at Columbia University, my ex-husband and I co-founded a non-profit organization called Stari Repertory Theater. We produced plays by Arthur Miller and Nikolai Gogol and toured a show to Switzerland. We moved both our family and the company to Miami in 2004 and changed the name to The PlayGround Theatre. We focused on young audiences with The PlayGround because we wanted to help grow the theater community in Miami, and we developed a great partnership with Miami-Dade County Public Schools that enabled us to bus in 20,000 students a year for weekday morning performances. On the weekends, three generations of family members enjoy the shows. The concept of performances for “multigenerational audiences” is hot right now, and applies to our productions because they are both appropriate for kids and engaging for adults.
In 2012 we rebranded as Miami Theater Center so we could continue to be a cultural destination for all the young adults who had grown up seeing PlayGround shows. We also opened the doors to other artists and theater companies, formed a partnership with O Cinema, and enhanced our education programs and professional training offerings.
What was the best play or musical you’ve ever seen?
In person: Les Éphémères (Ephemera) by Ariane Mnouchkine and Théâtre du Soleil
On video: Tabours sur la Digue (Flood Drummers) by Ariane Mnouchkine and Théâtre du Soleil
What’s inspiring you nowadays?
- Watching the sunrise from the cozy new couch on my balcony.
- The Love Song of R. Buckminster Fuller,” a “live documentary” MDC Live Arts recently brought to the Colony Theatre. The filmmaker, Sam Green, narrated in person, and the band Yo La Tengo performed their original score.
- The Globe Theater’s all-male production of Shakespeare’s Richard III and Twelfth Night I recently saw in New York, especially actor Mark Rylance.
- Re-reading director Anne Bogart’s book And Then, You Act: Making Art in an Unpredictable World
What are your favorite indulgences?
Original Sin dark chocolate truffles from Romanico’s; reading in bed; and getting my hair blown out WHILE getting my nails done.
What’s your connection to Miami and South Florida?
I’m a native! I was born here, moved away for 14 years after high school, and returned 10 years ago, after becoming a mom, to be closer to my family.
What’s the most important thing people should know about you?
I want to listen to you tell me what you want me to know about you.
Do you have a favorite restaurant or shop in the Miami Design District?
Mandolin. It’s only 10 minutes from Miami Theater Center, so when not in rehearsal, I can pop down for a decadent mid-week lunch. I avoid shopping. I don’t enjoy it. But, I have been spotted drooling in the window of Jonathan Adler.
Do you have any favorite designers? Who?
Industrial: Sir Jonathan Ive
Home Décor: Jonathan Adler
Photo credit: Justin Namon