Joseph Adler, director of GableStage

Interview with Joseph Adler

Joseph Adler doesn’t settle. Year after year, the award-winning Producing Artistic Director of GableStage has selected and mounted seasons of provocative, edgy plays to challenge and inspire his South Florida audience. Where other regional theatres might shy away from intense material, Adler has risked it and it has paid off. With 55 Carbonell awards (a Carbonell is our South Florida version of an Obie Award) and 187 nominations, Adler is a respected titan of the South Florida theatre community. It’s a natural fit that after 17 years at GableStage in the historic Biltmore Hotel, Adler has been asked to head the new Coconut Grove Playhouse.

OIR: Why did you choose South Florida and Coral Gables as a home for your theatre?

JA: My family was in the restaurant business on Miami Beach and I moved here when I was a kid. After I went to school at Carnegie Mellon and NYU, I came back to make a low budget movie and decided to stay. I had an opportunity to work in film and theatre here. I’m glad I stayed because this town has changed so much in a positive way. It’s become a really exciting, cosmopolitan town.

OIR: What kind of support has the community provided you over the years?

JA: Most of what’s happened in the Arts has happened because we have the greatest Department of Cultural Affairs of any county in the country. And then there are the tax dollars. People actually voted to float bonds to support the arts. That’s where the $20 million is coming for the new Coconut Grove Playhouse. [GableStage] also has a terrific core of loyal supporters that make all the difference.

People have this mistaken notion South Florida is filled with people who want to see the umpteenth production of “Fiddler on the Roof”. It’s not true. Our Sunday matinees that skew older are the hippest audience I have. I’ve done plays that really push the envelope. A few years ago, we did a play called “Killer Joe”, which was very trailer park and had been a big hit in London. Our then Executive Director said, “Are you really going to do Killer Joe? With the violence and the sex? Here in Coral Gables? At the Biltmore?” I said, “Yes, and it’s going to be our biggest grossing show.” And it was. We proved there’s an audience that will support the kind of theatre that reflects what’s going on in the real world.

OIR: You’re known for producing plays right after their Broadway and Off-Broadway runs. How are you able to get the rights over other theatres around the country?

JA: You have to have good relationships with people representing the plays and lobby early. When we started, we were the only regional theatre interested in those plays, so it wasn’t that hard. Now, other theatres realize it is possible, so I have to work a little harder. It’s rewarding to see there is an audience that appreciates sophisticated material.

Last season I got the rights to Terrence McNally’s “Mother’s and Sons” while it was still on Broadway. Ours was the first production after its Broadway run. Two or three of the producers happened to be in town and saw our production. They got in touch with McNally and told him he must come down and see it. His production of “It’s Only a Play” with Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick, is selling out on Broadway. He stood up at the end to applaud the actors. It was amazing.

OIR: What is your vision for the new Coconut Grove Playhouse?

JA: The County is heavily involved and they have the bond money. I feel confident saying it is really going to become a reality. We’re going to have a 250-300 seat theatre. We’re working with the same consulting firm that worked on the Arsht Center to discuss our needs.

OIR: What do you see for the future?

JA: I see Miami becoming a great theatre town, like Chicago. More actors are staying here because there are new theatres where they can work. When that happens, more writers and directors will come to Miami as well.

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