“Queen of Basel,” a fresh reimaging of the classic play, “Miss Julia,” with a setting that takes place in modern-day Miami Beach in the midst of our annual, raucous Art Basel revelry, forms the basis of Miami New Drama’s first original play.
The drama is a redux of the classic August Strindberg play, originally set in the late 1800s, but transplanted to tell the modern-day story of culture clashes that erupt in the aftermath of an Art Basel soirée.
“I’ve been exploring the idea of reimagining ‘Miss Julie’ for awhile,” says Michel Hausmann, the company’s artistic director, and the director for this play, which opens Saturday night in Miami Beach at the Colony Theatre.
He notes that “Miss Julia,” is a play that has had “hundreds and hundreds of productions” (as well as a 2014 film produced by Liv Ullman in 2014).
“It’s a great play, but it’s dramatically flawed by being misogynistic – Strindberg is not shy about this – so I’d been thinking that it would be interesting to explore it through a new lens,” Hausmann added.
Hausmann broached the idea two years ago to Hilary Bettis, an award-winning writer, producer and screenwriter, who now writes for hit TV show “The Americans,” but she immediately balked, he recalls.
“She told me, ‘I hate that play,’ and I answered, ‘I know the reasons you hate it. So do a response to it.’”
“Queen of Basel” was the result.
“The work Hilary did made it possible for this story to be told in the 21st century, she took away any sense of misogyny, and she gave the characters a level playing field, so it could be three-dimensional,” says Hausmann.
The play, he adds, “is beyond what I had hoped, and I think it’s completely in tune with where we are, both in the country, and the community."
Bettis’ version tells the story of socialite Julie (Betsy Graver), who flees a blowout party to a bleak basement in her father’s luxurious South Beach hotel, after being humiliated by her fiancé. There, she becomes entangled with Christine, a cocktail waitress (Venezuelan film and TV actress Daniela Bascope), and her ambitious Afro Cuban boyfriend John (Rudi Goblen).
While the three cast members are all drawn from Miami, that’s where their similarity ends. They represent different cultures and ethnicities, which is in keeping with Miami New Drama’s mission to only create multicultural work, says Hausmann.
“We only do work as diverse and multicultural as our city, so this play is bilingual, it’s minority-majority casting, and our entire design team is composed of immigrants, so I think we embody the social fabric of Miami, in our work both onstage and offstage.”
Graver is a graduate of the New World School for the Arts; her credits include Netflix’s “Bloodline” and leading roles with GableStage, Zoetic Stage and Palm Beach Dramaworks.
“I’ve done so many plays about New York; it’s so exhilarating and refreshing to do a play that is about Miami. In fact,” she adds. “I’ve never seen a play that is so Miami. This play knows the places we talk about, the characters we play, and even every neighborhood’s culture and style.
Goblen is very familiar to local audiences, as a writer, dancer, actor, and music producer, having worked with such organizations as the Miami Light Project, Cirque De Soleil, and as a founding member of the Rosie Herrera Dance Theater, among many other endeavors.
“This play is phenomenal. It deals with gender, race, class, etc., etc. – it’s humanity under a microscope, and that is what drew me to it,” says Goblen. He added, “This is one of the reasons I perform, and it’s one of the reasons I love theater, and this is why I believe that theater will save the world – because of strong stories like these.”
“Queen of Basel” runs April 14 to May 6 at the Colony Theatre, 1040 Lincoln Road, Miami Beach, (305) 674-1040, www.colony.org. Tickets are $40 to $75.