Miami Marvel: Carey Brianna Hart Story
Carey Brianna Hart knew she wanted a career in the theatre at the tender age of three.
“I watched a lot of Shirley Temple movies when I was little and was a flower in a play in pre-school,” she laughed. “I got to sing a little song and everybody applauded. My mind was blown. I was hooked. That was it.”
Ms. Hart attended North Center for the Arts in her hometown of Miami and by ninth grade she knew she would study theatre at DePaul University in Chicago.
“I’d read about their conservatory,” she said. “They had an intense program and so I applied. Even though I was accepted to the University of Miami and Wright State University with scholarships, my heart had been set on DePaul since I was 14. My parents made it happen so I could go there.”
At DePaul, Ms. Hart took two years of acting, a year of directing and a year of playwriting to earn her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree.
“I learned a whole lot,” she said. “I just wish I could’ve cut my instructors’ heads open and poured the knowledge they had into my brain. It would have been a lot easier, but I learned so much from the experience.”
As good as the tools were that college provided, the real world offered her more, she added.
“It’s all about the basics,” she said. “If you don’t have those, you can’t do anything else. That’s what I love about the theatre. Taking classes and workshops, you’re still reviewing those basics. What matters is how far you want to take those basics. You only get out of it what you put in.”
After graduation, Ms. Hart taught drama to adults at night then to high school kids during the day for six years. That led to a stint in the curatorial department of the Miami Art Museum.
“I got to look at art, pick art and comment on what I thought was worthy art — or unworthy art,” she laughed. “I also got to put all of their art books in order — an organizational skill that has served me as a stage manager.”
A one-year stint in Los Angeles led to work in a play and a screening at Paramount, but her heart and home lay in Miami, so she came home and got busy — working as an actress/director/stage manager/sound designer/sound editor at such esteemed local venues as Mad Cat Theatre Company, M Ensemble Theater Company, Thinking Cap Theatre, Area Stage, Acme Acting Company, The Women’s Theatre Project, GableStage, The African Heritage Cultural Arts Center, Juggerknot Theater and more. She has been an active member of the South Florida Theater community for the better part of the last 25 years.
Ms. Hart scored a hit in M Ensemble’s “The Gift Horse” in which she gave a poignant performance as a witty but troubled woman seeking true love.
“Right now I’m directing a play at Main Street Players,” Ms. Hart said. “It’s called ‘Shakespeare is a White Supremacist.’ It explores the experiences of people of color as they start rehearsals for ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream.’ The play shows how many opportunities there are for white men and women in Shakespeare, but when a black man walks into the audition, the director sees him only as Othello. It’s about actors who are really qualified and talented at what they do, but just not able to get cast based on their accent or because their skin’s a little darker or their hair’s a little curlier than what is normally seen on stage in a Shakespearean play.”
In “Waafrica” at Thinking Cap Theatre, Ms. Hart played the wife of a Kenyan tribal chief.
She added as a woman and an artist of color, she has always found it a challenge to find work.
“Of course, that’s true for any artist,” she said. “We all have challenges finding relevant work that’s demanding and engaging. When I was in college, I was told I wasn’t black enough and I wasn’t angry enough. They tried to make me change my character and personality, just to adhere to a stereotype they were used to. They didn’t know my life and they didn’t know who I was or where I came from. I understood their prejudgments, because they were based on what these people saw on television. They expected everyone from the south to be the same, which of course is not the case.”
Things are quite different on the South Florida theatre scene, she added.
“I would say that the community here is pretty open and honest,” she said. “When I’m up for a show I know what I’m right for and what I’m not right for.”
Ms. Hart added she makes a special effort to get cast in shows at theaters in which she wants to work. She attends auditions, even if she may not be the perfect fit for a particular role, just to get in front of casting personnel.
“If they don’t have something for me this season, maybe they’ll think of me for next season,” she said. “I always encourage my younger acting friends to do that. If you want to work at the Maltz, go up there and audition. If you don’t see yourself in their season, audition anyway. You never know. They may be impressed with your talent and keep you in mind for a future production. It’s important to show up. Let them know you’re interested. That’s the most important thing.”
Ms. Hart added she’s not a member of Actors’ Equity Association, but is a SAG-AFTRA card holder.
“Belonging to SAG-AFTRA has hindered me in Miami, though,” she confessed. “We have so many nonunion independent films going on that I’m not allowed to audition for. It’s a choice. You take the bad with the good.”
Another ongoing endeavor for Ms. Hart is her radio show on WMBM, AM 1490 in Miami, which is sponsored by C. Brian Hart Insurance Corp., a company started by her father in 1974, in which she also lends a hand.
“It’s a half-hour radio show where we talk about the arts,” she said. “I started doing it in April. I choose to interview artists that live here, work here or continue to create work here. The South Florida community needs to know there are artists are living here. We’re not all living in California. We’re here, doing our thing in South Florida and we need audiences to support us by coming to see shows. We need them to give us ideas about the kinds of shows they want to see. We want them to partner with us as producers of South Florida-area art.”
COVID-19 certainly hasn’t kept Ms. Hart down. When the pandemic struck, she simply shifted her medium of choice to Zoom.
“I directed some pieces for City Theatre over Zoom and also directed a short film last December called ‘Other Side of America,’” she said. “And I directed some online readings for City Theatre as well as some socially-distanced readings for them at the Arsht Center. The pandemic did hit me hard, though, as it’s hit everyone. I was in a show and had two other shows scheduled to tech when COVID shut everything down. But I’m OK. Solitude has been nice. I’ve gotten to work on other things. Half of my major was playwriting and who knows? Ideas are always percolating in my head.”
“Shakespeare is a White Supremacist” will play at Main Street Players from Sept. 24 to Oct. 31. The theater is located at 6766 Main Street in Miami Lakes. For more information about the play or to purchase tickets, call 305-558-3737 or log on to mainstreetplayers.com.