POW! Artistic Director and Founder to Receive Howard Kleinberg Award

Delray Beach, FL – After an exhilarating three week workshop of Artistic Director Ronnie Larsen working with students, ages 15 to 17, to write, craft, and perform their own plays, it will be announced that at the 2023 Carbonell Awards, Larsen will be the recipient of the prestigious Howard Kleinberg Award on November 13th, 2023.

Ronnie Larsen serves as both the Artistic Director and Founder of Plays of Wilton, Incorporated. As a non-profit organization, Plays of Wilton, Incorporated – fondly known as “POW!” – serves as an LGBT+ arts production organization which focuses on the storytelling and theater elements in multiple mediums. POW! took great lengths to continue their work through the pandemic, even when it meant performing to smaller crowds. Part of their mission statement is to serve a diverse and marginalized community which is usually excluded from the mediums of storytelling. POW! Is located at Wilton Manors within The Foundry, next door to the Island City Stage.

Ronnie holds many hats as the founder of POW! He is a director, actor, playwright, and producer. He has been writing plays for almost three decades now, with twenty-four of his shows having been produced and five Off-Broadway in New York City. He draws in diverse artists and audiences with shows of his own, such as, “One MoreYesterday,” “The Actors,” “Grindr Mom,” “Making Porn,” and “Sauna.” Works from other playwrights have also been featured at Plays of Wilton, such as those written by Michael McKeever, Lucas Hnath, Lynn Portas, and Dan Clancy. Larsen has recently launched “Ronnie Larsen Presents: Women of Wilton” for a production of “Last Summer at Bluefish Cove.”

When it comes to the theater-going community, Larsen describes it as “I have worked all over the country and this community is unbelievable, they’re so supportive… I’ve seen the audience and they go to every show every night.” 

The Howard Kleinberg Award

The Howard Kleinberg Award was established in 2000 and named after Howard Kleinberg for his contributions as a historian, a long-time editor of The Miami News, and an author of many articles and readings on the social and cultural history of Miami and the greater South Florida. Kleinberg wrote with The Miami News for four decades, becoming executive director of the newspaper. In his time, he documented President John F. Kennedy’s Assassination in 1963, the Mariel boatlift in 1980, and the Arthur McDuffie race riots in Miami. This award is given to an individual as a special recognition for their contributions to the health and development of the arts in South Florida. Previous award winners have included Andie Arthur (2022), Deborah Margol (2018), Chrstine Dolen (2015), and Iris Acker (2014). The Howard Kleinberg Award is one of six special awards announced at the Carbonell Awards. 

The Carbonell Awards are named after the internationally renowned sculptor Manuel Carbonell. Carbonell designed the signature solid bronze and marble award given annually to Carbonell Award winners. The Carbonell Awards hope to foster artistic growth within the realm of professional theater in South Florida. These awards celebrate the excellence and diversity of artists by providing scholarships and building an audience appreciation for the theater community. Over 20 professional theater companies participate every year, encompassing the counties of Broward, Miami-Dade, and Palm Beach. The Special Awards help to celebrate the accomplishments of local artistic leaders.

Carbonell Awards are among the country’s oldest regional arts awards, coinciding with New York’s Drama Desk and Chicago’s Joseph Jefferson Awards. Throughout the past four decades, the Carbonell family has donated more than $250,000 in awards to the theater community. 

Young Playwrights’ Collaboration with The World AIDs Museum

In 2023, Larsen became interested in organizing a youth playwriting program, when WAM reached out to him due to his playwriting skills. 

“We were meant to be together… it just happened like fate,” Larsen said in an interview. “When groups partner, it’s a big deal. We don’t encourage arts organizations to work together… This was a lesson to me to reach out to more organizations.”

For three weeks in September of 2023, Plays of Wilton, Incorporated collaborated with the World AIDS Museum in Fort Lauderdale, FL to work with eight students from Deerfield Beach and Dillard High School. Throughout this time period, the program – under the direction of Larsen – held an educational course on HIV/AIDS and aided the students in writing and editing their own short plays. 

The program Larsen and Plays of Wilton, Incorporated held consisted of several stages. The first stage included HIV/AIDS awareness presentations that helped the student become familiar with the subject matter. With this in mind, students had to create storyline ideas and dialogue for their play. Once ready, these students presented their ideas to the group for feedback. Larsen then assisted the students with editing sessions in order to finalize their plays. For works which were finished at this point, staging began. This meant that students were then divided into two groups to work on multiple plays. Larsen assisted the acting coach, Autumn Kioti, and began the process of directing the students. 

Workshop Rehearsal

Larsen not only edited, staged, and supervised rehearsal sessions, but he also put the plays into one program. Larsen played a hands-on role by assisting students with developing their ideas and writing their short plays. Through rehearsals, he coached students on their acting skills and helped prepare them for a final public performance. This public performance was held on September 20th, 2023. 

Larsen had the following to say about the program, “I was so impressed with the students’ work that as a follow up to this successful program, POW! Will be hosting the students at The Foundry in Wilton Manors for an encore performance in the near future. The special event will be free and it will give more exposure to the students and their plays with the theater-going community in South Florida. POW! Will consider reviewing each play, and possibly work with the students to expand their works to full-length plays to be performed at The Foundry in the future.”

When interviewed, Larsen was asked in what ways does he see this award as a testament to the dedication and hard work of his team, he stated, “I say this all the time, everything that we do in the theater, pow, is a testament of the community… even where we got the grants to do it… We wouldn’t even have a space to do it if the community didn’t provide it.” 

When asked, how will the student benefit from this program, he stated, “I know in theater, when you work on a play, it takes you into another world, you learn about history, you learn about time. The kids learned about HIV and sexual health… The great thing about theater is it opens up a world for you to learn about and you carry what you learned with you in life. You learn how to communicate, how to be on time, how to present a project, how to be loud, and heard… You learn how to be part of a group and how to work with other people.”

Written By: Arianna Aquino

Arianna is a senior on track to graduate this December from Florida Atlantic University with a Bachelor of Arts in English and a minor in Theater. In the past four years, she has assisted the Florida Atlantic University Theater and Dance department as a box office attendant and an usher. During the summer of 2023, she assisted the wardrobe department with the university’s production of “A Chorus Line” as a dresser. Arianna has a passion for horror and romance novels and intends to pursue a career as a short story writer. She has previously published a short story with the Florida Atlantic Literary Coastlines magazine, titled “The Number 4 Train.” She is excited to work with the team of South Florida Theater Magazine as writing is her passion.

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