Arts and Entertainment Guide
Millennial Theater Company Gears Up For Third Season In Broward County
If you’ve been to SwitchBox coffee shop in Oakland Park, you know it would be hard to stuff 80 people inside. But on a Thursday evening, 80 people—give or take—occupy every chair, stool and ledge of a table in the café. Their attention is directed at Tim Davis, the producing artistic director of New City Players, a millennial-run theater company based in Broward.
“The reason we do this event is to learn to listen to each other,” he says to the audience with a mic in his hand and black-rimmed glasses on his nose. “There’s a lot of noise in our culture right now.”
The event he’s talking about is City Speaks, a program the company Davis founded three years ago puts on for free that allows five registered speakers to get up in front of an audience and talk about whatever it is they want to talk about for five to 10 minutes. The noise in our culture he’s referring to is caused by electronics, which guests are encouraged to tuck into pockets or leave inside of cars for the next two hours.
“[City Speaks] came from my own frustrations of getting into Facebook fights,” Davis says. “I want to talk to humans, not fight online. I don’t want to participate in that culture. I want to create a culture that starts with listening, and starts with empathy, and starts with, ‘Let me hear you, and if we still disagree that’s OK, but let’s do it respectfully.’”
Throughout the night, presenters from ages 18 to 78 tell stories about a family member nearing his release from prison, to a try-out for American Idol gone wrong, to an attempt to run away from home. Audience members listen—without distractions—and Davis’s ideal culture begins to come to life.
On the topic of life, Davis has spent much of his in South Florida. The 27-year-old once had dreams of moving to Los Angeles or New York to pursue acting—until he and his wife were expecting their first child. In order to be close to family, the couple put down roots in Pompano.
So, Davis auditioned for his church’s production of Godspell. It isn’t his favorite musical, but the show put him in the perfect position for what would happen next.
“After that, the CityChurch pastors were like, ‘Who wants to [direct a show]?’” he remembers. Davis sent a proposal to direct “Rabbit Hole,” a Pulitzer Prize-winning drama, which is much different from Godspell. To his surprise, he was given the go-ahead.
“The thing I enjoyed most about working on ‘Rabbit Hole’ was the rehearsal process,” says Johnny Contini, one of the original cast members who is now the development manager for New City Players. “Tim, in many ways, taught me how to fully enjoy the work it takes to put on a production. Too many times I think directors are concerned with the final product of a show that they miss out on the beauty of the rehearsal period.”
Davis’s directing style paid off, leading to the inception of New City Players, a non-profit theater company producing classic and contemporary plays. On to its third season, the company will host auditions for this year’s three performances on Feb. 12 and 13, and the next City Speaks event will take place on Feb. 22 at SwitchBox.
“When we have infinite content at our fingertips every second—even in my own home it’s like Netflix, Hulu, HBO, Amazon Prime—I could be endlessly entertained for $10 a month,” Davis acknowledges. “Going to see a play, our tickets are $35. Why would someone do that? I think it’s one of the last places, besides the shower maybe, where you put your phone away—there are no screens. You’re really asking people to empathize, and there’s nothing like seeing another human being, standing in front of you, perform something.”