by DICK KEREKES
Theatre went to the Cummer Museum as Lucinda McDermott’s one woman play about the life of acclaimed American abstract artist Georgia O’Keeffe was presented for one night. It was presented to go along with the exhibit of twelve paintings that the Cummer has on loan of the famous O’Keeffe.
O’Keefe was the first of what is hoped to be many collaborations between Players by the Sea and The Cummer. Players actually did this show several years ago, when local Director Barbara Evans found the script, fell in love with and engaged the multi-talented Cee Cee Hayes to do it. It was a big success and well received then and was equally successful at the Cummer with a sellout crowd, with some disappointed latecomers turned away. If you missed it, you missed a good one, ah but all is not lost as Players By The Sea will put on three more performances at their theatre in Jacksonville Beach on April 3, 4, 5.
The playwright, Lucinda McDermott began writing this play in the late 80s and after finishing it, toured it with her playing Georgia O’Keeffe. The opening has O’Keeffe talking directly to the audience, and explaining that she is dead and is doing this to answer questions she has about her life and the influence her lover, then husband Alfred Stieglitz had on her art. An important point she emphasized was his refusal to have children as he felt her art would suffer if she was a mother.
The play, in two acts, ran about 100 minutes, and since o’Keeffe lived to age 98, it was impossible to cover all her life in detail, and the play ends just after the death of her husband in l946, and her moving to New Mexico permanently. We got a good feel about what inspired her and what art and the creative process meant to her. At the intermission I walked down to the room her work was displayed in and many of the things she talked about became clearer in my mind.
Cee Cee Hayes’ performance was absolutely masterful. She is a beauty and Hayes portrayed O’Keeffe when she too was a beautiful and the object of many photographs by her photographer husband. Ms.Evans’ direction kept the performance animated, as O’Keeffe moved around the country to teach art, Cee Cee moved around the stage and even came into the audience to take us along. The script has well placed humor that comes at surprising moments. Bits of music come in to further enhance the painter’s imagery.
Georgia O’Keeffe’s conception of art could probably be summed up in one sentence, she learned early in her artistic training, and she repeated several times; “Fill a space in a beautiful way.”
The next event that will blend the visual arts with the spoken arts will occur during the May 12 to Aug 2nd exhibit of beautiful quilts from Gee’s Bend Alabama. On June 16th, Lee Hamby from Players by the Sea will direct Gee’s Bend, a history of African-Americans in the 20th century that focuses on a single family in that community. It will feature gospel songs woven in and out of the story. That is sure sellout as well, so get your tickets early.
Bringing artists to life on stage so that we can learn about their lives and inspiration greatly enhances our appreciation of the art itself. Aspiring playwrights, here is your chance to expand your horizons by studying the life of an upcoming exhibit of a particular artist and creating a one person show of your own. Players by the Sea are always looking for new work to present and I am certain they would give your efforts consideration. Thanks Cummer, Players and Cee Cee for a wonderful evening of theatre and art.
by DICK KEREKES