“O’Keeffe” takes the Crowley Theater stage Saturday
By JENNIE LYN HAMILTON
What made you want to come perform this show in Marfa? Why Marfa? West Texas?
I was involved with Ballroom Marfa’s “The Reading” a year ago and I was blown away by the creative energy I found in Marfa. I fell in love with the place, and it was the first place I thought of when I thought of out-of-town touring that I’d love to do O’KEEFFE!.
Why a one-woman show about Georgia O’Keeffe?
Things had slowed down for me in Dallas for a brief time, and I started thinking of doing a one-woman show and immediately thought of O’Keeffe. I had for years admired the woman and her work. She was an independent, strong woman at a time in America when that was extraordinarily difficult. Her decisions and choices weren’t easy ones. And her style changed and evolved through the years. She refused to be placed in a niche.
Do you feel a connection with Georgia O’Keeffe, and why?
All of us in the arts struggle to find our own artistic voice. And many times we have to buck tradition and choices are not always easy. This was a woman who was able to accomplish that, but not without struggle. I identified with that and it’s an inspiration for me.
How did you prepare for this role?
I started reading lots and lots of material about O’Keeffe, not only what others had written about her but her own words. My director, Ouida White and I took a five day trip to Abique and Ghost Ranch in New Mexico. We were able to see where she lived and worked and to walk in her footsteps in many of the places she loved to paint.
Are there things you use to get into character for the show?
Yes, there are little things. While we were in New Mexico we were able to talk to a woman, Carol S. Merrill, who had worked for O’Keeffe for several years and had written books (“Weekends with O’Keeffe”) about her. She gave us two particular gestures of O’Keeffe’s, and when I use those gestures in the play it helps bring me closer to her.
What qualities of Ms. O’Keeffe were you drawn to and identified with?
Her strength, her inability to be satisfied with easy answers, her passion for her work. And she still was able to include a great love in her life for the man she spent a great portion of her life with, Alfred Steiglitz.
What type of audience do you think the show appeals to?
A broad audience, it really has universal appeal. We all go through tough choices in our lives, the show reenacts a lot of those moments in her life when she was struggling to make those tough choices. We all have to find balance among the different parts of our lives, the play speaks to that. Even to the people who don’t know O’Keeffe’s work, they’ll be fascinated by the woman.
Is there a take-home message of the play?
Yes, a line she says at the very end of the play. She says “speaking of relationships, take care of that thing you have together, but keep a little something for yourself as well.”
Tell me about the sets and music.
We use a very bare, austere set because that was the way O’Keeffe lived. She didn’t like to be surrounded by a lot of frills. Ouida White designed the sets, and they were built by Dennis West, the colors are the colors of New Mexico. The easel, which is really the heart of the play, is modeled from her own easel. We were lucky to come across a picture of her studio, which included the easel. And the music, O’Keeffe loved music. We incorporated some of her favorite pieces, but the music is also used in a very minimal fashion during the play.
How did your first show in Dallas go over?
Better than I ever could have dreamed of. We got a very enthusiastic audience response. It was really heart warming and overwhelming. I had two or three people who grew up in West Texas saying that when O’Keeffe describes her first time in Canyon, Texas, it really created the feeling of the West Texas plains. I’m really impressed with Lucinda McDermott, this playwright. We were very lucky to come across this play that was so beautifully written.
Are you enjoying doing this show?
Very much. It’s been a very long process. We started this a year ago and it’s wonderful to finally get it in front of audiences. It’s a huge commitment but well worth it. And of course, the whole rehearsal process, which was one of discovery, was so exciting. Getting to know O’Keeffe more and more deeply, and finding ways to express that to audience. I always see rehearsal as a process of exploration and discovery.
How long have you been acting? Why did you become an actress? Did you feel a calling?
Acting has for years been my real passion. I did a little acting and training in my younger years, and I started acting professionally in 1988 after I retired from a job I had held for thirty years. The more theater I do, the more I realize that theater is really my true love.
Anything else you’d like to tell me about the show?
I want to give so much credit to our director Ouida White, she attacked this whole process with so much passion and skill. It would have never come into being without her and the whole-hearted support and participation of Dennis West.
Tickets are $10 at www.brownpapertickets.com. Information: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Story filed under: Arts