Spotlight on Our Lady of the CloudsBy David Siegel • Jun 13th, 2014 • Category: Interviews
Summer can be a time to get away from the usual grind of work and living in the hot-house that the DC area can be. What better time to be part of a celebration of the arts in its many forms then atop the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia? And for theater buffs, this summer’s Wintergreen Performing Arts presentation of the Wintergreen Summer Music Festival and Academy will include live theater performances.
Larry Alan Smith, festival artistic and executive director indicated that this year’s Wintergreen Summer Music Festival and Academy has the theme “Amazona, The Rhythms and Colors of South America.” Each of the many and varied arts activities and performances will be built around the theme.
One of the highlights of the growing summer Festival will be the theater production of Our Lady of the Clouds, written by South American playwright Aristides Vargas and directed by DC area director Stevie Zimmerman. Zimmerman, from Falls Church, Virginia, has past directorial credits including By Jeeves and The Pitman Painters at Tysons’ 1st Stage. She has also directed at the Capitol Fringe, the Theatre of the First Amendment, McLean Drama Company, and Woolly Mammoth Theater. Last summer Zimmerman directed Art at the 2013 Wintergreen Summer Music Festival and Academy.
Our Lady of the Clouds was written by Arístides Vargas, an award-winning Latin American actor, director and writer. Originally from Argentina, he currently lives in Ecuador. “Most of his plays are about memory, exile, and being uprooted” said Zimmerman. His world can be one of magical realism.
How does the show begin? Two travelers, Bruna and Oscar, meet unexpectedly in a nondescript little place and come to learn of their shared past; a past with many layers they never knew existed. Their shared past includes memories of events in their lives in a Latin American town called ‘Nuestra Señora de las Nubes’ (Our Lady of the Clouds).
According to Zimmerman, the production will include a series of vivid short scenes and arresting vignettes in which we learn about the two characters: their lives and the place they came from, the town called Our Lady of the Clouds. It is a “crisp, interesting translation” of a play originally written in Spanish, Zimmerman noted. It is about “what it means to be an exile, to be searching for meaning in a crazy world.” Perhaps an audience might recall “The Twilight Zone” with episodes of Rod Serling magic.
“Many of the scenes stand in for the various ways” people try to create a pure new world and find that new world “gradually corrupted to the point where people who speak truth about it must be exiled.” added Zimmerman. “I hope we can bring some interesting and provocative characters to life in intriguing and unusual ways.”
Both Smith and Zimmerman noted that the show will be in an uncommonly delightful setting; a “Big Red Barn” not far from the main Wintergreen Resort. “It’s a wonderful space that is like a blank canvas.” said Zimmerman. “It’s not a traditional performance space so you can sort of allow it to be anywhere and everywhere. It’s also very intimate – not too many people in the audience – and the actors are right there in front of you, no barriers, no curtains!”
Two local professional DC actors are featured in the production. They are Liz Dutton as Bruna and Edward Nagel as Oscar. In a recent email conversation, Dutton indicated that one of the reasons for wanting to be in the cast was “the challenge, definitely!”
“It’s a two person play, so you have to be present with your scene partner at every moment of the piece – I was very excited about the opportunity to delve into such an intellectual and thought-provoking piece that allows the actors to set up the world that they are living in and convey that story to the audience.”
As for the characters? “We play a wide variety of characters in the piece – the main story line centers around two wandering souls who happen upon each other and realize they are from the same fictional town.” said Dutton. “They then relive how the town was founded and how different characters in the town react to certain events – it provides a narrative on how people view their surroundings and circumstances, both political and personal, and how it shapes their lives. We play grandmothers, brothers and sisters, husbands and wives, fathers and daughters – lots of different characters!”
The full Festival begins July 7 and runs until August 3, 2014. “it is such a gorgeous place and setting to experience artistry.” said Smith. “All on the crest of the Blue Ridge.”
Where and When: Our Lady of the Clouds performed as Visual Arts and Theatre portion of the Wintergreen Performing Arts Festival at Big Red Barn at Rodes Farm, 826 Rodes Farm Drive, Nellysford, VA. Five evening performances: July 19, 20, 24, 26 and 27, 2014. Tickets $10-$20. For tickets call the Box office: (434) 325-8292. Note: A wine reception will follow first performance on Saturday evening, July 19. A talkback follows the performance of Sunday evening, July 20.
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David Siegel is a freelance theater reviewer and features writer whose work appears on ShowBizRadio, in the Connection Newspapers and the Fairfax Times. He is a judge in the Helen Hayes Awards program. He is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association and volunteers with the Arts Council of Fairfax County. David has been associated with theater in the Washington, DC area for nearly 30 years. He served as Board President, Alexandria's American Showcase Theater Company (now Metro Stage) and later with Arlington's American Century Theater as both a member of the Executive Board and as Marketing Director. You can follow David's musings on Twitter @pettynibbler.