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Winter series begins with play about Georgia O’Keeffe

  • A Dole pineapple ad with Georgia O’Keefe’s painting. Courtesy

  • Mary Armstrong and Rose Kosciuszek star in the original musical "Georgia O'Keefe Paints Paradise." —Alchemists' Workshop

  • Mary Armstrong and Rose Kosciuszek star in the original musical "Georgia O'Keefe Paints Paradise." —Alchemists' Workshop

  • Mary Armstrong (right) and Rose Kosciuszek rehearse a scene from the original musical “Georgia O’Keefe Paints Paradise.” Courtesy of the Alchemists’ Workshop

  • Mary Armstrong (left) and Rose Kosciuszek as Patricia star in the original musical “Georgia O’Keefe Paints Paradise.” Courtesy of Alchemists’ Workshop

  • Mary Armstrong (left) stands behind music director and composer William Ogmundson during a rehearsal of “Georgia O’Keefe Paints Paradise.” Courtesy of Alchemists’ Workshop

  • Mary Armstrong and Rose Kosciuszek star in the original musical "Georgia O'Keefe Paints Paradise." —Alchemists' Workshop

  • A video still from the production of "Georgia O'Keefe Paints Paradise." Sarah Kinney—Courtesy

  • A video still from the production of "Georgia O'Keefe Paints Paradise." Sarah Kinney—Courtesy



Monitor staff
Thursday, February 02, 2017

The Alchemists’ Workshop will help the Center for the Arts in New London kick off its Winter Performing Arts Series.

On Saturday at 7 p.m., the theater company will bring its traveling show, Georgia O’Keeffe Paints Paradise, to Whipple Hall.

The original musical, written by Tom Dunn of Henniker and composed by New London’s own Will Ogmundson, tells the story of O’Keeffe’s trip to Hawaii at the request of the Dole Pineapple Company.

At that time, World War II is on the horizon and planes cross the skies overhead.

Dole was hoping O’Keeffe could do for the pineapple what she had done with flowers. However, she had little success with pineapples and struggled to get along with her hosts on the island.

She then met Patricia Jennings, the 12-year-old daughter of a Dole plantation manager. The two developed a bond and wrote many letters to each other until O’Keeffe’s death.

Jennings would later publish a collection of O’Keeffe’s letters.

The chamber musical has just two actresses. Veteran performer Mary Armstrong of Harrisville plays O’Keeffe. Rose Kosciuszek of Weare, a sixth-grade student, plays Patricia.

This is the seventh collaboration between Dunn and Ogmundson.

Dunn was inspired to create the show after reading a review of Jennings’s book.

“I had commissioned and produced a one-woman play about Georgia 20 years ago in D.C. that starred Kathleen Chalfant,” Dunn said. “When I began working with Will Ogmundson, I had an idea that she might make an interesting character in the kind of witty-combined-with-emotional musical that he is a genius at writing. The book, and the idea of the young guide, and their letters back and forth was the trigger for our two-person chamber musical.”

Ogmundson was nominated for best musical director of a professional show at the New Hampshire Theatre Awards last month.

In 2016, Armstrong won the N.H. Theatre Awards’ prize for best actress in her role as Grandmother in another Alchemists’ Workshop production, Lessons.

The show has been crisscrossing New Hampshire since it opened over the fall, playing in more than 10 communities.

“Every one of the 20 some performances we’ve done has been an absolute pleasure to do,” Dunn said. “Each audience and each performance space is different which challenges us to keep the production fresh so every time we perform it, it is like opening night again.”

Georgia O’Keeffe Paints Paradise has been invited to perform at the Midtown International Theatre Festival in New York City in July.

Tickets for the show in New London will will be $12 for adults and $6 for students in advance and $14 and $7 at the door. They can be purchased online at centerfortheartsnh.org or at the Morgan Hill Bookstore or Tatewell Gallery in New London.

The Winter Performing Arts Series will continue with the North Country Chordsmen on Feb. 25, Petreflections Live on March 4, and a show by the Kearsarge Conservatory for the Performing Arts on March 18. For more information or tickets, visit centerfortheartsnh.org.