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The fine art of fine actors

posted by Chad Jones on Fri, May 28, 2010
in At the theatre , Backstage buzz

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DiDi painting

It should come as no surprise to anyone that actors are multi-talented beings. Not only can they walk and talk at the same time (some can even dance and sing simultaneously!), but many of them also act and engage in other artistic pursuits.

For a case in point, we need look no further than the cast of In the Wake, now in the Roda Theatre. Did you know that Heidi Schreck, who plays Ellen, is also a successful playwright? The Obie-winning actor had a successful off-Broadway debut last year with a play called Creature.

Here's a snippet about Heidi and the play from Time Out New York:

Creature’s subject is the extraordinary Margery Kempe (1373–1438), an Englishwoman whose bourgeois existence as the wife of a beer brewer was marked by a series of intense mystical revelations. Kempe bore 14 children and made several pilgrimages to the Holy Land, eventually dictating her ecstatic visions to two clerks. Her Book of Margery Kempe is considered by some to be the first autobiography in English.

“I totally fell in love with her,” Schreck says about her first contact with Kempe’s book in college. “She’s a very unreliable narrator, so the book is hilarious. You’re watching her talk about how she’s so pious and God’s chosen, but you can tell she’s so far from the mark; she’s really flawed and vain and prideful—just really human.”

Heidi's Wake Obie-winning co-star, Deirdre O'Connell, who plays Judy, is another hyphenate. She's an actor-painter. Deirdre creates small paintings — about 10 inches by 10 inches — inspired by the work of Anton Chekhov. Didi, as she is known, has appeared in many Chekhov plays during her 25-year

stage and film career. "Chekhov's work is rich and complicated and he tells such vivid stories," Didi says. "Each time I come back to a Chekhov role, the part changes profoundly for me. This is because I have changed, but also because he wrote so many great, complex women."

The paintings are shown in New York at  Susan Eley Fine Art . Here's more on the paintings from the gallery's website:

Characters from Three Sisters, Uncle Vanya, and Cherry Orchard come wondrously alive in O'Connell's mixed media creations, formed with paint, glitter, bits of text and memorabilia. Rich with textile patterns, collaged, or painted, the artist builds layer upon layer and finishes each work with a glaze. O'Connell moves her characters from stage to the canvas, giving them an eternal role in a perpetual performance.

O'Connell begins each piece sparked by a particular scene or line of dialogue. From this spark, she imagines an extension of the scene, exploring an event or relationship that particularly affected her. O'Connell's figures are consummate actors in their own right, remaining always in character. Her work is truly the marriage of acting and visual arts.

Above artwork by Deirdre O'Connell: "Vanya and the Mermaid," acrylic, collage, mixed media on board, 11 x 11 inches, 2007. (Image courtesy of Susan Eley Fine Art and Deirdre O'Connell)

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