The Olana Partnership, in collaboration with The Ancram Opera House, will present Performing Olana, an original play throughout the Olana landscape, on Friday, September 22 through Sunday, September 24. Performing Olana has been written by nationally recognized playwright and TV writer, Darrah Cloud and co-directed by the innovative Ancram Opera House creatives Jeffrey Mousseau and Paul Ricciardi along with The Olana Partnership’s Director of Education Amy Hufnagel. The three theater artists have been working for months to design an immersive, promenade style theater production to be delivered in the landscape at Olana while the audience follows the story through the historic site. The play explores the big notion of “living an artful life” but then gets deeper into the Church family history as lessor characters come to life under the playwright’s imagination. The play is 45 minutes in length and requires walking a bit over half a mile.
It is a play that takes the interpretation of Olana to another level- both in terms of costumed “interpretation” but also in the untold and imagined stories between the lines of letters and journals in the Church archive. The piece draws inspiration from Frederic Church’s painting, letters, family life and the celebrated landscape and is presented as an immersive experience in which performer and audience journey together into Church’s art. This production falls between the categories of creative non-fiction and historic fiction.
The piece mines Church’s artistic legacy in painting and the great achievement that dominated the second half of his life—the home and landscape he meticulously designed and called Olana. The creators are seeking a real connection with Church in the very spaces and places he lived and worked. Biography and historical record converge with contemporary theatrical imagination and sensibilities. The performance asks how we can live artfully today in rapidly changing and polarized times.
Performing Olana brings the 19th century alive in a way that only theater can; audiences will move from place to place in the landscape as the narrative unfolds. Actors deliver scenes in historically accurate venues and subjects including Church’s homes, the orchard, meadows, the barns, carriage roads, the lake and the forest. Inhabiting this real and imagined world is the artist himself, Frederic Church, along with his wife Isabel, their children and the ghost of his mentor, Thomas Cole. Contemporary characters of the creators’ invention invade the scene by traveling back in time.
This public program will occur rain or shine (although will be delayed if there is extreme weather-check the website for day of performance updates). We encourage audiences to purchase their tickets in advance at www.olana.org/calendar. The play will take place on Friday, September 22 at 6p; Saturday, September 23 & Sunday, September 24 at 2p, 4p and 6p. This performance will start at the Wagon House Education Center. Participants should wear comfortable walking shoes and should be prepared to walk about three quarters of a mile. Admission: Member: $10, Non-Member: $15, Family (up to 5): $40.
About the PLAYWRIGHT: Darrah Cloud is currently working on the musical adaptation of Willy Holtzman’s play, Sabina, with composer Louise Beach, to be produced at The Cell in NYC in Winter 2018, and American Siddhartha with director Nick Demos and composer David Newman (Durga Das). Recent productions include: Our Suburb, premiere Theater J, Washington, DC, 2014, Joan the Girl of Arc, premiere Cincinnati Playhouse, 2014, What’s Bugging Greg?, The Stick Wife, The Mud Angel, Dream House, Braille Garden, and The Sirens. Musical productions include Heartland, The Boxcar Children, Honor Song for Crazy Horse, and the stage adaptation of Willa Cather’s O Pioneers!, filmed starring Mary McDonnell for American Playhouse. She has won numerous awards, including the Macy’s Prize for Theatre for Young Audiences, an NEA, and a Rockefeller. Disney was also drawn to Cloud, commissioning her to create a dramatization of their classic Snow White, which played at Disneyland. She has had over 10 movies-of-the-week produced on CBS and NBC, is a proud alum of the Iowa Writers Workshop and New Dramatists, and conducts A Howl of Playwrights, a new play development group in Rhinebeck, NY.
ABOUT THE DIRECTORS: Jeff Mousseau is Co-Director of The Ancram Opera House and an award-winning theater director. In NYC, his work has been seen at HERE Arts Center, Tribeca Performing Arts Center, Baruch Performing Arts Center, Theatre for the Open Eye, Theater at 224 Waverly, West Bank Café and, locally, at Stageworks, Hudson Opera House, Proctors Theater and Olana. Regional credits include numerous productions as Artistic Director of The Coyote Theater in Boston (recipient of numerous Elliot Norton and IRNE awards). Other credits include American Southwest Theatre, Provincetown Rep, Florida Studio Theatre and Tampa Players. Guest artist and lecturer: Brandeis University, Emerson College, The University at Albany, and Siena College. Residency: John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
Paul Ricciardi is Co-Director of The Ancram Opera House and an award-winning actor, director and voice/speech/dialect coach. He received his MFA in Acting from Trinity Repertory Company, studied with Kristin Linklater and received his Linklater Teacher Designation in 2012. He teaches voice and acting at the City University of New York/Kingsborough CC. Recent work as an actor includes Playhouse Creatures’ New Play Festival, Hamlet with Saratoga Shakespeare Festival, Lovesong at Chester Theatre Company, and many others. Paul has designed dialects for countless college theatre productions and professional theaters including StageWorks, WAM, America-in-Play, and others. Ricciardi is Immediate Past Co-Chair for Region I of the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival, and is a recipient of the Kennedy Center National Teaching Artist Award. Memberships: AEA, VASTA.
About Olana and The Olana Partnership: Olana is the greatest masterpiece of Frederic Edwin Church (1826-1900), the preeminent American artist of the mid-19thC and the most important artist’s home, studio and designed landscape in the United States. Church designed Olana as a holistic environment integrating his advanced ideas about art, architecture, landscape design, and environmental conservation. To learn more about Olana and The Olana Partnership, please visit www.olana.org To learn more about the Ancram Opera House, please visit www.ancramoperahouse.org