In Free Jambalaya’s ‘Sadie’s Last Painting,’ a Lesbian couple faces the apocalypse
You wouldn’t necessarily guess this about Richmond, but it is a mecca for theatre. There are literally dozens of active producing theatre companies in this town. Professional, semi-professional, community and experimental. For a theatre critic who gets invited to everything, it can be overwhelming if you’re not judicious about what you see.
One theatre company that attracted my attention several years ago and flying under the general public radar is the eclectic production company Free Jambalaya, which is dedicated to the creation of new works for the Richmond audience. Like the Creole dish it is named for, the company strives to combine various modes of artistic expression into a performance recipe that is tasty and nourishing for the artistic soul.
In the spirit of full disclosure, I co-starred in Free Jambalaya’s last production, POE ALIVE: The Cask of Amontillado, which was performed last Halloween outdoors at the Poe Museum in downtown RVA.
Free Jambalaya promotes an environment of artists who care most about the creation of Art. They blend theatre, music and dance in the creation of their pieces. Their work is “eclectic” and emotionally satisfying. Their producers Cheryl Fare and Matt Treacy are consummate professionals who have a clear vision of what it means to bring a complete artistic experience to the theatre.
This summer, Free Jambalaya will present a new play, Sadie’s Last Painting, which will star McLean Jesse. Ms. Jesse is a critically acclaimed stage and film actress, as well as a visual artist. She was recently named one of the 2016 Women in the Arts of Richmond by Style Weekly, and was awarded the Richmond Theatre Critics Circle (RTCC) Award for Best Actress in a Lead Role in 2015.
McLean is currently the Associate Artistic Director of TheatreLAB, and will be earning her Master’s degree at the Academy of Classical Acting in Washington, DC this Fall. Sadie’s Last Painting will be her last full length performance run in Richmond before embarking on graduate studies.
McLean said the play had been in her head for over a decade.
“Cheryl and I discussed doing a project… and [Treacy] and I have worked together before… The three of us discussed what the project might look like and when we had an outline Jambalaya brought on Virginia playwright Alex Mayberry to turn the conception into a working script,” she said and before long the four of them were making the fantasy a reality in a bigger way than any one of them could have imagined.
“I can’t wait to share this story with Richmond. It is haunting. They won’t know what hit ‘em.”
Sadie’s Last Painting is set among the ruins of modern-day society, a woman desperately survives, passing the hours with easel and canvas, holed-up in an art studio riddled with an assortment of essentials and discarded items from the road. In the darkness she stands silent, a blade at her side.
Sadie and her wife, Lynn have become separated because of the circumstances in the ruined World. Sadie’s studio is their agreed upon meeting place, but Sadie has been alone for more than 3 months, so she is close to giving up ever seeing Lynn again or returning to a semblance of a normal life.
The story is set in an art studio for a purpose. In addition to her other talents, Ms. Jesse is gifted with a paintbrush and a palette. During each evening’s performance, she will create an original work of art.
How the drama is resolved is the mystery. I am told big surprises are in store as this apocalyptic story does not turn out the way you might think. It sounds like a fascinating evening is in store.
Sadie’s Last Painting will be performed at the RVA Event Space, 0 E. 4th St, Richmond, Virginia 23220, which is the large performance space in the Plant Zero complex and will run June 23-25, 8pm; June 30-July 2, 8pm; July 7-9, 8pm.
Reduced prices for the June 23rd preview, otherwise $25 for adults and $15 for students. Sadie’s Last Painting contains strong adult language.
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