Pilot Amelia Earhart’s story transformed by Mara Neimanis

Mara Neimanis takes theater into the sky with her “Air Heart” performance on Thursday, April 23 through Saturday, April 25 at 8 p.m. at The Studios of Key West. (It’s also the first performance slated for the brand new studio space at 533 Eaton St., Key West.) The performance chronicles the life of Amelia Earhart, the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean and who disappeared while attempting to circumnavigate the world.

The 60-minute solo aerial performance takes place on a 12-foot portable plane sculpture that serves as a set, prop, aerial apparatus, and character, creating space that incorporates both ground and air.

Neimanis started as an actor who became an aerial artist. “I was interested in scale, since I have a background in physical and mask theater. I was interested in size and three dimensional shapes, and later by what happens when you leave the ground a little,” she said, in between aerial classes at The Studios of Key West on Tuesday. “I was getting bored with traditional theater and combining the two brought me out of my boredom.”

Writing her own work, she pioneered a new form of aerial theater with a narrative. “Aerial theater is filled with spectacle, but it was lacking sense of who the character is since there usually isn’t a lot of dialogue,” she said. “It is interesting to go further into the aerial theater realm of the work.”

The one-woman show, which she also wrote, is currently on tour under the direction of Bryce Butler. The spinning metal plane sculpture was created by Laura Shults and Tim Scofield. “Air Heart” tickets are $25 for non-members and sold in advance.

“Throughout the play, I adhered to factual dates, events, and certain quotes of Amelia Earhart — but as a woman who flies on the stage, I have created her voice with a sense of what it means to dream of flight and become intimately driven by it,” Neimanis said on her website.

This is Neimanis’ second time to the Keys as an Artist in Residence and she also been teaching aerial workshops for all ages the past month three days a week. “The residency is a wonderful time to deepen the work, and to be in a community that is really supportive and special,” she said. “It’s nice to be able to give these really intensive classes and a real opportunity to actually reach out to the wider public.”

The last time she was in Key West, she performed “Naomi’s Flight,” another theater piece she wrote which includes aerial elements. She is based out of Baltimore and Washington, D.C. and has been traveling the past two years with the show.

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