Up Close and Personal

Creating art is not easy, and showing the process to an audience, infinitely harder but rewarding. This is the premise of Murphy Davis and Wendy Hammond’s theater experience now at The Studios of Key West. The idea is to take a new, fresh play “Coming Up For Air” – written by Cassandra Medley, award winning author of “American Slavery Project, ” “Cell” and “Noon Day Sun” – and mix New York and Key West actors onstage while showing the audience the beginning, not just end, result. Watch the cast work through rehearsals while collaborating with the director Victor Lirio and playwright Medley, evolving the play to its final reading.

Tony award winning Tonya Pinkins will be joining the cast, known for ‘‘Jelly’s Last Jam” and ‘‘Caroline, or Change” and her role as Livia Frye on “All My Children.” Friends with director Lirio, Pinkins said, “I am really looking forward to coming to Key West (her first time). I think it is such an important play.”

“Coming Up for Air” focuses on climate change and its effects on a family. When asked about reading in front of an audience, Pinkins, a seasoned Broadway actress, is used to the pressure: “Actors do this to be seen, it keeps our adrenaline going and ups our game.”

She will be joined onstage by New York actors Ivan Moore and Hope Harley as well as local favorites Joy Hawkins and Mook J.

This is the ultimate theater experience – watching playwright, director and actors read through a play from its very beginning. “It’s all about the process,” said organizer Murphy Davis. “Audiences can see the first stumble through and watch the play get on its feet for the first time.” Wine and cheese will be served afterward, offering a chance for discussion about the development of the work.

“The amazing thing about theater, there’s always trepidation, but also so much support and collaboration,” said Davis. Excited to have Pinkins perform in Key West, Davis also noted, “I saw her on Broadway and she took my breath away.”

Whether interested in the actors, the play or the theater in general, this is rare front-row access to the whole process.

The next open rehearsal will take place Tuesday, May 23 and final play reading on Saturday May 27 at 8 p.m. Tickets are available at tskw.org, or 305-296-0458.


The Studios of Key West

533 Eaton Street

All-access passes available

Sometimes the best work is in smaller theaters because there’s less pressure.” -Tonya Pinkins, actress

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