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Arts

Carlisle dancer performs show about Georgia O’Keeffe

Scenes from Sarah Ford’s one-woman show on painter Georgia O’Keeffe, which plays next Monday at Concord’s Emerson Umbrella Center for the Arts.
Photos by John Terrey
Scenes from Sarah Ford’s one-woman show on painter Georgia O’Keeffe, which plays next Monday at Concord’s Emerson Umbrella Center for the Arts.

Trained as a young dancer, first in her home state of Texas, where she began classes at the age of 3, and later as a student at the Juilliard School in Manhattan, Sarah Ford didn’t necessarily spend a lot of time thinking about painters.

But that changed when, as a young mother and dance teacher living in Westchester County, New York, in the early 1980s, she visited a show of paintings by Georgia O’Keeffe at the Whitney Museum of American Art.

“At that exhibit, I found out that Georgia O’Keeffe had done some of her very early work just a short distance from where I had grown up, in the Texas panhandle,” the Carlisle resident recalled recently. “This was fascinating to me because I had left Texas when I was 18 years old to become a dancer in New York and really didn’t want any part of anything to do with Texas, but what she seemed to see in it, and her creative process in relation to her background, made me think about my home state anew.”

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Soon, Ford was on a mission to research the life of the famed painter, and what she learned — along with the profound way it affected her own spirit and sense of herself as an artist — eventually manifested in a one-woman show written and performed by Ford called “Georgia & Me.” Ford will stage the show Monday at 6:30 p.m. at Concord’s Emerson Umbrella Center for the Arts as a benefit for Ballet Rox, a nonprofit organization that brings dance instruction and mentorship to urban youth in Boston.

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Writing the show was a process that took nearly 30 years to evolve into a finished piece, Ford said.

“After seeing that exhibit at the Whitney, I started researching O’Keeffe on and off for five or six years. Then I just put it all in a box, because I didn’t really know what to do with my research. Over the years, my life started to change,’’ she said. “I was divorced and living in Westchester County; then I went to my high school reunion in Austin, Texas, and reconnected with an old classmate, John Terrey. He and I were married two years later, and I moved into his home in Carlisle.”

Around the same time, a friend who was working for a publishing company sent her a new book on the relationship between Georgia O’Keeffe and her husband, photographer Alfred Stieglitz. “She remembered the research that I had done,” Ford said. “I thought I was done pursuing the topic, but the book reawakened my interest.”

Still, it wasn’t clear to Ford how a dancer and choreographer who was essentially retired from performing could turn an interest in O’Keeffe into an art work — until a trip to the Central Square Theater in Cambridge, where she saw a one-person show called “Truth Values,” by Gioia De Cari. “I discovered the playwright had worked with a New York-based teacher named Matt Hoverman, who offers workshops in how to write one-person shows. So I decided to go to New York to study with him.”

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Hoverman mentored Ford as she wrote the script; Ford then found director Zoya Katchadurian to help with staging it. She performed it in 2011 at New York’s Midtown International Theatre Festival and won an award for best solo show. “That was shocking and wonderful, and I began to think maybe I had something here, so I did another year or so of rewriting.”

In essence, the story is an autobiographical fantasy in which a complacent artist is visited by a vision of O’Keeffe who challenges her to reconnect with her creative ambitions. Ford takes on myriad parts, from herself to O’Keeffe to her own mother to a dance teacher to a judge on the audition panel at Juilliard. In the course of her research, Ford traveled through New Mexico and studied in the O’Keeffe archives, all experiences reflected within the monologue.

Monday’s show at Emerson Umbrella, 40 Stow St. in Concord, will be followed by a wine and cheese reception with Ford. Tickets to the benefit performance are $35. To purchase tickets or for other information, call 617-858-0769 or go to www.balletrox.info/georgia.

CD RELEASE: Supporting the release of the band’s second CD, “Sugar Shack,” the Boxcar Lilies will perform at the Amazing Things Arts Center in Framingham on Saturday at 8 p.m.

The Western Massachusetts-based band plays a signature mix of folk, country, and bluegrass-tinged Americana songs, with their instruments including guitar, claw-hammer banjo, electric bass, and washboard.

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Contemporary folk duo Beggar’s Ride, from Baltimore, will open the show at Amazing Things, 160 Hollis St. in downtown Framingham. Tickets are $15 in advance, and $18 at the door; call 508-405-2787 or go online to www.amazingthings.org.

SENTIMENTAL JOURNEY: Reagle Music Theatre of Greater Boston pays tribute to an America of another era with the revival of their popular original musical revue, “Remembering the ’40s,” on Saturday at 2 and 7 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m.

Veterans of all wars are honored guests with free admission, and are welcome to attend the show at 617 Lexington St. in Waltham in military uniform.

The show takes the audience down memory lane with a tribute to big bands, blackouts, Doughboys, Rosie the Riveter, and radio shows through the music of Glen Miller, the Andrews Sisters, Bob Hope, Rodgers and Hammerstein, and Kate Smith, and the comedy of Burns and Allen and Abbott and Costello.

Tickets are $35 to $50 for adults, $32 to $47 for seniors, $25 for youths ages 5 to 18, with all war veterans admitted free of charge by reservation. Student rush seats at 50 percent off are available one hour before curtain with a valid college ID. To purchase tickets or for more information, go to www.reaglemusictheatre.org, or call 781-891-5600.

IN LOCAL GALLERIES: Gallery Seven in Maynard opens “Recycled/Upcycled: An Art Show,” featuring works by four area artists who explore the use of a wide array of materials elevated to pieces of art, on Tuesday. The exhibition continues through Nov. 16, with an artists’ reception Oct. 19 from 7 to 9 p.m. at the gallery, 7 Nason St. For more details, call 978-897-9777 or go to www.gallerysevenmaynard.com.

Wayland artist Christina Zwart has a solo show titled “Multiplicity” on exhibit through Oct. 25 in the Carney Gallery at Regis College, 235 Wellesley St. in Weston. Zwart’s installations focus particularly on making large pieces of art out of numerous small parts, which viewers often see very differently from far away and from up close. For details, visit www.regiscollege.edu.

Send ideas to nancyswest@ gmail.com.