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Southern Florida by Kevin Johnson


Local Playwright focuses on
"The Meaning of Home" In Cloudcuckooland

Cloudcuckooland
Nicole Garcia
When Vanessa Garcia was ready to prep a production for her play Cloudcuckooland, something happened that drove the point of home close to home: her father's untimely demise. "It was so sudden, we had to postpone the show. The owner of the space was nice enough to hold our deposit until we were ready." Cloudcuckooland is ready to take flight again, opening this weekend in Coconut Grove.

The play is set in Miami, telling the story of a young woman who builds an airplane for a local flying competition. In conversations with her psychologist, the young woman explains that she wants this plane to be in the form of a pigeon. This way, it can detect the Earth's magnetic field, finding its way back home. While building this aircraft, she has fantasies about meeting two other women who have flight experience: Amelia Earhart and Mary Poppins. On the other hand, the young lady meets turbulence from her antagonistic friends. Through these encounters, she sets on a course to find love, acceptance, and the meaning of home.

The meaning of home never strayed far from Vanessa Garcia's mind. Born and raised in Little Havana, Garcia came from a big family. Her sister, parents, grandparents and cousins all lived in the same house. She learned history at home by sitting with her grandfather. "He taught me Shakespeare and Picasso at six years old. I have pictures of me on his lap while we were drinking Cuban coffee." Writing since high school, Garcia went to Carrollton, an all-girls prep school based in Coconut Grove, where she graduated in 1997.

Garcia moved to New York and pursued a degree at Columbia University. She completed a three-year program in 2001, double majoring in English and art history while concentrating on writing and visual arts. Being in New York opened Garcia to many possibilities: "I had my works presented Off-Off Broadway and received a residence at a reputable regional theatre."

Garcia's piece, Parked, was part of the Voices at the River residency at Arkansas Repertory Theatre. Upon completion of the two-week program, Parked received a public reading. "Being there was great, because they embraced Black and Latino artists, giving them a chance for their voices to be heard." Garcia enjoyed her time in the Big Apple, but when it was time to come back home, she heeded the call.

When she returned to Miami in 2005, Garcia freelanced for the Miami Herald and New Times. Although her writing was giving her a steady income for the moment, Garcia still wanted to explore her artistic side. She and her younger sister Nicole established The Krane, a visual and dramatic arts company, in January 2007.

The Krane got its name from a bird that is tattooed on Garcia's forearm, but it also has a deeper meaning. "Miami is a city that is always in construction," she explained, "We want to not only be the cranes that help build the metropolis through art, but also the birds that take people through the product step by step. So they know and understand our work from start to finish."

Last June, The Krane's first theatrical production was a piece that Garcia wrote called Death of Kings: An Encyclopedia. Garcia also starred along with Nicole and resident actor A.J. Navarette. They only did one weekend, but the success of that piece prompted The Krane to move on to their next presentation. They were ready to bring Cloudcuckooland to the stage when tragedy stuck late August.

At the young age of 51, Vanessa Garcia's father died suddenly of conditions that stemmed from an aneurysm leading to a heart attack. "It was a terrible blow," Garcia says, "He was the most excited for us, because he had that entrepreneurial spirit and business mind. He loved that side of things and wanted us to succeed." During their time of bereavement, the sisters used The Krane to do other industrial events and art showcases as fundraisers to get them through to their next endeavor. With their bearings collected, they are ready to return to Cloudcuckooland, this time with the meaning of home embedded in Garcia's psyche. "Now more than ever, this production will be dedicated to our father."

Cloudcuckooland is based loosely on Aristophanes' The Birds, where there is a place between the land of Phlegra and the heavens where Athenians went to escape, hence the title. Garcia took the idea and applied it to Miami. While she is always looking for ways to do innovative combinations of both the visual and performance arts plus mixing in multi-media, Garcia is content showing Cloudcuckooland as a straight theatrical production. "[Miami] has this blend of different people from all walks of life with their own cultures. I wanted to use this piece to tell a story from the perspective of those who have in one shape or form, 'flown the coop'."

And for what she sees for The Krane itself, Garcia is optimistic. "We have an upcoming collaboration with another writer that we're taking overseas." But no matter where the journey takes her, Vanessa Garcia knows that home will always be in her heart. "We want to use The Krane to give a clear dialogue of what it takes to become vibrant in Miami. Once we get to that point, people will get a fuller picture of what a melting pot Miami is."

The Krane's production of Cloudcuckooland will be performed March 7-23 at the Abanico Theatre in the Arts and Minds Center, 3138 Commodore Plaza, Miami. For more information, please call 305-448-1100, ext. 7 or visit www.thekrane.com.

The Krane - Cloudcuckooland
Written and directed by Vanessa Garcia

Featuring Tom Colucci, Charimar Cordova, Nicole Garcia,
Robert Hernandez, Cristina Morrison, A.J. Navarette,
Stefan Pinto, Ozzie Rodriguez, and Michelle Steele


Photo: Vanessa Garcia


See the current theatre season schedule for southern Florida.

-- Kevin Johnson



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