Developed with the aid of a creation grant from the Metropolitan Nashville Arts Commission, Outside Paradise-playwright Bill Feehely's stage treatment of the life and love of literary lions Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald-debuts at Belmont University's Black Box Theatre on November 9, running for two weekends and starring Jennifer Richmond and Clay Steakley as the star-crossed lovers.
Actors Bridge Ensemble Theatre will present the world premiere production of Outside Paradise as the company's annual collaboration with Belmont University Department of Theatre and Dance, featuring a cast that includes Belmont students Adrienne Hall, Kallen Prosterman, Ashley Glore and DJ Clark.
"Having listened to The Great Gatsby as I drove to New York a few years ago, I was struck by its economy and beauty in a way I never got in high school," Feehely muses. "As I investigated the lives of F. Scott and Zelda, I was reminded that the works of many of our greatest American artists were forged at great personal cost and that the boundaries where art meets life are often paper thin."
Outside Paradise follows the life and love of literary legends F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald through the jazz age and into infamy. Zelda, the quintessential flapper and Scott, scion of the "lost generation," writ large their lives on the American psyche in the years between the Armistice that ended The Great War in 1918 and the stock market crash of 1929 that upended the world's economic structure.
Feehely's new work examines the volatile passion, deep commitment and remarkable work of the iconic pair and their closest confidants.
Outside Paradise is the sixth collaboration between Actors Bridge (which has been a vital part of the city's burgeoning theater community since 1996) and Belmont, and Paul Gatrell-chair of the Belmont Department of Theatre and Dance-says the unique partnership between the two offers students a unique perspective on the creation of new theater.
"The world premiere of Outside Paradise and the annual collaboration with Actors Bridge Ensemble presents a unique opportunity for the students at Belmont to experience the creation of an important new piece of theatre in the context and surrounded by the professional community for which they strive to be members," says Paul Gatrell, chair of the Belmont Department of Theatre and Dance. "This collaboration places students on the front lines of a brand new story-telling experience as they work to gain the professional skills exhibited onstage and backstage by the Actors Bridge Ensemble members."
The MNAC creation grant allowed Feehely and Actors Bridge to develop the new play and to bring it to the stage.
"Metro Arts passionately supports the life and work of local artists. One of the best ways we do so, is through Creation Grants that fund new works, performances and exhibits," according to Jennifer Gilligan Cole, executive director of the Metropolitan Nashville Arts Commission. "Outside Paradise was the recipient of such a grant. This vibrant and exciting work explores the frenetic and often destructive lives of Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald."
"More than that it shows the power of arts investment," Cole continues. "With just $20,000, Actors Bridge has drafted a new full length stage play, cast and produced the production and ensured they will have future revenue through licensing. They are creating local jobs for cast and crew and providing affordable, high quality theatre for Belmont and the surrounding community. Perhaps most critical, this 'investment capital' inspires and enables our brightest and most innovative minds to stay here, in Music City to write, build, design, and stage innovative creative works."