The Crossing Arts Alliance has received an unexpected bonus from the New York City theater circuit for its May 5 arts crawl event.
Denise Flemming, a New York-based actress, has offered to bring her critically acclaimed one-woman show "Winterkill" to a local stage, after reading newspaper accounts of the alliance's efforts to promote the arts.
"Crossing Paths: A Celebration of Art and Community" gets under way at 11 a.m. May 5 at more than 50 area locations, including Central Lakes College where Flemming will deliver her show at noon in the John Chalberg Theatre. Admission is free.
Patterned after similar Twin Cities events, the arts crawl will feature numerous visual and performing artists throughout the day, in keeping with the alliance's focus on the area's "wealth of environmental, recreational, cultural and learning opportunities."
But none of the performances, perhaps, will be more compelling -- or more controversial -- than Flemming's "Winterkill," billed as a sensitive and poignant study of sexual, verbal and physical abuse.
"Much in the way biblical characters expressed their views on events of their times through storytelling," wrote a reviewer for New York's QV Magazine, "Flemming has opened up a can of worms.
"Few artists today are bold enough to approach such taboo subject matter," the reviewer added. "The creator of 'Winterkill' is an artist of her times."
A native of Chicago and graduate of the University of Iowa, Flemming developed her show about 15 years ago, after reading accounts of a young boy murdering his parents.
The story -- an all-too-common occurrence now -- seemed provocative at the time, the actress said in an interview this week.
"The story intrigued me so much because it was so unlike how I was raised," said Flemming, who comes from a "loving, close-knit" family of four. "I became mesmerized by what type of anger and pathos would have allowed that to occur, when according to neighbors, this family was like Ozzy and Harriet.
"I utilized my imagination and conjured up everything that was the total opposite of how I was raised, and that became 'Winterkill,'" she added.
Her research eventually settled on sexual, emotional and substance abuse as themes for her play, she said, and multiple personality disorder became the centerpiece of its structure.
"Winterkill" is the story of Deborah Taylor, who "collides with the truth of her life" as Flemming reveals multiple characters on stage in dramatic confessions of abusive experiences of one kind or another.
The actress appears on stage with a single prop -- a chair or stool -- dressed in black under the glare of spot lighting, she said.
The name for the production is derived from the mystical time of "the hunting season where innocence is slaughtered," she said.
Flemming -- the play's writer, director and producer -- first presented "Winterkill" in 1986, moving it to New York in the early 1990s where it was greeted with rave reviews.
She's been called "the premiere diva of dramatic art ... and heiress to the rich legacy laid out by those who came before her (such as) Elenora Duse, Sarah Bernhardt and Julie Harris."
The QV Magazine reviewer said, "When Ms. Flemming speaks, New York listens," adding that anyone who attends her show "will be in the presence of a legend."
A representative from H.E.Y. Productions, Flemming's New York company, initiated a call to the alliance last week after her agent noticed Dispatch accounts of the May 5 crawl, she said.
She wanted to come here, she said, to create awareness of a topic that "is difficult to digest."
"As an artist, I digest humanity and I want humanity to see in me what they themselves have created," she added.
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