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Plant City Observer Thursday, Jul. 11, 2013 5 years ago

Plant City composer Charleene Closshey debuts production at New York festival

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by: Amber Jurgensen Managing Editor

The colors are vibrant — turquoise, red and yellow — all smattered on a canvas. Papua New Guinea artist Jeffry Feeger attacks the slate, massaging the tints in a circular motion with his bare hands, palming the pigments to cover the space.

Feeger looks like he is throwing caution to the wind. But what appears like an abstract piece suddenly becomes something more. It’s a completely organic experience, as Feeger uses the tips of his smudged fingers to create a face outline.

Finally he picks up a brush. Miraculously, a nose begins to appear. Then, the eyes of his subject take shape.

The rich colors and liberating strokes form a portrait of Plant City native and composer Charleene Closshey during the theatrical production “Catharsis.”

The painting looks just like her. And Feeger did it in two hours.

It was a video like this that first drew Closshey to the artist. Australian human rights consultant and friend Rae Smart sent Closshey and her fiance and writer, Jeremy Culver, a YouTube video of Feeger painting a live portrait.

“He just paints portraits in a unique and fascinating way,” Closshey said. “Jeremy saw a story. I saw a symphony.”

The couple immediately wanted to collaborate with the artist for a show.

After a rendezvous in Malibu with Rae and Feeger, the group created a show for a private function. To Closshey’s music, Feeger performed a live painting set.

The positive feedback motivated Culver to write a script.

Originally called “Catharsis,” the show became a unique multimedia experience. It sought to tell the untold story of Noosa, Queensland-based charity founder Moy Sweetman.

“Catharsis” premiered in 2012, in Noosa, Australia. With outstanding reviews, the team was able to enter the show into the internationally acclaimed New York Musical Theatre Festival.

“The main theme of the story is really about love and sacrifice.” Closshey said. “It explores the mundane aspects of life but with a greater scope as well.”

After making adjustments to the script, the show is now called “Feather: A Musical Portrait.”

“Feather” follows a married couple, Cat and Eli. Cat is a human rights attorney. Eli is a photojournalist making a documentary film on child refugees. When Eli is abducted from a refugee camp, Cat replays the events to her therapist.

On stage, the story unfolds, jumping from past to present, how they fell in love, what tore them apart and how it all relates to a greater purpose.

The plot is riveting, but perhaps what stands out most is the unique way it is presented. Each performance is completely different. Each night will feature a different story of a child.

Stories like one little girl in a war-torn corner of the world. She witnessed her father being shot to death. At just 3 years old, she could only recall two memories about her tumultuous beginnings — her humble house being bombed and not having any bread to eat.

“Each story is unique,” Closshey said. “Some are full of hope. Some have to stop going to school to work for their families at the age of 7.”

While the story unfolds, Feeger will be painting a portrait of one of the children on stage.

Closshey also will find herself on stage as Cat.

“It’s kind of surreal,” Closshey said about acting in her own creation. “It’s very artistically rewarding.”

Alongside her includes a slew of talented artists. Broadway veteran Richard H. Blake will be playing Eli. Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s Derek Wieland is the music director and will be playing the musician.

Plant City’s youth pop group, NRG, also will be performing as the youth choir. Their songs are written in Sanskrit.

Proceeds from the show and sale of the paintings will benefit the Save the Children Foundation. The show itself gives a call to action by highlighting the unimaginable strife in the world.

“It’s not forced,” Closshey said. “Some people are doers; some people are watchers. You can choose to be entertained or motivated to action. But, it’s really about telling the story.

“Humanity thrives on stories,” she said.

“Feather” will be showing July 9, 10, 13, 14 and 16, at the Alice Griffin Jewel Box Theater, at Signature Center, in Manhattan, with possible extension dates on July 15 or 18.

For more information about “Feather,” visit FeatherTheMusical.com.

Contact Amber Jurgensen at [email protected].

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