When staging a play by an esteemed writer, many would choose to remain extremely loyal to the text. But not the local art collective Southernmost Situations, which is staging a very liberal adaptation of Tennessee Williams’ The Night of the Iguana titled la noche i.delicatissima.
The play tells the story of a widowed proprietress, a defrocked minister, the world’s oldest living poet and several other characters who clash during a stormy evening at a Mexican hotel. For their adaptation of The Night of the Iguana, the setting is moved from 1940s Mexico to 1960 Cuba. The setting was changed to Cuba to better fit relate to the distinct relationship many Miamians have with the country.
“We chose 1960 because it’s still a transition point in Cuba where it’s still not fully formed. It wasn’t announced it was a communist government until 1961. It’s just this moment in Cuba’s history where it’s questioning its identity and forming itself. ... We wanted it to be more about our own relationship to the country,” says assistant producer Sebastian Duncan-Portuondo.
The play also incorporates several unique flourishes. Video art and dance components created for the play will add distinct visual components that they hope will enhance the play. In addition, most of the cast of the play are non-actors, a deliberate artistic choice.
The production is a project of Southernmost Situations, an art collective that sees itself as a network of artists collaborating to create unique experiences with the specific intention not to create art for sale but rather for the community to enjoy. The group started as a spontaneous trip to Key West, when several nights of “debauchery” among a group of artists inspired the artists to establish the art collective.
“We engage the community with different experimental platforms...[it’s] playful, experimental and it’s all inspired by Miami,” says Liz Ferrer, co-founder of Southernmost Situations and director of la noche i.delicatissima.
An example of work they have done is Southernmost Audio/Visual Situations, an evening that took place last fall at The Corner, a popular bar in downtown Miami. For the work, all of the artists created pieces that must have audio and visual components; the works wildly varied in medium and tone and acted as an “intervention” into a space that was absent of art.
“We like to challenge the basic curatorial model. All the pieces we’ve done in the past have been curated exhibitions, moments and interventions but it’s outside of a gallery setting.”
The origins of the collective and their South Florida inspirations also coincidentally reflect the interests of Williams, whose play they are adapting; the playwright took residence in Key West for years and also visited Miami often.
Hosting the play is Swampspace, an “un-gallery” run by artist Oliver Sanchez, who hosts the work of community artists and supports the venture without outside support.
“It’s a non-commercial venture. It’s an artist-run gallery. We have no sponsors. We have no partners. We’re a standalone entity” says Sanchez.
The play is supported by the Community Supported Art program by Cannonball, formerly LegalArt. Cannonball has selected 9 artists (one of which is Southernmost Situations) and provided them financial backing to create 50 pieces of art; the community is invited to buy one of the fifty shares for $450, which will include 9 pieces of art from each of the artists selected. For their contribution, the collective created a pair of hand-painted tickets and will provide these guests with preferred seating.
“It’s a means to support the practice of local artists and encourage a sustainable and healthy art community and economy while providing the community art by local artists,” says Dominique Breard, program coordinator of Cannonball.
For Southernmost Situations, the goal of their efforts is to engage locals in a more community-oriented way that the area has not previously seen.
“It’s a way we can grow as artists and as a collective and it’s a way of retelling this beautiful story,” says Duncan-Portuondo.