Entertainment

Diana Nyad to re-create her famous swim in new stage show in Key West

LONG DISTANCE WINNER: Endurance swimmer Diana Nyad talks to the media, during a press conference in Key West in 2013. She said the biggest challenge was swallowing large amounts of seawater, which made her vomit often. The 64-year-old is the first swimmer to make the 110-mile journey without a shark cage.
LONG DISTANCE WINNER: Endurance swimmer Diana Nyad talks to the media, during a press conference in Key West in 2013. She said the biggest challenge was swallowing large amounts of seawater, which made her vomit often. The 64-year-old is the first swimmer to make the 110-mile journey without a shark cage. AP

For the second time in a year, endurance swimmer Diana Nyad will be in dry dock.

After her record-setting 110-mile, 53-hour swim from Cuba to Key West on Labor Day 2013, Nyad competed on the 18th season of Dancing With the Stars in March 2014.

“I have rhythm,” she said. “I grew up doing salsa with Cubans in Miami.”

On Thursday, Nyad will also be landlocked but back in Key West for the premiere of her new one-woman show, Onward! The Diana Nyad Story, at The Studios of Key West.

Nyad wrote the theatrical presentation and performs under the direction of Josh Ravetch (Carrie Fisher’s Wishful Drinking).

“I’d like to do Broadway one day. I think big,” Nyad said Wednesday in a phone interview. “I think we have lightning in a bottle in this show. We’re opening in Key West, hoping to find our muscle more and more, take it to big performing arts centers, and eventually to Broadway.”

Big dreams. And would anyone seriously doubt her?

Onward! finds Nyad re-creating on stage, through atmospheric visuals, talk and even singing — yes, she sings, too — that landmark swim in which she became the first person to swim across the Florida Straits from Cuba to the Keys without a shark cage. She managed the feat on her fifth attempt, at age 64. The first time she tried, in 1978, she was 28. Jimmy Carter was in the White House and Saturday Night Fever was on everyone’s stereo.

With her latest endeavor, the New York-born Nyad, 65, hopes to inspire audiences to think big the way she always has.

“It’s a slice of life. I’ve lived a long life and had some wonderfully textured experiences,” she said. “You just don’t give up. One sure way to fail is you don’t go again. I tell stories of my father and mother, both colorful, foreign people with their accents. We’ve created a surface on stage where we created the illusion I’m swimming out there with jellyfish and the huge storms in the Florida Straits in summer. Some humor, some self-deprecating.”

One story sure to figure in the production recounts the day 9-year-old Nyad stared out at the waters of Fort Lauderdale beach with her mother, Lucy. Nyad asked her mom where Cuba was. “I know it’s out there,” the little girl insisted.

Lucy responded, in her French-accented English: “As a matter of fact, Diana, it’s so close you could almost swim there.”

Naturally, Nyad worked the conversation into the show.

“Mom, I wish you were still here. You told me someone could almost swim there and now someone actually has.”

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If you go

What: ‘Onward! The Diana Nyad Story,’ a one-woman show starring the long-distance swimmer

Where: The Studios of Key West, 600 White St.

When: 8 p.m. Thursday-Sunday, additional 3 p.m. matinee Sunday

Tickets: $30 general admission, $60 VIP table seating

Information: 305-296-0458 or www.tskw.org

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