The Paris News
‘O’Keeffe!’ to be at Paris Community Theatre
One woman show
Actress to bring show to her hometown stage
Carolyn Wickwire, who was the Paris High School 1954 class valedictorian, now owns a theater production company.
The last time Carolyn Wickwire was on stage before an audience in her home town of Paris, it was as a dowdy schoolteacher in her senior class play, “You Can’t Kiss Caroline.”
That was in 1954.
Last week, Wickwire, now a professional actress and co-owner of her own theater production company, was in Paris to check out the facilities at Paris Community Theatre, where in February, she will perform a one-woman show, “O’Keeffe!,” written by Lucinda McDermott, for three performances.
It took Wickwire a while to become a professional thespian.
“I began acting at the age of 51, after I retired from my job at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center,” said the slender, white-haired actress. “After graduating from SMU, I thought about a career in the theater, but I opted for financial security instead. I started as a secretary, and by the time I retired in 1988, I was administrator of the medical center’s department of internal medicine. I worked and saved money and now I am able to act without waiting on tables between jobs.”
Carolyn Garvin Wickwire was valedictorian of the Paris High School class of 1954. Classmates remember her as intellectual and well-respected. She was editor of the new school newspaper, The Cat’s Tale; was a good orator; and won academic awards in Latin and biology. She was the district winner of the American Legion Oratorical Contest, and was a member of the National Honor Society.
Married for 31 years to Marty Wickwire, who passed away in 2000, the mother of four stepchildren and eventual grandmother of five, indulged her passion for acting occasionally over the years, and eventually enrolled in the Dallas Theater Center’s four-year adult education program.
After retirement, Wickwire decided to return to her first passion, acting. She found work in a number of commercials and industry films produced in the Dallas area, before being cast in theater productions including “Superior Donuts” at Theatre Too, “The Royal Family” and “The Mousetrap” at Theatre Three, “Beauty Queen of Leenane” at Quad C, “A Skull in Connemara” at Stage West and Second Thought Theater, “The Women” and “The Blue Moon Dancing” at Contemporary Theatre of Dallas, “Equus” with the Uptown Players, “Morning’s at Seven” at Richardson Theatre Centre and others. She has also appeared in several movies filmed in the Dallas area as well as in the television series “In Plain Sight” and “Prison Break.”
About a year and a half ago, Wickwire and her friend and business partner Dennis West began to consider a plan to mount a one-woman show and formed a production company. An interest and fascination with the life and art of iconic American artist Georgia O’Keeffe drew Wickwire to a play writing in the early 90s by Lucinda McDermott.
“O’Keeffe was such a complex woman. She struggled all her life to maintain her independence and to find her own voice,” said Wickwire. “She struggled to balance her love for her work with her very deep love for pioneering photographer Alfred Stieglitz. He was controlling and as complex as she was and in order to keep her sanity, they lived apart for many months out of each year, yet they remained together until his death.”
“They were very much alike in the way they worked,” she added. “There’s a line in the play where she says ‘He’s trying to do with light what I’m trying to do with paint.’”
Wickwire and West named their production company Flower and Bone productions for two of the elements that appear often in O’Keeffe’s work. They hired a director, Ouida White, and began contacting professional and community theaters across New Mexico and Texas. They have also taken the play to Kansas City and have talked with theaters in Oregon and California about mounting productions.
Wickwire contacted former Paris High classmate and long-time Paris Community Theatre member Charlie Thompson about bringing the play to Paris. Thompson and his wife, Ruth, welcomed Wickwire and West at a reception last week that included other PHS graduates and members of the production board of PCT.
“O’Keeffe” will open for three shows on Feb. 15-17. Tickets will be $10.
Wickwire said she would not have done a one-woman show, even 10 years ago, but finds risk-taking to her liking these days. She has recently tried white water rafting and sail plane flying and made a parachute jump at the age of 75.
“There’s no doubt the older I get the more adventurous I become,” she said. “I was lucky. Acting was always my passion. I was not retiring from something as much as I was retiring to what I’d always wanted to do.”