With a nod to “artist, businessman, Texan, American, Defender of the Faith, and Homoiousian” Gene Elder’s dubbing of July as Political Art Month, Jump-Start Performance Co. celebrates the lives of two women who made history on their own terms. Subtitled Actress and Artist: Charlotte Cushman and Georgia O’Keeffe, the double bill is co-produced by Martha Prentiss and Catherine Babbitt on alternate days for two weekends. Reprising her role in Carolyn Gage’s The Last Reading of Charlotte Cushman, Prentiss explores the life of one of the greatest tragic actresses of the 19th century. A descendant of the Pilgrim Robert Cushman, Charlotte first found success as an opera singer, rose to prominence playing Lady Macbeth, and stirred up controversy in male roles — including Romeo opposite her sister as Juliet. Although she retired from the stage in the 1850s and relocated to Rome, where she lived with her lover Matilda Hayes, Charlotte became a dramatic reader late in life and closed her career in Boston in 1875. Notably, Gage’s challenging one-woman show touches on Charlotte’s battle with breast cancer in 1869. In O’Keeffe!, Babbitt steps into a role originated by playwright Lucinda McDermott. Covering Georgia’s early years as an emerging artist in New York as well as those spent revolutionizing flower painting and further developing her iconic style in New Mexico, the play captures the artist questioning her success and wondering what life would’ve been like had she not met and married the influential photographer, gallery owner, and art promoter Alfred Stieglitz. $10-$20; O’Keeffe!: 3pm Sun, Jul 22; The Last Reading of Charlotte Cushman: 8pm Sun, Jul 22; The Sterling Houston Theater at Jump-Start, 108 Blue Star, (210) 227-5867, jump-start.org.
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