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Farmigton woman brings her work to the stage

Antonia Felix has written about prominent people before. She wrote the first published biography of former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, and she has written biographies of Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor and singer Harry Connick Jr., among many others. But her latest project is something completely different.

Felix, who lives in Farmington, has written a one-act play about famed opera singer Maria Callas that will have its premiere Oct. 31 at the Cowles Center for Dance and The Performing Arts in Minneapolis.

It’s Felix’s first produced play, and seeing it come together is the realization of a longtime dream for an author who has spent most of her career working in nonfiction.

“I’ve enjoyed the playwriting, and I think I probably get the most joy out of the playwriting,” Felix said. “I’ve done nonfiction for so long that I’m ready to spend more time on the creative work.”

The subject seems like a natural fit for Felix, who at one point hoped to make her living as a professional singer. Callas was what Felix called the first diva opera singer. She was a prominent figure in the opera world up until the 1970s. She died in 1977 at the age of 54.

Felix read her first Callas biography when she was in high school, and she was captivated by the woman.

“She was a beautiful, glamorous woman who captured the attention of people all over the world,” Felix said. “She changed things around, because she really acted and she made a moving, compelling figure on stage.”

Felix made a pilgrimage to Paris to research Callas’ life, and she mined the singer’s story for a one-act, one-woman show she calls a portrait of Callas as an artist rather than a biography.

“I had to just sit back and let my imagination focus in on what I thought would be really interesting,” Felix said. “It’s focusing on some emotional turning points in her life. As a woman artist myself, that’s where my imagination led me.”

It’s been a treat watching the words she wrote come to life, Felix said. The final work has been shaped by conversations with the actress who will play Callas, and with directors Felix knows.

Still, there’s a certain fear that comes with knowing the play will finally go in front of an audience.

“It’s hard enough to let a manuscript finally go to your editor,” she said. “With this, the live performance situation is very different. I just keep thinking positive and imagining myself with the audience, feeling them moved. IF that happens, I know that I have been successful.”

Other work

Most of Felix’s writing has been non-fiction. In addition to the biographies of Rice, Sotomayor and Connick, she has written about NATO commander Wesley Clark, First Lady Laura Bush and former New Jersey Governor Christie Todd Whitman.

“It just seemed like that work that was coming in was non-fiction, and I wasn’t going to turn that down,” Felix said.

Felix has also written one novel.

Nathan Hansen

Nathan Hansen has been a reporter and editor with the Farmington Independent and the Rosemount Town Pages since 1997. He is very tall.

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