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The Last Flapper

A day in the life of Zelda Fitzgerald is being performed in Charleston this weekend. 
by Erin Z. Bass

A one-woman show based on the writings of Zelda Fitzgerald, “The Last Flapper” is being brought to life by Leslie Vicary in Charleston through September 16. Written by William Luce, the play was first performed by Vicary in January and is now back at the South of Broadway Theatre Company in North Charleston for a second run. Locally, the Summerville Journal Scene called the show “a roller-coaster ride into the mind of the iconic figure,” and The New York Times described has described Luce’s work as “a cry of the heart that relentlessly delivers the truth.”

Zelda is remembered as being fun-loving and creative, but she was also a ballerina, painter and published writer who struggled to gain recognition for her own artistic accomplishments apart from her husband’s celebrity. The Montgomery, Alabama, native was diagnosed as schizophrenic and spent the last decades of her life in and out of sanitariums. She died in a sanitarium fire in Asheville, North Carolina, at the age of 48. It’s on this final day of her life that “The Last Flapper” takes place.

On her blog, Vicary writes, “It is time for Leslie to step aside and let Zelda, the real person, have her moment in the light. Her story is true and to tell it as such is my highest aspiration.” She goes on to describe how she first saw this one-woman show 20 years ago and had been waiting for the right moment to perform it.

“I was a little in love with the passionate, exuberant side of Zelda when I began researching, but as I learned more of the circumstances of her life and her relationship with Scott Fitzgerald, she became more tragic and sad in my eyes,” she writes. “Mark [Gorman, director] brought her effervescence back. I mean, for a show about a woman who loses her mind, her family, everything, to eventually die in a sanitarium fire … it’s really very funny and fast-paced.”

Vicary concludes by saying she hopes to do justice to Zelda. “I am honored to tell her story. At least for a few nights of theatre, a few of us will see her ‘tiny flickering light’ and … speculate on whether her eyes were blue or brown.  Of course, they’re neither.”

The line about Zelda’s eyes comes directly from her, as she once wrote in a letter to Scott that in a hundred years she would like young people to speculate on the color of her eyes. Zelda continued that it didn’t matter if they were blue or brown, just that she was here and had made her mark.

Victory and “The Last Flapper” serve to remind us of that and keep Zelda’s memory alive. Vicary says she hopes to continue performing the show. “I would love to do so for an occasion that celebrates the Fitzgeralds,” she says.

“The Last Flapper” will be performed September 14-15 at 7:30 p.m. and September 16 at 3 p.m. at South of Broadway Theatre Company at 1080 E. Montague/ Park Circle in North Charleston. Tickets are $18 and available at the door, through www.southofbroadway.com or by calling 843-745-0317.


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