Jennylin Duany, a theater artist and arts administrator well known in the South Florida arts community, died early Sunday, January 10, 2010, of liver failure. Duany's death was a harsh surprise to those who loved her warm personality and ardent commitment, whether as a performer or the power behind education and residency programs for Miami Dade College's Cultura del Lobo program. Duany was 39, the happy mother of a 9-month-old daughter and was about to start creating her next theater performance.
``I don't need to tell you how shocked we all are,'' Elizabeth Doud, a close friend and collaborator, said on Monday. ``She's the strongest person I know. Because of that I thought, `Jenny's going to pull through. If anybody can do it she can.' ''
Late last November Duany was hospitalized for hepatitis. She was able to spend New Year's with her daughter Anelisse and her husband of 14 years, Ricardo Lastre, a composer and massage therapist. But early on Jan. 12 she was readmitted with pneumonia, followed rapidly by massive infection and heart failure.
``This is an unexpected death of someone who lived so brightly and with so much generous, loving, creative energy,'' Georgiana Pickett, who worked with Duany at MDC, wrote in an e-mail to Duany's friends and colleagues. ``No one could have imagined that it was Jennylin's time to leave us. . . . She will always inspire all of us to spend our lives doing only what we love.''
A large woman, Duany was a powerful, charismatic presence onstage. She and Doud frequently performed together in the dance theater troupe run by Doud's husband Giovanni Luquini. Duany was the goddess Yemaya in Luquini's first full length piece, Wrong Clue, and a prominent figure in many other pieces he made.
``She was an extremely agile and strong woman and, in spite of her body size, had this amazing capability and sensuality,'' Doud said. ``It was such a delicious experience to be partnered by Jenny.''
The women performed together in Duany's Cabaret Unkempt, a 2006 performance piece commissioned by the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts that explored women's relationships to their bodies. Cabaret Unkempt toured to several well known arts centers around the United States and in Central America. Duany was slated to start a residency at Florida State University to develop her next theater piece.
For Cultura del Lobo, Duany arranged dozens of workshops and classes with visiting artists for Miami students. She was passionate about the artists she worked with and the need to introduce them to aspiring Miami talent. For many illustrious artists, including the dance troupe Urban Bush Women and jazz musician Danilo Perez, Duany was a primary contact with Miami.
The daughter of Cuban parents, Duany was born in New York on April 16, 1970, but raised in Miami. In addition to her daughter and husband, she is survived by her father Ruskin Duany; a sister, Carmen Molina, and two nieces, Samantha and Gabriella Diez.
A viewing will be held from 5 p.m. to midnight Tuesday at Bernardo Garcia Funeral Home, 12050 SW 117th Ave., South Miami-Dade. The funeral will be at 11 a.m. Wednesday, starting at the funeral home and moving to the adjacent Woodlawn South Cemetery, at 11655 SW 117th Ave.
Jennylin was a performing artist based in South Florida. Her full evening length work Cabaret Unkempt was commissioned by Diverse Works and the Carnival Center for the Performing arts through a Creation Fund from the National Performance Network with additional support from 651 arts in Brooklyn. In 1994, she co-established Akropolis Interdisciplinary Theater, which is a theatre ensemble based in South Florida committed to producing original works. In 1996, she merged forces with Giovanni Luquini Performance Troupe and continued to develop and produce projects in South Florida, nationally and abroad for the last 11 years. She has taught at South Florida Art Center and taught for Miami's Arts 4 Learning and Akropolis' diverse outreach programs. Jennylin has also led numerous master classes and workshops in voice, movement, objects, sound and performance. She is currently resides in South Florida where she has co-founded Las Negras Theatre Collective and is the Educational Residency coordinator for Miami Dade College Cultural Affairs.