KEY WEST (CBSMiami/FKNB) – Marathon swimmer Diana Nyad is staging a theatrical presentation this week about her 111-mile swim from Cuba to Key West, on the island where she completed the near-impossible athletic feat.
“Onward! The Diana Nyad Story” opened Thursday evening at The Studios of Key West, near the spot where she achieved her dream of 35 years.
On Labor Day 2013, an exhausted Nyad walked ashore on Key West’s Smathers Beach, becoming the first person to swim across the Florida Straits from Cuba to the Florida Keys without a shark cage. The swim took the world-renowned athlete, then 64 years old, nearly 53 hours.
“You don’t really get a better drama than that — a 35-year story, a 64-year-old chasing a dream that no one else ever accomplished,” said Nyad.
She initially attempted the Florida Straits crossing in 1978 when she was 28 years old. More than three decades later, in 2011 and 2012, she tried three times but was foiled by shoulder pain, a debilitating in-water asthma attack and multiple severe jellyfish stings.
Written and performed live by Nyad, “Onward” showcases not only her athletic feat, but also her storytelling abilities and wry humor. In addition, the inspirational play spotlights the tenacity and strength that helped her achieve her long-held dream in 2013.
“Whether you’re someone up against cancer, or a disabled child you’re raising, really tough circumstances, if you want to get through it, you’ll find a way to get through it — and I think that is really the message of this play,” Nyad said.
The show employs audio and visual effects to take audiences to the Florida Straits with Nyad as she endures a nighttime encounter with jellyfish. She also shares family and childhood memories, sings snippets of the mental playlist that kept her going during the crossing, and even “swims” onstage.
The production was directed and adapted for the stage by Josh Ravetch, the co-creator of Carrie Fisher’s “Wishful Drinking.”
Key West performances continue through Sunday, Feb. 22.
“The Florida Keys News Bureau contributed to this report.”