Marilyn meets MOCA


Most people wouldn’t experience the weak-in-the-knees, sigh yielding, honey dripper reaction if one were to mention Norma Jean Mortenson. But mention

Marilyn Monroe, formerly just “Mortenson” around the water cooler, and you’ve got men and women alike falling … hard.

The Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville presents a joint art exhibit and award-winning one-person play in honor of the 20th century’s most iconic actress Jan. 22 through April 4.

The exhibition, “Life as a Legend,” features the most famous photographs of Monroe from the most recognizable moments of her film career; including Sam
Shaw’s saucy image of her standing over the subway grate from “Seven Year Itch.”

Other exhibition highlights include Kirkland’s bed sheet shot, “One Night with Marilyn,” Stern’s powerful “The Last Sitting” and Warhol’s beloved screenprints, “Marilyns.”

“The exhibit provides a unique opportunity for participants to experience the pop culture appeal of an American icon,” said MOCA Director Deborah Broder. “’Life as a Legend’ juxtaposes prints and paintings alongside candid imagery and photography.”

Artoma, Hamburg, Germany Company curates the exhibit, and International Arts & Artists, Washington, D.C. has organized it for tour.

Alongside the art exhibit, Greg Thompson, writer and producer of the one-women play “Marilyn … Forever Blonde,” said that the story follows Marilyn in her own words and music, not studio press agent hype or the words of hundreds of authors.

“This storyline has been painstakingly researched from hundreds of quotes from Marilyn herself,” said Thompson. “And the lavish production is a recreation of what might have been Marilyn’s last chance to tell her story in her own words.”

The San Francisco Daily News has hailed Greg’s wife and leading actress Sunny Thompson’s performance as “…one of the greatest performances of the modern stage,” and the play has earned the highest rated Roar of the Crowd Award from Goldstar Events and the Lee Hartgrave Fame Award for Best Acting.

Sunny explained that the idea of committing to the role of Marilyn started about four years ago, and that it wasn’t initially the project she wanted.

“My husband wrote the play a long time before then,” Sunny said. “He convinced me to read the script after I was playing around with some costume wigs. He said that he never thought of me as Marilyn, ‘but good God, you look like her.’”

At the time, she didn’t know that much about her, but she quickly gathered every bit of Marilyn information out there, and she now has well over 300 audio, video and written works about the bombshell’s life, as well as having met with some of those who knew Monroe firsthand at different stages of her life.

The play is set in 1962 during what would be Monroe’s last photo shoot. At 36, she is still beautiful, yet has lost the girlish charm that made her Hollywood’s biggest star in her early 20s.

Thompson has traveled with the exhibit four or five times now, and she feels like the dual art exhibit and play work really well together, she said.

“It’s a full afternoon or evening for Marilyn,” said Sunny. “Attendees feel like they got to be with her for a day. It’s a true three-dimensional look of who she was.”

Sunny describes the true essence of Marilyn as beautiful, alone, insecure and adorable — but pure marketing genius.

“People just wanted to help her, she was such a comedian, with a great sense of humor and such illogical logic,” she said. “People couldn’t help but agree with her. She just makes me laugh.”

The play runs every weekend starting Feb. 11 through March 7. Tickets are $29 for members, $34 for non-members and $24 for students and military.

For more information on MOCA hours and ticketing, visit or call (904) 366-6911.