I Need Your Suggestions!

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I Need Your Suggestions!

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nov 30, 2008, 6:08 pm

I will be teaching an introductory course in the interdisciplinary arts next semester, and I am looking for a good play that includes a real-life artist as a main character. "Artist" can be broadly interpreted to include not only visual artists but musicians, composers, writers, actors, dancers--anyone fairly well-known in any of the arts. This course is a general education course and will have mostly freshmen enrolled.

So far I've got these plays on my list, but none of them is quite doing it for me:

A Long Day's Journey Into Night by Eugene O'Neill--pretty depressing.
The Invention of Love by Tom Stoppard--I don't think the students are likely to know who housman was, and it gets a bit philosophical.
Amadeus by Peter Shaffer--a possibility.
Tales from Hollywood by Christopher Hampton--not sure the students will relate.
Picasso at the Lapin Agile by Steve Martin--nah.
Sundays in the Park with George--sorry, can't stand musicals.

I'm sure there has to be a ton of others, but I just can't think of them at the moment. Can anybody help?

Redigeret: nov 30, 2008, 7:01 pm

Exiles by James Joyce (about a writer)
Faust - either Goethe or Marlowe (if you think of the scholar as artist - unfortunately, Mann's version on a composer was a novel)
Master Builder or When We Dead Awaken by Ibsen (You've got to stretch for Master Builder, but the themes are there; When We Dead Awaken focuses on a sculptor)

If you can find the actual script, Farewell, My Concubine could be great. (Link to novel version)

nov 30, 2008, 8:02 pm

Hmmm . . . that brings to mind M Butterfly. I love the play, but students here had a really hard time with the subject matter. It's a very conservative area, and our students are not exactly intellectually sophisticated (and, unfortunately, resist strongly when you push them in that direction).

dec 7, 2008, 4:26 pm

If you want to keep things light, you could try Play It Again, Sam, with Bogart as a major character. If you don't mind if things that aren't so light, how about The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat As Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton Under the Direction of The Marquis de Sade (or Marat Sade) by Peter Weiss?

Amadeus actually might be your best bet. I can think of some other plays, like Dylan: A Play by Sidney Michaels, but they're pretty obscure.

dec 7, 2008, 4:44 pm

I decided to use The Shape of Things by Neil LaBute. I've taught it before, and the students have a strong reaction to the film version, from which I will show clips. The artist in the play isn't a name artist; but the play does deal with art and ethics and the idea of what IS art, so I think it will be a good final piece for this course.

Thanks for your suggestions, everyone.

dec 7, 2008, 4:55 pm

I don't know that one. Have to look it up.

Another one I thought of was India Ink by Tom Stoppard. British poet, Indian painter, death, romance, India, tea, all the good stuff.

dec 7, 2008, 10:11 pm

If you include musicals Sunday in the Park with George by James Lapine. There's an interesting play about architects called Private Jokes, Public Places by Oren Safdie. There's lots about actors The Dresser. Life in the Theatre, etc.,. The Invention of Love about the poet A. E. Housman and so on.

dec 8, 2008, 12:48 am

I'm somewhat limited by the fact that I can't stand musicals myself, which makes it difficult to rally enthusiasm. I thought about the Stoppard (I love his work), but I'd guess none of them even know who Houseman is and that they would find Stoppard difficult. And, as I said, the students had trouble dealing with gay issues in M Butterfly. You can do some things in a majors class that you can't as easily in a gen ed course.

dec 8, 2008, 5:12 pm

Good luck. I'm not sure Evelyn is as much an artist as a psychopath. But perhaps artists (or at least writers) are really closeted psyopaths who torture their characters on the page and thus escape incarceration. Labute would certainly fall into this category.

dec 8, 2008, 8:02 pm

Well, I'll agree with you in terms of LaBute.

So here's another question the play will pose for my students: Is a person an artist merely because he/she claims to be one? Or is there some kind of standard or criteria for art, and , if so, what is it? (Undoubtedly Mapplethorpe will come up; this is an ultraconservative, very Christian community.)

dec 10, 2008, 10:21 am

Well, my hat's off to you for trying to teach anything in such a situation.

When I moved here from the UK nearly 25 years ago I lived exclusively in the NY metropolitan area. It was only when I became an actor and started working in regional theatre that I discovered that New York is not part of America at all and that from a European sensibility this is a very strange country indeed. ( And also it's impossible to get good Chinese food or a decent bagel 50 miles from NYC).

Tell me do you have book burnings? Is the 'Handmaid's Tale' banned? Is Hillary burnt in effigy?

dec 10, 2008, 2:56 pm

HA! We do our best to enlighten them, but it's not always easy. This is, after all, a "university," and to me that means students should begin to realize that there's a larger universe out there and that they are a part of it. We are in the "T"-zone of PA (the line between Pittsburgh and Philly and then north/south through Harrisburg)--it's a conservative, Christian, Republican stronghold.

A few years ago, I chaired Academic Day. Incoming freshmen are given a book to read over the summer and are expected to discuss it in assigned groups during fall orientation. The book I selected was The Reader by Bernhardt Schlink. I got a call from an enraged mother who had insisted on reading the book before her son was "allowed" to. She informed me that this was "not appropriate reading material for a 17-year old Christian young man" and asked if he HAD to read it. I told her no but that he was likely to run into a lot more "disturbing" assignments in his four years here.

Apparently the university President also got quite a few calls from parents about that one. They couldn't get past the teenager-has-affair-with-older-woman part of the plot to see the value in the book: the consequences we pay for our actions, the nature of love and guilt, etc.

I have to drive 30 miles to get to a Borders; that's the closest halfway decent bookstore around. Otherwise it's a two-hour drive to Washington for books, theatre, and dining (a drive that I make fairly often to preserve my sanity).

dec 11, 2008, 2:31 pm

Ah yes that familiar dichotomy genocide okay, sexuality v. v. bad.

I have to admit to misrepresenting myself somewhat. Before the acting I used to rock climb a lot and cave a little and made a few caving trips to WV, TN and Al. It did rather amaze me to find people who though the Flintstones was historically accurate.

How on earth did you end up in such a place? Were you born there, managed through shear force of character to escape being a brood mare for the patriarchy and are now returning with missionary zeal and activity to carry the good fight into the hinterland?

dec 11, 2008, 3:05 pm

Such is the state of the job market for English professors. Choice plays very little part in where one ends up. It could have been worse; at least I'm not too far from DC, my colleagues are decent, and I get paid fairly well. I could have ended up at the place in the southernmost part of Texas where most of the students are non-native speakers of English and have to take freshman comp three times before passing it (I don't speak Spanish). Or in Paterson, NJ. Now THAT was a real hell-hole.

dec 13, 2008, 10:54 am

Yes, it ain't your William Carlos Williams Patterson anymore. That's Amish country is it not. They seem decent folk. I like the idea of them letting their kids go for a year and seeing if they come back. (And most do, how odd).

Still Shakespeare should open most people up to the real world warts and all. I studied First Folio technique when I first got into acting. One of the many excercises we did was to emphasize the bawdiest parts of a scene (get it out of our systems, I suppose). Romeo and Juliet's bedroom scene becomes drippingly sensual and Corum's paean to his sheep one of the filthiest things imaginable.

sep 24, 2009, 11:05 pm

Modigliani by Dennis McIntyre
Lillian by William Luce

Redigeret: sep 25, 2009, 12:21 am

I'm looking for a copy of the one-man show where Alan Alda plays Richard Feynman.

(As Feynman had a one man show as the "artist" Ofey - I don't feel this entirely OT. Links appreciated.)


sep 25, 2009, 8:59 am

The Play is QED by Peter Parnell, published by Applause Books

nov 22, 2009, 10:04 pm

If you are teaching the class again, a piece that reads much like art itself is Lorca in a Green Dress by Nilo Cruz. Another that I would suggest is Equivocation by Bill Cain. Don't be put off by the fact that this work explores how Shakespeare must have lived and created; it's very engrossing and humanistic in its portrayal. We actually get to see what his process and pressures might have been like, which is something that any author likely goes through.

Those both deal with writers, but two that lightly explore painters/paintings and art as a symbol/theme are Passion (or sometimes Passion Play) by Peter Nichols and The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. Those two are very broad and deal primarily with subject matter other than artists, but might entice students more with their broad, relatable strokes.