Is white paint art? The American play “ART” explores

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I have learned that opinions about art, like politics, are not spoken in social circles. I try to avoid scenarios in which I have to face the seemingly innocuous but potentially explosive question of a collector showing off a beloved work who asks, “What do you think? »• This is the configuration for ART, an American Stage production of Yasmina Reza’s play, winner of a Tony Award in 1998, translated from French by Christopher Hampton, which premieres today and begins a series that will continue until September 8.

It’s basically a comedy of manners in which three friends, Serge, Marc and Yvan, strain their relationships with each other for 90 minutes as they bicker and joke. The catalyst is a whiteboard recently bought at a very high price by Serge. Marc’s very vocal distaste for this begins the ongoing argument between these two men, and Ivan enters the fray as a self-proclaimed mediator. The play, without an intermission, is organized around the changes of perspective between the three men.

“They each see something different in painting,” said Todd Olson, artistic director of the theater and co-director of ART, during a recent telephone interview. “Lines, colors, nothing. Three different people seeing three different things.”

Unlike previous sets, in which the sets were mostly colorless, American Stage will feature brilliant and dramatic tropes in the form of 24 art glass objects selected by studio glass master Duncan McClellan. They include the work of McClellan and eight other glass artists. Almost all of them will be on sale online or at the box office with the proceeds shared by the theater and McClellan’s DMG School Project, which provides educational opportunities for artists and students. In addition, a limited number of tickets of $ 50 for an opportunity draw for another McClellan ship will be available.

“Duncan is a friend of the theater and we thought it would be great to incorporate real art into the set,” said Olson. “We had the idea to sell it after staging Doubt, in which we had paintings that looked like stained glass on the set and people were calling to buy them. We have sold them all. This is how this idea was born. “

ART plays in a repertoire-like rotation with my name is Asher Lev, another piece focused on art and its valuation.

“They have similar themes, but they’re completely different genres,” Olson said. The change of scenery only takes about 25 minutes, including even moving all that glass on and off the stage.

“They’re stuck,” said Jerid Fox, set designer and property manager.

Fox was also commissioned to create this controversial white paint, which is unlikely to be part of the auction. He wanted it to have some texture so he used a flat latex applied with big brushstrokes as an undercoat and then finished it off with an acrylic painted with streaks.

“I am not an art painter,” he said. “I’m a scenic painter (for the sets), which is totally different. My partner is the painter. It was a bit like I was Serge and he was Marc when I was doing it.”

After the play aired, Fox said, it would not be hung on any of their walls at home.

Lennie Bennett can be reached at lbennett@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8293.


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