And I did eventually become an "artist". Instead of canvas I chose the bare stage to paint with my intentions and body movement. Although I tend not to call myself an artist because it's usually a little confusing to the outside observer. "Oh, you mean you're an actor?" Kind of like how I wouldn't raise my hand if someone asked if there was a doctor in the house even if I had a Ph.D in theatre. But yes, I'm an artist in the grand sense. And I like to think that I am contributing to the many artful dialogues that play out in bar discussions, social media and my own head.
But what makes an artist? What makes art? Is it the physical thing or simply the idea? Do you have to create something to be an artist? Or could I just brood around a gallery telling people that I'm still "working" on something? "Something BIG!" Those questions seem to never have a straight forward answer (especially if you're talking to artists). But all that has once again lead me to The Brick and the upcoming performances of Mass, the new rock opera from writer and Brick co-founder Robert Honeywell and directed by the wonderful Leah Bonvissuto. I sat down with them recently to discuss the show which goes into previews Saturday April 13th and opens Friday April 19th.
First off, they wanted to definitely say that this musical is very loosely based on the life events of Vincent Van Gogh, his brother Theo and contemporary Paul Gauguin. Especially since it stars an all-female cast and is set between 2015-18 in New York, Vancouver and Shanghai. Go figure. Ultimately, Mass is a love story of two artists. Because if art alone wasn't confusing enough, adding love into the mix makes it even messier.
Making sense of this mess of love and art are three very gifted artists of the stage: Esther Crow (Francoise/Gauguin), Moira Stone (Mary/Vincent) and Rebecca Gray Davis (Kate/Theo).
|Photos by Joe Kolbow, triptych by Sarah Lippmann|
If the Wiki rumors of the time between Van Gogh and Gaugin are true, I fear for what Mass has in store for Francoise, Mary and Kate. And with the talent behind Crow, Stone and Davis I know I won't be disappointed when the lights go down at the end.
And making this show even more massive is the rock band backing up our artful ladies, lead by the wonderful Maria Dessena, who was musical director for Honeywell's Ich Liebe Jesus this past December, and comprises an awesome rhythm section that includes Electric Mess bassist Derek Davidson and Auto Bonfire drummer Sparkie Sandler, both bands fronted by Crow, and which you may have seen providing psychedelic overtones in the Piper McKenzie/Trav S.D. Charles Manson inspired musical Willy Nilly (Fringe Festival 2009). But all this isn't just for show, the creators have been careful to make sure that the songs are tied to the emotions and thoughts as the characters experience it and helps to express the the ideas instead of just telling. As a professor in college once told me, songs should be reserved for when you can no longer express what you're feeling with words. The music must burst out of you in a flurry of emotion. So I look forward to seeing this tale of love and strife burst forth from these wonderful artists.
Also, a story about art wouldn't be complete without a little art as well. You may walk into a blank, white canvas by set designer Lianne Arnold but you'll be dazzled by video projections by Daniel McKleinfeld and lights by Joe Levasseur, with some stylish costumes provided by the lovely Iracel Rivero.
And if you want to convert this into more scientific terms let's take the mass (m) of talent in this ensemble of actors, singers, musicians, writer, director and design team, multiplied by the square of electrical transmission of ideas/light in their brains (c2) and the energy (E) released will surely blow people out of their seats at The Brick and prove Steve Martin's theory between art and science.
April 13 – 30, 2013
The Brick, 579 Metropolitan Avenue, Brooklyn NY 11211
Music, book and lyrics by Robert Honeywell
Directed by Leah Bonvissuto
Music direction by Maria Dessena
Set design by Lianne Arnold
Lighting design by Joe Levasseur
Video design by Daniel McKleinfeld
Sound design by Emma Wilk
Costume design by Iracel Rivero
Choreography by Sarah Doudna
Special effects by Stephanie Cox-Williams and Melissa Roth
Assistant Dir. & Stage Management by Raffaela Vergata
Featuring: Esther Crow, Rebecca Gray Davis, Melissa DeLancey, Kaitlan Emery, Amanda LaPergola, Tracy Shar, Phoebe Silva,* and Moira Stone*
And the band of: Derek Davidson, Maria Dessena, Ryan Ferreira, Michael Rafalowich and Sparkie Sandler
*Appearing courtesy of Actors’ Equity Association
Tues & Thurs–Sat @ 8 pm; Sun @ 3 pm
$18 ($10 for previews on Apr 13, 14, 16, 18)