Our inaugural production of Picasso At The Lapin Agile, November 12th-14th, 2021, was a smashing success with full audiences for our short three day run. And it was littered with moments of beauty both on and off stage. The play about the famed father of cubism just before he launched into his rose period and Einstein before he published his special theory of relativity was set with The Art Spirit Gallery’s 25th Annual Small Works show as its backdrop and intersected works on display. Namely a signed print of Picasso consigned with the gallery and the works on display by, cubist paint and Picasso contemporary, Earnest Lothar. As well as references throughout the play about sheep which Claudia Pettis and Kathy Gale, gallery represented artists, are famed for.
Audiences enjoyed the small intimate atmosphere of the venue and experiencing the play surrounded by art. With French lounge cafe music during the pre-show and intermission transported the audience to the historic cabaret cafe, The Lapin Agile.
The piece, which only had one week of rehearsal, was sprinkled with personal touches that enhanced the experience. One such contribution was Michelle Chmielewski‘s interpretation of Picasso’s Damoiselle D’Avignon which is referenced at the end of the play. His piece is said to launch the world of art into cubism and is drawn from his time at a prostitutes hospital where he would frequent for free figure models. Michelle’s piece was originally made for NIC production of this same play 22 years ago, of which our castmate Leeja Junker played Einstein. The piece had been stowed at Michelle and Joe Jacoby’s, NIC theater department director, garage since, until it was unwrapped and unveiled for this iteration of the play. Another detailed touch was Leeja Junker, who researched the original cafe’s logo and thereafter designed and printed a shirt for him and his bar tending partner in the show. It was truly a group effort with all actors contributing to add set and costume pieces which communicate the characters, but also cast and stage manager effort to transform the gallery space into a performance venue every night In about 35 minutes.
Opening night the cast experienced the “audience and actor collaboration” involved in comedy. Each night had different reactions to different jokes and timing, meaning actors would hold or adjust delivery. Sarah Junette Dahmen, who played multiple roles, remarked on the special quality of experiencing laughter together in a theateruical performance. She didn’t realized how much she missed it over the past two years. She also experienced the community bonding in this experience. The audience expreiences the piece together and there a a sort of bond that is created, more so then in a drama where audible reactions are less apparent.
All in all the cast and audience experience was an overwhelming success and breathed life on the hilarious script.