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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?
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)
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.
Thanks for your suggestions, everyone.
Another one I thought of was India Ink by Tom Stoppard. British poet, Indian painter, death, romance, India, tea, all the good stuff.
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.)
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?
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).
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?
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.
(As Feynman had a one man show as the "artist" Ofey - I don't feel this entirely OT. Links appreciated.)
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.