February 13, 2017
"Art" really is an inspiration for Indiana State University theater major Tristan Crutchfield.
The French play was the one of the first dramas to come to mind for the junior from Lafayette, Ind., when he had the opportunity to submit a production proposal this spring.
In 2015, Crutchfield submitted several proposals to theater faculty for plays he would like to direct in a studio-selected production, a smaller-scale show than main stage plays.
"It's a nice thing for a student to be able to submit proposals, kind of like you would in the real world," said Crutchfield, who has served as assistant director and directed several pieces off-campus. "I had read the play last year before the proposal process, so it was in the back of my head and when I had the option of being a director I wanted to select it."
Written by French playwright Yasmina Reza, "Art" debuted in Paris in 1994. The comedy raises questions about art and friendship among long-time friends, Serge, Marc and Yvan. Serge buys a large, expensive, completely white painting, which horrifies Marc. Their differing opinions on what constitutes "art" puts a strain on their relationship. Caught in the middle of the conflict, their mutual friend, Yvan, tries to appease both sides.
The original "Art" is based in France, while the student-produced version will take French influences, but "not necessarily go full-throttle into the French world."
"We're presenting French ideas. These are very blunt verbal conversations that Americans may not witness a lot of," Crutchfield said. "A lot of times people may not be very blunt about their opinions on things, so this play demonstrates how the characters reach a deeper level of friendship because they are able to be so honest with each other, not just being nice to be accepted.
"It's a nice play that dives into the internal relationships of friends, while exploring the concepts of what we perceive as art. The way we're going about the production is by looking at perception and getting the multiple perspectives of the characters. With the set, we're going slightly different than realistic. ‘Art' takes more liberties but doesn't go too much to the extreme."
It is a play with rapid dialogue that Crutchfield knew he would want to act in if he weren't directing.
"I know in my life I've witnessed conversations where you're readily being backed into a corner and you're fighting to get out of the corner," he said. "Because of the small cast and less extravagant set, it will be easier to do in the time that we have and be more of a visual piece. The plan is to use an all-white set floating in an all-black world.
"We're having the background colors be more neutral. The painting is all white and that's the big controversy between the characters. It was so expensive and the two friends want to know why Serge bought it. We want the characters to be the color of the set and the focal point for the audience."
Having read the play, Crutchfield presented his concept to the designers at their first design meeting late last year.
Following the Jan. 18 auditions, the three-member cast hit the road running with rehearsals.
"This is not the first production I've been a part of, but it is the first production I've had the honor to perform in. I couldn't be more thrilled," said senior theater major Miguel Lewis. "The preparation for this production has been quite tedious, challenging, fun and sometimes tiring, but reminding myself that the end result will be phenomenal makes the process worthwhile."
It's a short process that requires the actors to memorize about 20 pages per week.
"That's a lot and will test everybody's skills, including mine," Crutchfield said. "This is a big step between directing a small scale workshop/showcase, where it is just the actors, because you don't deal with designers or a collaboration process. These types of workshops you don't usually have detailed lights or a big set. With main stage pieces, like this one, you are dealing with a production manager, stage manager and different designers all trying to align the collaborated ideas into one, cohesive idea.
"It's been an experience and a learning process for me. I am glad I'll be able to look back to it for the future when I go off and do things with acting and directing. It's interesting to be in a spot where you have to rope in all of these different collaborating minds, then pick and choose and lead them toward a central idea. It tests communication skills."
The planning process, though, has led to some of Crutchfield's favorite parts of bringing the production to life.
"The initial comeback of ideas from the designers and finding out where they took that inspiration from the play," he said. "When you're a director reading it, you can see it in your head and you can conceptualize the idea in your head, but once you hear everybody talking about it, it becomes 3-D in your mind and you can see it playing out on stage and that part's really exciting."
The play will be performed 7:30 p.m. Feb. 22-Feb. 25 and 4 p.m. Feb. 26 in Dreiser Theater. Tickets are $10 for general admission. Rush tickets (free) are only offered to students 90 minutes before the show.
Reservations are not accepted. All general admission tickets can be purchased during the week of Feb. 20-Feb. 24 in the New Theater ticket office, which is open 12-4:30 p.m. and one hour before each performance.
Photo: https://photos.smugmug.com/Other/Media-Services/Media-Arts/Art-play-rehersal-2017/i-tm7mLcV/0/XL/Play%20Practice_Katy-13-XL.jpg - Indiana State University students rehearse for the upcoming performance of "Art."
Writer: Betsy Simon, media relations assistant director, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-7972 or firstname.lastname@example.org
The comedy, which raises questions about art and friendship among long-time friends, will be performed 7:30 p.m. Feb. 22-Feb. 25 and 4 p.m. Feb. 26 in Dreiser Theater.