Theatre as art and art as theatre…
Every summer I try and visit one of the museums in our wonderful city. Chicago has some of the best in the world, and my favorite is the Art Institute of Chicago. I visited the museum last week during some down time.
My visits are almost always the same. I go and see my favorite things and one or two new things. I love the miniature rooms, the old Chicago stock exchange, the Chagall windows and of course the Impressionist paintings. I learned to love the impressionist artists and their works because of the wonderful Sondheim musical SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE.
This time, I decided to look at the paintings differently – to try and find something new or different in them. And I did. In “Paris Street; Rainy Day” I saw a man in the back with a ladder. And in the large “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte” I saw a butterfly. Both are things I had never seen before.
Looking for details – new details – is what I find exciting. I remember having a professor at Loyola, where I went to college, who told us that if you knew the details of a play, then you knew the play. So, for every class meeting, we had a play to read. And then we had a ten minute, ten question quiz. Questions like “What was the weather like the second time we see the witches” [in Macbeth] and what furniture piece is absolutely necessary in Moliere’s “School for Wives?”
One last story from my trip to the Art Institute. I was looking at Toulouse Lautrec’s “At the Moulin Rouge” painting. I had seen it many times before, but this time I noticed a seam toward the right of the picture, just between the green woman and the rest of the painting. It seems that the original owner of the painting cut out the woman in green because the painting was not selling. Thank God someone re-attached the woman eventually.
How many theatre songs have we heard that were cut in previews and then put back into the show? (“Meadowlark” from THE BAKER’S WIFE for one.) Can you think of any examples?
Next time you see a show, look for the details, see if they change their perspective.