A contemporary painter, who doesn’t seem to care for the great Vincent van Gogh’s work, is hired to create a forgery — a supposed last self-portrait of the famed artist.
This task leads the artist and the audience on a journey of self-discovery in playwright Steven Dietz’s “Inventing Van Gogh,” the Jobsite Theater production in the Shimberg Playhouse at the Straz Center in Tampa.
Opening Friday and running weekends through Aug. 3, the drama raises questions such as: What is art?, What is myth? And what is truth?
Steve Fisher, in his Jobsite debut, portrays Patrick Stone, the painter seeking to re-create van Gogh’s style and eventually coming face-to-face with van Gogh himself, played by Jordan Foote, also making his Jobsite debut.
Director Karla Hartley calls it a “poetic and lyrical” play that “moves along beautifully” between the past and the present. It is both serious and humorous at times.
“It works on many levels, emotional and intellectual, exploring what it means to be an artist, what is real and what is fake,” she says.
The three actors also in the play appear in both the past and present under different guises:
♦ Ned Averill-Snell portrays the unscrupulous art dealer Rene Bouchard and van Gogh’s contemporary artist Paul Gauguin.
♦ Nicole Jeannine Smith is Hailee and Marguerite, girlfriends of the artists
♦ Greg Thompson plays Dr. Jonas Miller and Dr. Paul Gachet.
“The two men have a lot in common,” says Thompson. “Miller is an art professor who has been searching for this alleged last self-portrait and Dr. Gachet is the medical doctor who treated van Gogh for his depression and paranoia. Both men love art and wish they were artists. Both men have daughters who are in love with the artists.”
Thompson says the play is very thought provoking with many layers and connections. “It’s fun to play characters from different time periods,” he says. “There is a lot of zipping around backstage, changing from one to the other.”
The story unfolds in two parallel universes: Stone’s modern-day studio and 19th century France, where van Gogh is nearing the end of his life. Eventually the universes collide, putting Stone directly into conversation with van Gogh.