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’29 Paintings,’ An Evening of Theatrical Monologues Inspired by Art to Debut in West Hartford

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The performance will be held at Warehouse 635 in West Hartford.


What happens when a painting just speaks to you? 29 Paintings is a live theatrical performance of quirky, compelling characters sparked by fine art. Performed by actors together with large projections of the paintings that inspired them, these new characters reveal their inner fears, ambitions, and unexpected secrets. By deliberately setting aside (or vaguely acknowledging) the painting’s context, writer Roxanne Drolet’s newpeople emerge from the facial expressions, clothing and settings of portraits by Rembrandt, Caravaggio, Hopper, and more. The monologues are not related to each other, at least on the surface, though one can find deeper themes if one looks; light and darkness, discontent, and the slender line separating “normal” behavior from madness.

The dexterous cast includes Barbara Gallow, T. Marie, Deborah Mott, Shawn E. Murray, Fior Rodriguez and Patrick Spadaccino, who will each deftly embody multiple characters. Also directed and produced by Drolet, this non-traditional show will be performed at Warehouse 635 at 635 New Park Avenue, West Hartford CT, 06110.

29 Paintings is a “playlist” of one and two-person scenes (each around one minute long). Discontinuous in terms of narrative, the monologues veer from comedy to quiet introspection. Sometimes purposefully overly dramatic, dark or occasionally absurd, the pieces remind the audience that art means something different to each person; it doesn’t have to take itself so seriously. “Characters just emerged as I looked at these incredible paintings,” says Drolet. “I found myself wanting to tell their stories, separate from the painter and the original subjects depicted.”

The original spark for a script may have come from Arrangement in Grey and Black No. 1, by James McNeill Whistler, best known as Whistler’s Mother. “But, it’s not Whistler’s Mother,” says Drolet, “She’s a grandmother with a terrible secret, telling the story of the worst day of her life, with some big emotions she’s obviously desperate to express.” In these new stories, a Swiss soldier becomes a French wine-loving railway worker, a nobleman tries mushrooms for the first time, a woman from 1435 finds a time-travel portal, and Abigail Ellsworth rewrites the Constitution for her husband (fictional, but closer to the actual subjects depicted in the painting at the New Britain Museum of American Art.) Each of these scripts brings a new unhinged person to life, and doesn’t strictly adhere to any particular time in history or notion of what is “real”. As one character proudly announces, “I’ve moved to a place beyond truth!” as have all of Drolet’s characters.

Drolet’s previous credits include writing and directing the short film Seaside and national commercials for Jolly Rancher, Kit Kat and many others. Her theater experience includes the off-Broadway Love’s Labour’s Lost, The Tempest and The Star Play in New York, and Broadway Our Way and the Short Plays Festival for West Hartford Community Theater. Rounding out the creative team is Haley Nelson from West Hartford and Ethan Hale from the Telluride Theater in Telluride, Colorado.

The paintings included hang in prominent museums all over the world, as well as some closer to home; The Wadsworth Athenaeum in Hartford, The Hill-Stead Museum in Farmington and The New Britain Museum of American Art. Artists included are Caravaggio, Raphael, Edward Hopper, John Singer Sargent, William Orpen, Leonardo Da Vinci, Mattias Stom, Ralph Earl, Petrus Christus, Giovanni Bellini, James McNeill Whistler, Frans van Mieris the Elder, Orazio Gentileschi, Robier van der Weyden, Antonio Moro Utrecht, and others.

There is one performance only on Saturday, March 2nd, 2024. Doors open and cocktails start at 7pm. The show runs approximately 7:30-8:30 p.m. followed by more cocktails and conversation at Warehouse 635 at 635 New Park Avenue, West Hartford CT, 06110. Tickets cost $29 and are available online only at www.29Paintings.com.

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