Theater benefactors and Hispanophiles arrived at Stages Repertory Theatre recently for a night of enlightenment and gripping drama — a talk by Meadows Museum director Mark Roglán, a pre-eminent expert on Spanish art, and a performance of A Picasso. Setting the mood during the cocktail hour, designed to culturally prime the audience, were servings of tapas and Spanish wines compliments of Catalan.
A Madrid native and veteran of that city's illustrious Museo del Prado and Harvard University’s Fogg Museum, Roglán now directs Southern Methodist University’s Meadows Museum, known for the most comprehensive collection of Spanish art outside of Spain.
In his talk in Stages' Yeager Theater prior to the performance, Roglán presented an intimate portrait of Picasso's life and work during World War II, the era in which A Picasso is set. He touched on the artist’s dichotomous role in the war's underground artistic movements. Acting out of fear for his own safety, Picasso never took part in the French Resistance. Yet, to Roglán, the artist remains the premiere heroic personage of European culture during the war. Picasso would not comply with Nazi efforts to coerce artists into producing banal nationalist canvases. Instead, he quietly triumphed over totalitarianism and “carried the flame of artistic liberty.”
Roglán explained that he was immediately drawn to playwright Jeffrey Hatcher’s script for A Picasso, as the plot explores the vital role of “the object” in culture – a fundamental task of the museum professional.
With these insights, guests moved on to the Arena Theater where the setting was that of a Parisian cellar storing Europe’s looted artistic wonders. James Belcher’s performance as the esoteric painter brought the audience in tune with the anxiety of the age, while Carolyn Johnson’s depiction of a Nazi-dispatched art connoisseur progressively revealed the agony of operating under an unprecedented cultural hegemony. Johnson bypassed melodrama and kept the audience on the edge of their seats with her nuanced performance that brought the feminine experience of war to the fore.
Following the performance, attendees indulged in a nightcap of cava and discussed the details of the performance and the talk.