Vincent John Doe a play by Robert Maniscalco – Abstract
Vincent John Doe asks the question, “What if Van Gogh showed up in NYC in 2013?” As one might predict, people quickly realize he is “crazy,” and he ends up in a mental institution. As Vincent navigates the mental health system and encounters therapists and fellow patients we begin to question how our society has come to define mental illness. The play explores the differences between mental illness and the artistic temperament. What do we do with those who refuse to conform to behaviors we consider normal. The play explores the meaning of identity, the role of ego and the meaning of success. It challenges our relationship with God and the courage it takes to speak to the world through one’s art. What is the burden and responsibility of the artist, in terms of truth? What is his/her moral imperative? What is his place in the world of commerce?
The action of the play follows Vincent over his stay in the hospital and follows him as he claims his “career.” We are not certain whether Van Gogh is fighting to get back to his time or simply be accepted in the present. The more Van Gogh asserts his identity the more trouble he gets into. He eventually realizes the battle over his identity is not the real issue before him. By the time the viewer figures out whether the play is a piece of Science Fiction or not, he/she has become embroiled in a high stakes psychological and spiritual journey.
A unique feature of the play is that it requires the actor playing Van Gogh to create two actual paintings in the course of the play, blurring the lines between the theatre and performance art genres.
The play received its fist public reading at Threshold Theatre (84 1/2 Society St. in Charleston) on February 17th, 2013, followed by an audience talk back with the playwright and the actors. Then will be a party.
VINCENT VAN GOGH is what we might expect of the great artist, who believes he has been transported to the future. He has been here for a couple years and by this time has become fully aware of his predicament, though far from comfortable with the way of the world in its present state. One of the big questions in the play is whether he has been transported here or is he truly delusional? The real existential question for Van Gogh, however, is why does he paint?
DR. KEN FISHER is a published psychiatrist who specializes in helping delusional patients find their true identity. Though he is never convinced that he is sitting across from the actual Vincent Van Gogh, he is hard-pressed to accomplish his goal of convincing his patient, even after applying his carefully considered, yet unorthodox methods. He is under a lot of pressure to get results. Curing Vincent would be the ultimate feather in his cap.
MS. MINDA is an ardent art therapist who believes sincerely in the power of creativity to unblock those struggling with mental illness. She is very caring and believes she knows how to break through to anyone, even someone as far gone as Vincent.
RONNIE is a fellow patient. He is a brilliant sociopath with a sardonic wit, troubled by anger, who seems to have a remarkable grasp of reality, as long as it conforms to his idea of reality. If not, it must be destroyed.
ANGEL is a floor nurse who does not believe in medicating those who do not conform to society and has lost faith in the effectiveness of the mental health system. She makes it her mission to assist Van Gogh in his quest to understand his role as an artist and his place in modern society.
MISS CATCHER is the Supervisor, trying to reel Dr. Fisher in, with his unorthodox methods for dealing with delusionals. She is a beurocrat who like to go by the book.
TURTLE is a graffiti artist, wanting to make his mark on the world, though he has remarkably very little to actually say about it through his art. He longs to be a celebrity. The problem is that his work is anonymous.
DOCENT is actually another patient, perhaps RONNIE, giving a mock tour of a museum in which Van Gogh, who lived to a ripe old age, is the center of the collection.