Vincent John Doe a new play by Robert Maniscalco – Abstract
MEDIA Program Description:
Enjoy a fascinating visit with Vincent Van Gogh, who is caught in a time vortex and sees firsthand the impact his work has had on the world of today. Acclaimed performer and visual artist Robert Maniscalco brings Vincent to life, even painting a couple Van Goghs right before your very eyes. Get into the brilliant mind of one of the greatest artists the world has ever known in this multi-disciplinary, interactive production, combining live piano music, fine art and theatre.
The action of Vincent John Doe, an original full length (90 minutes), multi-media play by Rob Maniscalco, follows Vincent, as he is being committed to a mental hospital, fighting for his “truth.” We never quite know for sure if this character really is Van Gogh or just another delusional. As Vincent longs for a return to his own time he finds he must also fight for acceptance in the present. The more Van Gogh asserts his identity the more trouble he causes. Eventually, he comes to realize the battle over his identity is not the real issue he must face. Meanwhile, as the audience wonders whether the play is a piece of science fiction or a psychological thriller, they have become embroiled in a high stakes existential battle about the real meaning of freedom and truth.
Vincent John Doe asks the question, “What if Van Gogh somehow showed up in NYC in 2018?” As one might predict, people immediately assume he is “crazy” and he is petitioned into a mental facility for evaluation and treatment. That is where Vincent John Doe begins. As Vincent navigates today’s mental health system he encounters therapists and fellow patients who make him, and us, question the “crazy artist” paradigm. Once he escapes “the system” he becomes an overnight sensation and his talent and adamant assertion that he is the real Van Gogh is exploited by a cynical art world.
VJD examines the question of how our society has come to define mental illness. The play explores the differences between mental illness and the artistic temperament and what to do with those who refuse to conform to behaviors we consider “normal.” The play explores the meaning of identity and the role of ego. 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 for the artist, in terms of truth? Does truth even matter anymore in today’s society? What is the place of the artist in the world of commerce and what is the measure of his success?
VJD is a deep reexamination of the character of Van Gogh, who has been marginalized by our society as the ultimate “crazy artist.” Here, using his own letters as source material, VJD mines the depth of the great artist’s thinking, wisdom and ideas.
One unique feature of VJD is that it requires the actor playing Van Gogh to create two actual Van Gogh paintings in real time, during the course of each performance, blurring the lines between the theatre and visual art disciplines. The world premiere will feature renowned Charleston artist/actor Robert Maniscalco painting in the style of the great art legend. He and eight other actors will perform all ten roles.
The design concept requires minimal set components. Light, sound effects and projections create most of the changes in scenery and mood. Production elements and costs are minimal enough to make it easy to set up and strike. The venue requirements are flexible but VJD does require basic lighting and sound facilities.
The unique, multi-disciplinary nature of the play’s structure, the high profile notoriety of the subject himself, the compelling ideas, pertinent contemporary issues on the table and intriguing story line make it the perfect offering for any cutting edge intimate theatre venue. VJD pushes the limits of the multi-disciplinary genre without going broke.
Character Breakdown: Five actors will play the following nine roles.
At first, VINCENT VAN GOGH is what we might expect of the great artist, who believes he has been transported to the future. He is disoriented but firm in his convictions and intentions. Is he really who he says he is or just another delusional? Is anyone really who they think they are? The real existential question for Van Gogh, however, is not who he is but why he is here? VJD is a portrait of the thoughtful, insightful man behind the legendary mad genius.
KEN FISHER is a published psychiatrist who has developed idiosyncratic methods to help delusional patients in finding 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.
MS. MINDA is an ardent art therapist who believes sincerely in the power of creativity to unblock those struggling with mental illness, even someone as far gone as Vincent seems to be. She has absolute faith in art as the key to breaking through to the truth.
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 skewed world view. If not, it is fake news and 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. Carrying a secret connection to Van Gogh from childhood, she makes it her mission to help Van Gogh in his quest to understand his role as an artist and his place in society, past and present. Is she an agent of God or just one of a million well-meaning fans with her own nefarious agenda?
TURTLE is a resident/graffiti artist, wanting to make his mark on the world, though he has remarkably little to actually say about it, through his art. He longs for celebrity. The only problem is that his work is anonymous.
PATSY SIMMONS, played by the actor who plays MS. MINDA, is a highly influential art dealer, who knows how to spin an effective narrative and capitalize on the talents of others.
ART CRITIC, played by the actor playing TURTLE, is a cynical yet deeply sincere in his longing for something deeper.
DOCENT, played by the actor who plays RONNIE, speaks to us from the humanistic version of heaven, giving a mock tour of a museum in which he asserts Van Gogh lives to a ripe old age, is the centerpiece of the collection.
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.
Let Robert know if you would like to receive a pdf of the entire play for review. Please stipulate the purpose of the review.
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