Jerry Girton, James Douglass and Steve Bowron will perform “Art” at Albert Lea’s Marion Ross Performing Arts Center Friday and Saturday. – Jason Schoonover/Albert Lea Tribune
Jerry Girton, James Douglass and Steve Bowron will perform “Art” at Albert Lea’s Marion Ross Performing Arts Center Friday and Saturday. – Jason Schoonover/Albert Lea Tribune

Archived Story

Award-winning play comes to the Marion Ross Performing Arts Center

Published 9:00am Saturday, May 17, 2014

By Hannah Dillon

Three men explore friendship and artistry with the help of a blank canvas and humor in a play coming to Albert Lea this week.

“Art” opens at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Marion Ross Performing Arts Center and will be a fundraiser for the Albert Lea Art Center.

ames Douglass, left, and Jerry Girton rehearse a scene from “Art” in the cafeteria of Riverland Community College’s east Austin campus Monday. – Jason Schoonover/Albert Lea Tribune
ames Douglass, left, and Jerry Girton rehearse a scene from “Art” in the cafeteria of Riverland Community College’s east Austin campus Monday. – Jason Schoonover/Albert Lea Tribune

“Art,” by Yasmina Reza, is a French comedy play that was written in October 1994. Nearly two years later it was translated by Christopher Hampton and opened at London’s West End in October 1996.

The play is the winner of two prestigious awards: the 1996 Olivier Award for Best Comedy and the 1998 Tony Award for Best Play.

The story involves three men. One of the men buys an all-white painting for $200,000, and the other two men make fun of him for his purchase. Their friendship is strained as the play explores what art really is. Marty Shepard, artistic director for the Albert Lea Art Center, said it is a “comedy with a message.”

Shepard has seen this play twice. She said she always thought it would be a good fundraiser for the Art Center, but wasn’t involved at the time.

Now that she is involved with the Center, Shepard pushed for “Art” to come to Albert Lea. The play is a fundraiser, just as she imagined, for the capital campaign to relocate the Art Center, which kicks off May 27.

In addition to the three shows, there are two special events associated with the play: the “White on White” exhibit and Artichokes with the Actors. All ticket holders are welcome to partake in these events.

After each show the White on White exhibit will be open for one and a half hours at the Albert Lea Art Center at 226 W. Clark St. This exhibit involves all-white artworks, mirroring the all-white painting in the play. This exhibit is also showing during normal Art Center hours from Friday through July 11.

Artichokes with the Actors will be after the performance on Friday at 226 W. Clark St. Green Mill will provide a variety of artichoke dishes for the attendees. The actors will be at this event to mingle with the guests and to discuss the performance.

There is also an open house at the gallery 6 to 8 p.m. before the play that is open to the public, not just event ticket holders.

Shepard said that the community response has been great for Friday night. However, more tickets are available for both of the Saturday shows.

Two of the three actors who are in the play have acted in this play before, and all three of them have worked at Riverside Community College and have done a variety of local theater.

James Douglass reprises his role as Yvan in “Art” for the second time; he originally played this role for the Summerset Theatre. He is the executive director of communications, media relations and marketing at Riverland Community College. Recently, he has directed “Doubt” for Summerset Theatre. He has acted in “Dinner with Friends” and “The Producers” among others and most recently he was The Man in the Chair in “The Drowsy Chaperone” at Riverland.

Jerry Girton reprises his role of Serge in “Art.” He has recently retired after 23 years as the director of Riverland’s theater department. He has directed “Judy, Judy, Judy…A New Musical” for the Paramount Theatre in Austin. He has acted in “Proof,” “Chapter Two” and “Mass Appeal” among others and directed “Mass Appeal” at Minnesota State University Mankato.

Steve Bowron returns after a 15-year hiatus to play Marc in “Art.” His most recent appearance was in the Albert Lea Community Theatre production of “It Runs in the Family.” He has also appeared in “Crimes of the Heart,” “Key for Two” and “The Foreigner” among others. Bowron is the dean for institutional advancement at Riverland Community College.

“Art” is sponsored by Keith and Deloris Fligge, George Ehrhardt, Alliance Benefit Group, ITC, Margaret and Henry Savelkoul and Mayo Clinic Health Systems.