Visual Art and Theater Converge in Ossining

One may say that art imitates life, and life imitates art. It’s a cyclical process. An artist is inspired by the world around them. Other artists are, in turn, inspired by that creative output. They then create something new while inserting their own life experiences.

Such a cycle of artistry began last June, when Westchester Collaborative Theater (WCT) playwrights were invited to tour an exhibition by Ossining Arts Council (OAC), select an artwork that inspires them, and write a one-act play based on that spark of inspiration.  The result is this month’s Living Art event, for which these two groups are joining forces for the sixth time.

WCT Executive Director Alan Lutwin explains that “the plays are then workshopped in [WCT]’s theater Labs. Selected plays are chosen for production and go through a dramaturg process prior to rehearsals.”

During the event, audiences will be guided through the exhibition. When they approach an artwork that inspired one of the one-act plays, that play is performed. For the first time, the event will take place at WCT’s black box performance space in downtown Ossining. Says Lutwin: “We are excited to see how the technical support we can bring to the production will enhance the audiences’ experience.”

Of the 26 works on view in the exhibition, five resulted in plays that will be performed during the event. The artworks include digital paintings, oil paintings, drawings and mixed media. The subject matters vary from abstract to landscape. As for the plays, the subjects range from two fairies trapped in a jar to a woman in charge of handling her mother’s ashes.

Loretta Oleck of Ossining explains that “after viewing Betsy Kates’ The Haircut, a specific event from childhood came flooding back,” which was ultimately the impetus for her writing Vanity Scam about two con artists who get caught in their own web of deceit.

According to OAC President Allison Midgley, the collaboration between the theater and arts council “underscores how art comes alive in the minds of its viewers…sometimes [it’s in the way] the artist intended, and sometimes it takes its own path as it resonates with its audience…It shows how art can inspire many different interpretations.”

So, the creative cycle continues: the artist created, the playwright created, and now it is in the audience’s hands to carry the inspiration with them into their own lives and potentially create yet again.

Performances take place Fridays through Sundays through May 21. A talk-back will follow the May 14 event. The exhibited artists whose paintings inspired the plays are: Louise Belevich, Teresa Hougnon, Laya Joseph, Betsy Kates, and Elsa Rubenstein. Playwrights include Linda Bidwell Delaney, Carol Mark, Tara Meddaugh, Loretta Oleck, Evelyn Mertens and Misha Templar Sinclair.

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