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Lafayette College Theater will perform Picasso at the Lapin Agile, comedian Steve Martin’s fantasy about Albert Einstein and Pablo Picasso, at 8 p.m. April 24-28, in the Williams Center for the Arts Black Box theater.

Seating is limited. For tickets, call the Williams Center Box at 610-330-5009.

The play will be previewed at noon Monday, April 23, in the Black Box. Lunch may be brought or purchased for $3.

Suzanne Westfall, associate professor of English, directs what the New York Times called “a very engaging shaggy dog of a comedy.” Williams Center technical director Richard A. Kendrick designs the scenery and lighting for the landmark Parisian bistro where the comedy is set. Early 20th century costumes are by D. Polly Kendrick, Parrott Designs, and sound is by Timothy Frey.

Assistant directors are Beth Wynstra ’01 (Walnut Creek, Calif.) and Katie Wyckoff ’01 (Princeton, N.J.). Megan Thomas ’01 (Greenbelt, Md.) and Michael Rainer ’01 (Passaic, N.J.) are stage managers.

The play broke box office records and won virtually unanimous critical praise when it first played at Theatre On the Square in San Francisco from June 1996 through April 1997, after which it embarked on a tour of major U.S. cities.

“For an institution like Lafayette College, which boasts strong science and engineering programs in a liberal arts setting, Lapin Agile is an ideal example of how art and science speak the same language, seek the same beauties,” says Westfall. “The play could be a poster child for our Values in Science and Technology program. In addition, we, as always, strive to give our student performers and audiences a cerebral stretch. Our students are fans of Steve Martin as pop icon, but underestimate his intellectual curiosity and appreciation for high culture. Student actors are getting lessons in art history, mathematical theory, and cultural history, as we focus on Paris in 1904 to explore what that brand-new century was promising, and what promises were broken. And audiences, we hope, will look at modern art, quantum theory, and their own yearning for a ‘moment of perfection’ with more joy and more appreciation”

Most people think of Martin as that “wild and crazy guy” from television’s Saturday Night Live sketches, or as the author and star of films like The Jerk, notes Westfall. Few think of him as the adapter for film of George Eliot’s Silas Marner and Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac, and even fewer know that he has long been a collector of fine art, a literary novelist, and an essayist for The New Yorker.

“He is more proud of hosting the National Book Awards than he is of his stint on the Academy Awards, prouder of his novel Shopgirl than he is of his stand-up comedy,” says Westfall. “Picasso at the Lapin Agile, first produced in 1994, shows that he has, as he said in the New York Times recently, been haunting museums and college libraries for many years. Taking as his subject a pivotal moment in the history of the 20th century, when artistic and scientific paradigms shifted so tremendously and so abruptly that they leave many behind to this very day, Martin contemplates what it means to be ‘in the moment’ to witness and participate in the rapture of creative thought, whether about physics, art, or some mysterious combination of the two. While flying in high intellectual altitudes, Picasso at the Lapin Agile continues to navigate with Martin’s dazzling wit. The play humanizes larger-than-life figures like Pablo Picasso and Albert Einstein, while playing fast and loose with time and space. Ultimately, Martin pays tribute to high culture while noting that — for better or worse — it will never enjoy the popularity or impact of popular culture.”

The play examines definitions of quality in art – how people decide what is good and bad, art for the ages or art for the masses. According to Martin, “Quality seems to be simply ‘known,’ though practically impossible and unnecessary to quantify. I found that dealers, whose living depends on their ability to evaluate works of art, often display an uncanny perception for pictures.” Martin proceeds, in typical fashion, to undercut his own intelligence: “I have heard pictures disparaged too many times for the strangest reasons, ‘not enough teepees’ being among my favorites.”


Freddy: David Campos ’01 (Rochester, N.Y)

Einstein: Andrew DiFazio ’02 (Gordon, Maine)

Sagot: Tim Fargus ’02 (Stafford Springs, Conn.)

Gaston: Robert Hawkey ’01 (Hainesport, N.J.)

Countess: Erika Lapple ’01 (Rochester, N.Y.)

Visitor: Eric Lopez ’01 (Brooklyn, N.Y.)

Yvette: Christine McElhenny ’01 (Mahanoy City, Pa.)

Picasso: Jeremy Pochman ’02 (Nantucket, Mass.)

Suzanne: Jessica Rowlands ’03 (Latham, N.Y.)

Schmendiman: Bill Simmons ’04 (Trenton, N.J.)

Germaine: Sandy Veresink ’02 (Easton, Pa.)

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