Melynda Nuss: Theater Review: A Weekend with Pablo Picasso

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[Melynda Nuss is a writer and an Associate Professor of Romantic Literature and Drama at the University of Texas - Pan American. She last wrote on the film The King's Speech for Culturekiosque.]

HOUSTON, TEXAS, 28 MARCH 2011 — What happens when an artist gets old? It is a question that we’re bound to hear more often, as each generation of artists lives longer than the next. If so, Herbert Siguenza’s A Weekend with Pablo Picasso, now having its premiere courtesy of the New Play Initiative at the Alley Theater in Houston, is a good shot across the bow. It gives us Picasso at the age of 77, comfortably ensconced in his villa on the Côte d’Azur, enjoying wine, baguettes and his own fame. It is an age at which one might be forgiven for wanting to retire; indeed, according to Picasso lore, it is an age at which the master might have been considered retired, churning out canvases and sketches for wealthy collectors. And Picasso could have been forgiven for wanting to retire, having begun his artistic training and output at the age of 7, lived through two world wars, the Catalan Independence movement, Franco’s fascism, two wives, and an astonishing number of mistresses — not to mention at least five distinct periods of artistic creation. One would think that he might need a rest.

But of course Picasso did not rest. His late period was one of his most prolific, experimenting with style and color, responding to the master artists he had known during his life, reaching toward new styles and new ways of making art, and even creating like the 50-foot tall creature in downtown Chicago that is still one of the city’s most recognizable landmarks.

It is no doubt this energy that attracted Siguenza. As a 30-year veteran of the theater scene, who, with his partners Richard Montoya and Ric Salinas, pioneered the use of sketch comedy to illuminate the complex ethnic relationships of America’s cities, Siguenza has reached the capstone of his career. He writes, teaches and directs theater at the University of California at Irvine and serves as a mayor-appointed Commissioner to the City of Los Angeles. Recently he has started one-man portrayals of famous Latinos, starting with the Mexican film star Cantinflas. He seems to be thinking about how an artist that has already made his mark can take his art to the next level....

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