Painters inspire series of short plays

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  • Local theater veteran Scott Johnson is in the midst of rehearsals for the upcoming production of a series of short plays titled, “Art as Theatre.” The production, co-directed by Johnson and Ron Ragone with scripts written by Teresa Pesce, springboards off imagery from six paintings by local artists. (Photo by DAVID GUNTER)

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    Pesce

  • Local theater veteran Scott Johnson is in the midst of rehearsals for the upcoming production of a series of short plays titled, “Art as Theatre.” The production, co-directed by Johnson and Ron Ragone with scripts written by Teresa Pesce, springboards off imagery from six paintings by local artists. (Photo by DAVID GUNTER)

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    Pesce

SANDPOINT — If life imitates art, to lift a snippet from an Oscar Wilde quote, then actors can, too. Or, at the very least, they can reflect its image.

That’s the working premise for an upcoming series of short plays to be mounted at the Panida Little Theatre, in which a cast of 10 actors will take on roles from six scripts in a production called, “Art as Theatre.”

The creation will include six plays performed over the course of two evenings, beginning July 12 and running Friday and Saturday nights, as well as Sunday matinees, through July 21.

“This was Teresa Pesce’s brainchild,” said Scott Johnson, who has partnered with Ron Ragone to co-produce and direct the plays. “It’s something she’s been working on for a couple of years.”

Featuring six paintings created by Sandpoint-area artists Connie Scherr, Suzanne Jewell, Scott Kirby and Patty Ragone, all but one of the scripts is named after the artwork that inspired them. The sole outlier is a painting by Kirby titled, “Nocturnal Barnscape,” which emerges in script form as “Elvis Has Left the Building.”

Like the images themselves, the scripts are “totally unrelated pieces of work,” Johnson pointed out. What they do share is the intricate task of taking art from a visual medium and reimagining it in a theatrical package. The process, according to the co-director, turned out to be complex.

“It’s like there are four different levels to it,” he said. “You have the artist’s vision and then you have what Teresa composed based on what she sees. And then there’s me and Ron trying to create something dramatic and visual onstage. Finally, the actors are interpreting the scripts in their own way.”

The July run of plays won’t be the first time Pesce has married art and theatre in a winning fashion.

“In 2010, I saw Stephen Schultz’s art and was impressed by its interpretive elements,” she said. “Inspired, I wrote a play based on a succession of his unique works. I read it aloud to him one afternoon and asked his permission to do the play. I don’t know what I expected, perhaps to be drop-kicked to the curb as a nervy little upstart, but instead he was completely gracious.”

That play, titled “Red Tape” and directed by Deborah McShane, drew strong crowds and left the playwright open to revisiting the concept when and if the Muse inspired her to have another go at it.

“That experience stayed with me,” Pesce said. “I saw some works of art by Patty Ragone and some photographs of a recent local exhibit by other artists and the stories I saw in their work just began pouring out of me in one-act plays.”

Each play runs approximately 25 minutes in length, the co-director said, leading to the decision to break them up into two distinct blocks for production purposes.

“You need to attend two nights to see all six plays,” he said. “And it’s well worth it.”

“Art as Theatre” will be produced in a “black box” theatrical format – a minimalist approach where sets, costumes and makeup are eschewed and stage lighting is used to reflect the mood of the script. Another description of black box theatre – one used in theatre-rich cities such as Los Angeles and New York – is a venue with a capacity of 99 or fewer seats, which leads to a more intimate experience for audience members. In this way, the Panida Little Theatre exactly fits the bill, seating about 80-90 people when the house is full.

Cast members for “Art as Theatre” include: Seneca Cummings, Tari Pardini, Miriam Robinson, Cory Repass, Michael Bigley, Becky Campbell, Keely Gray-Heki, Jo Heinese, Ron Ragone and an actor who goes by the name of Future.

The production will run from July 12-14, and again from July 19-21, at the Panida Little Theater, located immediately north of and adjacent to the Panida Theater on First Ave., in downtown Sandpoint.

Friday and Saturday night performances are set for 7 p.m., with Sunday matinees slated for 2 p.m. Ticket price for each show will be $12.

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