You don’t actually need to bring art supplies to this one, but no one’s stopping you if you do.
Art Class is not quite an immersive theatre experience and it’s not quite a play, but if it expanded both these aspects then it could be something really special.
Every spectator is given a “program” that contains no show information besides the 3 main performers’ names, and several boxes in which to draw. Everyone is given a pen (but if you bring your own pastels, for example, then you can use those too) and the bulk of the show is legitimately an exercise in life drawing – two nude models do poses during this show, and while the audience isn’t forced to draw throughout, most of the audience members in the performance I saw did. The ‘instructor’ in a very calm gravelly voice gives instruction on the proportions of the human face in drawing, which is genuinely interesting if, like me, your visual arts skills extend to stick figures. At the same time there is a dramatic plot: one student in the class, the ‘artist,’ spends the first half of the performance sketching the model in full view of the audience, and it’s always interesting to watch someone who knows how to sketch do it. But the artist has a secret desire: even if he can’t admit it to himself at first, he also wants to model. Trouble is that men don’t usually volunteer for it, so he feels like he shouldn’t. After meeting nude model Taylor however, she calms his anxieties and convinces him to give it a try.
The plot is quite minimal, and the life-drawing class aspect of the show is also fairly understated. Both could use a beefing-up: the short lecture on how to draw a human face is fascinating, but if there moments on drawing hands, or torsos, or feet, then that would be going above and beyond what most people know about bodily proportions and make this show really stand out (I know that hands are supposed to be the hardest part of the human body to sketch, but this is theatre and not an actual life-drawing class. We can do a little of everything). The plotline as well with the artist could go further: all we see is his state of anxiety about wanting to try being on the other side of the artist-model relationship, and Taylor’s successful attempt to convince him to try. That’s all we get though: he’s going to try. If we got to see a little more of Taylor coaching him, teaching him how to ‘be’ a model rather than ‘act like’ a model (something the ‘instructor’ says earlier on but is intriguingly left unexplained), then the payoff to the storyline would be greater – not to mention the opportunity for the life-drawing aspect to point out the differences in proportion between male and female bodies. All speculation, of course, but as it is the show is a bit weak on both fronts.
It is very calming environment however, and there is the chance for audience participation (don’t worry, you will not be asked to pose nude. Probably). Art Class is an interesting experiment in combining two of the fine arts, but for it to really succeed the two arts should both be amped up.
Running Time: approximately 40 minutes
*Please note this show contains full-frontal nudity
At Studio Léonard-Beaulne
Art Class in Session. Nude Model. Please Knock.
An Atelier Denu production
Written by Shawn Philip Hunsdale
Performed by Timothy Mott, Taylor Howarth, Shawn Philip Hunsdale