Did you ever wonder who Pablo Picasso was, beyond the superficial images of him as the world's most recognizable and celebrated painter? I mean, what was inside him that drove him to be the indefatigable, visionary, prolific artist that he was. I did. And a new play provides just that.
I always meant to do the research beyond his famous Blue Period, Rose Period and Cubism Periods. Who was this Spanish artist who seemed to never stop being famous in his lifetime from the turn of the century until his death in 1973? I was determined to find out and wanted to see Herbert Siguenza's solo play, "Weekend with Picasso" to understand his contributions and character (now playing through May 1st at the Los Angeles Theatre Company A Weekend with Pablo Picasso - LATC - Los Angeles, CA) . And I did. He speaks to the very soul of a creative artist -- one that was determined to challenge himself and never stop growing.
"Work is my respiration," Siguenza quotes Picasso in the play. "If I can't work, I can't breathe. I would die. Give me a gallery and I will fill it! Your work must be the ultimate seduction, the ultimate
It is a play that takes you on a weekend where Picasso was commissioned to paint six paintings and three vases and deliver them by the end of a weekend in Paris. You are eavesdropping and witnessing an artist at work and how he keeps himself sane and motivated.
"The entire play is based on his actual quotes or other people's quotes describing him," Siguenza told me. "I simply created a fictional weekend where he is alone and gets a special order to paint 6 canvases and three vases over the weekend. The audience becomes the second character
and witnesses the weekend as his weekend guests."
There are times in the play when Siguenza asks the audience to participate and you are left thinking how would I behave or think in the artist's position? It is a startlingly engaging interactive device. Siguenza says playing Picasso is something he has thought of most of his life. "When I was seven years old, I saw a book by Douglas Duncan. It had photographs of Picasso in 1957 in his studio Le Californie in southern France. This is something that I have always wanted to play since I was a kid. The play is based off those amazing photographs."
Siguenza says he also read every book by those who knew Picasso including his wives, friends and other artists. "He was a very complex character -- very private but very open to his friends. He had unlimited energy even as an old man."
Fascinated with life and nature, Siguenza brings out the best as well as, sometimes, the darkest feelings of the artist. His great loss of his sister who died of diphtheria, his feelings and depiction of the German bombing of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War and his personal life which was constantly changing. Like the weekend of painting we witness in the play, "Each painting made me go deeper. You have to do more and more. Only then do you get anywhere. Action is the foundation to all success. Don't try, Do. Don't seek, Find."
What is remarkable is to see Siguenza paint during the play as a professional artist. He says, "I have always had the God given gift with the ability to draw. Since I was a kid I drew and eventually went to art college." It certainly adds to the verisimilitude of the experience at the theater. The play is a delightful exploration of Picasso's life and a satisfying journey of discovery into the creative process.