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Performance  |  Suitcase Productions presents Edward Albee’s Occupant

Friday, May 3, 2019, 8 pm


$20 Not Yet Members
$10 Burchfield Penney members

Call 716-878-6011 for tickets.

“I’ve never interviewed someone who is dead before.”

“Yeah? Well, I haven’t been interviewed since I’m dead. So we’re both nervous. We’ll get through it.”

The great American sculptor Louise Nevelson and her unprepared interviewer are off and running in this bio-drama as only Edward Albee could have written it. In what appears to be an overview of Nevelson’s development from an awkward but artistic teenager in Rockland, Maine to one of the leading figures in American modern art, Albee’s characters wrestle with deep questions about creativity, truth, and the act of becoming. The dialogue crackles as Nevelson works to control her own myth while the interviewer—known only as “the Man,”—probes for a glimpse of the true person behind the legend. The Burchfield Penney Art Center presents Buffalo actors Christina Rausa and Daniel St. Francis in this outstanding biographical drama. The story of one of America’s greatest sculptors told by one of its greatest playwrights is a must-see for anyone who has ever wondered what it means to dedicate your life to your art.

Originally produced by the Signature Theater Company in New York in 2008 and starring Mercedes Ruehl as Louise Nevelson, the play received strong reviews. Ben Brantley noted the play’s “emotional heft beyond that of a mere biographical sketch.” Ms. Ruehl said of Nevelson’s character, “She is someone who’s living at a deep and dangerous level. I could not have lived her life.” It is perhaps that shared and powerful commitment to their art that made Nevelson and Albee close friends for over forty years. Nevelson died in 1988 at the age of 88, Albee at the same age in 2016. Some critics have seen Albee’s own story emerging as he tried to write Nevelson’s: how does an artist remain true to the craft in the face of personal failure and professional discouragement? And what is the price of success?

Edward Albee (1928-2016), probably best known for his play Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, won three Pulitzer Prizes for Drama and the National Medal of Arts before writing Occupant. His friend Louise Nevelson had been dead for 12 years when he wrote the play, but from the 1960s to the 1980s she was one of the most influential figures on the American art scene. She was also recognized with the National Medal of Arts in 1985, the same year as Georgia O’Keeffe. Her sculptures can be seen throughout the world, including at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery.