City College faculty, staff and students had the opportunity to see Herbert Siguenza’s one man show: “A Weekend With Pablo Picasso” at Saville Theatre on Nov. 7.
Siguenza, a Chicano-American artist known principally as a co-founder of the ground-breaking Latino comedy troupe, Culture Clash, plays the life of Picasso, the Spanish painter and one of the most influential artists of the 20th century.
With a very receptive audience and in a production skillfully directed by Siguenza, he explored the later years of the artist’s life playing the role of Picasso.
The play is set in Picasso’s home/studio in Paris in 1957 during the peak of his fame, when he was 76 years old.
Picasso allows a group of art students — the audience — to stay at his studio while his family is away; a supposition that allows Siguenza to directly engage us with stories and insights into the artistic life from Picasso’s interviews and writings.
With countless famous quotes, Siguenza engaged the audience, “We must work hard … inspiration does not exist; if it does, it needs to find you working.”
The solo turned into an assured, charismatic and well researched performance. Spectators were taken on a journey through the important moments in the history of modern art; it was as if Picasso came alive.
One of the interesting aspects of the play is that the works are painted in real time while he is performing. Siguenza impressed spectators, showcasing his talent as a painter when he asked a student to go up the stage and made her a portrait with impressive results.
After 30 minutes from the original hour-and-a-half play, Siguenza finished by saying: “Because I had the courage to live my life in broad light, and I am life, death, and Zoot Suits,” referring to other major roles in his acting career.
A lifelong admiration for Picasso led Siguenza to create the show, and his ability to paint gives him credibility in his hero’s style. Siguenza highlighted some formative events of Picasso’s life and attracted us into his artistic world.
After the performance, the public had the opportunity to ask questions. Siguenza shared that when he was 7 years old, his mother took him to “The Private Life of Pablo Picasso.”
“I had an obsession on art, and Picasso was the perfect vehicle to spark a big flame to credit it. I was always reproducing Picassos on my brain … and painting my own images of Picassos. 90 percent of what you heard today were Picasso’s actual words,” said Siguenza.
“There was always three of us interacting; doing one man play is difficult; it’s just you, it’s a great experience, real scary but real satisfactory. It feels great. I wanted people to experience an experience, not a play. What will happen if you spend a weekend with Picasso?” he said.
Siguenza finished by saying “I am developing a ’60s radical way to protest, in a very theatrical manner. I think it’s brilliant, the idea of communicating important messages through the plays I am in.”
Herbert Siguenza is an amazing, multi-talented artist. Whether in theatrical ensemble work as Culture Clash, to solo projects such as Picasso, he always keeps the audience engaged.