Belgian surrealist painter René Magritte was known for his playful use of mystery–men in overcoats and bowler hats floating, an apple or a boulder suspended in mid-air. Sometimes silly, always evocative, he captured the imagination of art lovers of all ages.
Alley Theater for Young Audiences will finish a run of Barry Kornhauser’s “This Is Not a Pipe Dream,” a play that introduces the painter as a child chafing under his skeptical father’s rule, this weekend in the Speed Art Museum Auditorium.
Artistic director Dana Hope says Magritte has a unique appeal for younger audiences.
“It’s so out there. I think kids’ minds are open to that coolness,” says Hope. “I think when an adult looks at Magritte’s work you have to take a moment and think, what is this all about? But a child just accepts it.”
Directed by Dan Welch, the play tells the decidedly non-linear story of how the artist developed his off-beat aesthetic, introducing the images Magritte becomes known for as finished artwork and as moving parts of the show. The artist’s best-known paintings will be projected on stage, and some will come to life.
Hope says the script called for some unconventional staging, so the cast turned to a professional magician to teach them how to make objects appear out of thin air.
“It’s sleight-of-hand,” says Hope. “You know the little red magic balls magicians use all the time? They pull them out of your ear, they stuff them in their hand? I had to paint those to look like potatoes, and for one of our actresses, we had to figure out how to have them appear in her hands.”
Performances of “This Is Not a Pipe Dream” are Friday evening and Saturday and Sunday afternoon at the Speed. The play is recommended for ages 8 and up, and tickets include museum admission.