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Saturday, November 14, 2015

Beauford Delaney Paints Marian Anderson: A Play

Beauford's portrait of Marian Anderson is undeniably an exquisite work. Award-winning screenwriter, playwright, and two-time Pennsylvania Council on the Arts Fellow Arden Kass* was so inspired by the portrait that she wrote a play about Beauford and Anderson entitled Beauford Delaney Paints Marian Anderson.

Marian Anderson
(1965) Oil on canvas
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
J. Harwood and Louise B. Cochrane Fund for American Art
© Estate of Beauford Delaney
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire,
Court Appointed Administrator

I found the play on the Indie Theater Now Web site, purchased it for a mere $1.29, and read it avidly. As the story unfolded, I discovered that Beauford is observing episodes in Anderson's life as he paints her.

Ms. Kass granted Les Amis an interview, which you can read below.

Les Amis: When did you first learn about Beauford Delaney and his work?

Arden Kass: I had been invited to contribute a play about an American woman for a project called "365 Women, 365 plays," and I chose to write about Marian Anderson. I knew that she had lived and worked literally around the corner from my house in Philadelphia, that I walked my dog past her former home frequently -- but I had not taken the time to educate myself about her life and work.

In the course of researching Miss Anderson, I came across a mention of Beauford's portrait and was immediately fascinated by him as an artist and by his unique perspective as a person. I read as much as I could find about him, and realized that his portrait of her, while somewhat abstract, captured her more accurately than so many of the photos, interviews and articles I had come across.

Les Amis: Without giving the story away, what is it about?

Arden Kass: Miss Anderson was a notoriously private person and gave away very little of her personal feelings in interviews. The most insight into her personal passions or feelings seems to come through her music. But in my play everything she does not say in words is visible in Beauford's portrait.

Les Amis: Is Beauford a character in the play? Or are you using his name in the title for some other reason?

Arden Kass: Beauford is a full-fledged character in the play -- everything that happens is filtered through his consciousness and his artistic connection with Anderson's music.

Les Amis: Tell us more about the play.

Arden Kass: I wrote Beauford Delaney Paints Marian Anderson in 2014. It is a one act play that lasts about 25 minutes, maybe 1/2 hour if I incorporate recorded music. It has been published by Indie Theater Now, but due to my busy schedule I have not sought a production of it. However, I may be presenting a staged reading in New York at the NY History Society Library.

For a short play, it's a complex script (like Beauford's portrait, that says everything at once.) It requires several actors but isn't very long, so I am not sure how we would achieve a production unless it was part of a festival, for example. I may revisit it and try to double some of the 7 roles.

A composer recently asked me to work with her to expand the play into a musical, but I'm not certain how we'd create a musical about Marian Anderson without using her own music...

Les Amis: How can people stay abreast of developments about the play?

Arden Kass: I have a website, ardenkass.com -- When something happens, I'll announce it there.

*Arden is a member of the Dramatists Guild and BMI Musical Theatre Workshop in New York. Her most recent theatrical venture, School Play, based entirely on interviews with 100
Pennsylvania residents, has just completed a 15-venue statewide tour. Additional projects include book and lyrics for a musical comedy about the marketing genius who first sold
sexy lingerie to American women in the 1940s (at BMI) and a new one-act about classical singer Marian Anderson slated for a New York reading in 2016.


Les Amis de Beauford Delaney, Reid Hall, and the Wells International Foundation (WIF) are partnering to bring an exhibition of original Beauford Delaney works to Reid Hall in Paris in February 2016! WE VALUE YOUR SUPPORT!

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1 comment:

Unknown said...

The other Andersons - Walter F. & Sandra - Portraits

ref. pp. 181-2 Horn, Joan. Playing on All the Keys: the Life of Walter F. Anderson. Yellow Springs, OH.: Yellow Springs Hist. Soc,, 2007.

Encounters in Geneva, Paris, South of France with B.D.

Have portraits resurfaced/located. Best. Michel P.