Barbara Castonguay

Suffering for your Art

By - Apr 14th, 2010 04:00 am
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Michael Wright. Photo courtesy of website.

What kind of value do we put on artists in our society?  What kind of treatment do they deserve?

Milwaukee Chamber Theatre broaches these subjects in Rebecca Gilman’s Sweetest Swing in Baseball, opening this week at the Broadway Theatre Center.

Artistic Director C. Michael Wright decided on this play as the closing piece for MCT’s season, a capstone on his season theme of celebrating artists.

“This play shows how vulnerable we all are, and how precarious it is in the public eye,” Wright said.

Sweetest Swing follows the story of an artist emotionally shattered by criticism and bad press.  She is institutionalized, only to have her insurance run out.  Desperately, she tries to develop symptoms of a multiple personality disorder so that she can remain safe in the institution… and that’s where Darryl Strawberry comes in.  She begins to research his life and finds herself surprisingly uplifted.

“She understands his journey as a public figure,” Wright said.  “That’s a wonderful universal theme, because she finds the parallel between an athlete and an artist.”

The constant criticism, the mounting pressure, feelings of self-consciousness, self-loathing, and despair—it’s no leisurely stroll through the park.  We see a woman who has lost the ability to function in society.

The play addresses big-time questions. What is the value of art and artists in our society? How do we provide health care, and how should we? How has the advent of social media changed celebrity and privacy.

“It’s so easy to tweet something nasty about somebody,” Wright said.  “Everything’s so public.  People criticize how you look, how you sound, how you walk….  I don’t think the public understands how fragile artists actually are.”

The look of Sweetest Swing is a big departure for MCT.  Set designer Nathan Stuber imagined a white world, more like an artist’s canvas than like a staged rendering of the real world. The occasional splash of color or change in lighting will signify a change in location or mood.

“It was [Nathan’s] thought that we should make it all look like an art installation, even the furniture,” Wright says.  “I’m excited that he’s pushing me to try something brand-new.  The actors will just pop off of the page.”

Milwaukee Chamber Theatre opens Sweetest Swing in Baseball on Friday, April 16th (with a preview on Thursday) and it runs through May 2nd.  For more information, visit MCT or call 414-291-7800.

Leave a comment below for a chance to win a pair of tickets to the Milwaukee Chamber Theatre’s production of The Sweetest Swing in Baseball. In the Sweetest Swing, the main character finds hope and inspiration in the most unlikely of places. In your comment, tell us about the things that inspire you and be sure to include your name and email address so that we can contact you. ThirdCoast Digest promises not to sell or spam your info.

0 thoughts on “Suffering for your Art”

  1. Anonymous says:

    This play sounds very inspiring! Sometimes I really feel as though I’m teetering between brilliance and insanity!


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