Defining ‘Art’

From left, Karl Knopf, Bob Sell and Collin Pierce rehearse a scene from “Art.”

Three friends squabble about a painting, or lack thereof, in the Cooper Center for Creative Art’s latest play, ‘Art.’

“It’s a comedy, but it’s not slapstick or low-brow comedy,” ‘Art’ director Jonathan Sell said. “It takes some thought to follow.”

The Cooper Center, 1174 N. Fourth St., is scheduled to present their rendition of the play at 7 p.m. Sept. 7-8. Tickets can be purchased in advance for $7 or $10 at the door. Call 742-3996 or email events@arkrs.org for ticketing information.

Written by French playwright Yasmina Reza, ‘Art’ won the Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Comedy in 1997 and the Tony Award for Best Play in 1998.

“This play took the world by storm,” Sell said. “I first read it about 10 years ago, and I laughed cover to cover.

“When I was asked to direct a play, this was an easy choice.”

The play follows a conversation between three friends, Sell explained.

One friend bought a pure white painting for an exorbitant price. The second friend is aghast at the purchase and the labeling of a pure white canvas as “art.” And, the third friend plays peacekeeper between the two.

Collin Pierce, an actor playing the role of Marc, said he didn’t put as much time into preparing for the role as he has in previous roles.

“Marc is a lovable jerk in some ways,” Pierce said, explaining the character of the friend opposing the painting purchase. “I’ve been playing that role my whole life.”

First encountering the play during a variety show, Pierce said it immediately became one of his favorite works.

“It’s a comedy, but it doesn’t have any jokes,” he said. “That kind of blew me away.”

Sell chimed in, “It’s a thought-provoking piece. The comedy is drawn from the situation and how the characters react.”

Reza’s aptitude for engaging and profound dialogue sets the play apart from others Sell has directed, he explained.

“That’s the brilliance of this playwright,” Sell said. “She takes these little, tiny, minuscule problems and puts them in the middle of close friends and watches what unfolds.”

Go to www.arkcreativearts.org for more information about the Cooper Center and the play.

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