|a painting by Artemisia Gentileschi|
Live Girls! Theater
at Theatre Off Jackson
through March 14, 2015
(as posted on StackeDD Magazine)
Live Girls! Theater is debuting Blood/Water/Paint, a play by local playwright, Joy McCullough-Carranza. LG focuses on women writers, and the subject matter of the play is a 16th Century Italian painter, Artemisia Gentileschi. We can assume, correctly, that Artemisia (it seems more appropriate to refer to her by first name) had a tough time being recognized as a painter. But more than that, Artemisia’s story is amazing in part due to a still-surviving trial transcript of a trial where she testified against her rapist, even after being subjected to torture! Her fight to convict her attacker makes her an even more appropriate heroine today.
STACKEDD interviewed playwright McCullough-Carranza about bringing this play to life. Joy described for us her writing process and what drew her to try to put this story on stage:
“Some time in 2001, I was reading a Margaret Atwood novel that made passing reference to a famous Artemisia. I had never heard the name, so out of curiosity I looked it up. It was early days of Internet, so I only found a bit about the Italian painter Artemisia Gentileschi. But what I found was enough to send me off to the art history section of the library.
I knew very little about art history, but I’d minored in Women’s Studies in college, so I was not surprised to learn that in the Baroque Italian art world, women were not apprenticed, or given access to the career tracks required to become painters. But Artemisia Gentileschi was apprenticed to her father and even as a teenager, the quality of her work was already surpassing his.
And so a play began to form. This began with research, since I knew nothing of art history, or the process of painting, or Roman life in the 1600’s. But once I’d read a lot of books, the writing began. The play that’s about to premiere at Live Girls Theater in Seattle bears little resemblance to the one I started with. In my earliest drafts, the play revolved around a present day art history professor who was, through Artemisia’s story, coming to terms with her own sexual assault. But Artemisia, along with Susanna and Judith, were always the heart of the story, and finally, after many years, I stripped everything else away.
I’ve worked on the play and put it away many times over the last fourteen years. Meghan Arnette, artistic director of Live Girls Theater, had read the play many years ago. She’d even featured excerpts of it in a show called Notorious Women. But that was years ago, and I had given up on the play. Then, about a year ago, Meghan got in touch, saying she really wanted to put it on stage.
It’s been an overwhelming process so far, watching the tremendous amount of talent and energy being poured into this play that’s lived in my head for so long. Director Amy Poisson is weaving time periods and flashbacks with so much skill. The exceptional cast members have thrown themselves into a play that’s very difficult, both emotionally and structurally. And there are amazing design elements I never even considered while writing, like all the on-stage painting that happens. Brian Stricklan is painting partial reproductions of some of Artemisia’s most famous paintings, which we will use on-stage.
Few people know of her, and most who do remember first that she was raped. But there’s so much more to her story. I’m excited for Seattle audiences to discover it.”