THE PITMAN PAINTERS
Directed by Leslie Martinson
It is through art and through art only,
That we can realize our perfection.
“I have a passion for plays about art,” said Theatreworks Artistic Director Robert Kelley. “They are inevitably about much more – about the flawed, fragile, familiar human beings behind every aesthetic endeavor and often about the politics and prejudices of the era that produced it.”
That sums up the beauty and the impact of this wonderfully produced story of a group of British coal miners in the thirties who take up painting in an effort to understand ”art.” Andrea Bechert’s creative and highly original set designs coupled with Leslie Martinson’s tightly paced direction elevate the fairly loose plot into a compelling story meant to spur us all to find our own creative muse. “The joy of this play ….. is that it gives us a vibrant ‘insider’s view’… we all are visitors to their community,” said director Leslie Martinson. “When Robert Lyon, their teacher, urged them to pick up brushes and create their own paintings, his goal was simply to give them a means to understand what they were looking at when they looked at a painting. …..What he wasn’t expecting…is the energy and complexity of the images they created.”
The men were fascinated by the creative process and each man found something in it that gave him new perspectives on his own life. “We paint those little moments of being alive,” said Harry Wilson (Dan Hiatt).
Lee Hall was fascinated by the true story of these men and he says, ”I think more than the pitmen wanting to become artists, I was attracted to the idea of a group discovering and discussing art.”
The miners painted together once a week and eventually put on several successful shows of their work. When collector Helen Sutherland (Marcia Pizzo) tries to explain her fascination with the men’s work, she says “The meaning is something that happens in your heart.” And Oliver Kilbourn (Patrick Jones) says “Art is making things possible that weren’t there before. It is the first time I made something that was mine and not for money or for anyone else.”
The work these men produce is not the polished paintings of artists who have studied the creative process and devoted their lives to perfecting their technique. Instead, the works the pitmen produce are unique to each one, reflecting who they are and what is in their hearts. Their teacher Robert Lyon (Paul Whitworth) observes, “Don’t mistake technique for quality. Art is about knowing yourself.” And he tells Oliver, “Go out and paint something new.”
The cast in this ensemble production is outstanding and it would be difficult to single out any one as better than the others. The beauty of the presentation is that they all work together to create a mesmerizing treatise on the importance of unleashing each person’s creative spirit and letting it grow at in its own way. “Why do we assume that art is the province of the educated and elite?” asks Lyons. “You can’t have a rich culture if half the world is disenfranchised.”
THE PITMAN PAINTERS continues through February 12 at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, 500 Castro Street in Mountain View. For information and to order tickets call (650) 463 1960 or visit theatreworks.org
Paintings have a life of their own
That derives from the painter’s soul.
Vincent Van Gogh