By Sue Suchyta
The Open Book Theatre Company presents the Michigan premiere of Lauren Gunderson’s “Bauer,” a tale of art, love and betrayal, at 8 p.m. Jan. 22, 23, 29, 30 and Feb. 4 to 6, and 2 p.m. Jan. 31 at Penelope’s Venue, 12219 Dix Toledo Road, in Southgate.
Tickets are $20, with a $5 discount for students and seniors. For tickets, call 734-288-7753 or go to bauer.bpt.me. For more information, go to openbooktheatrecompany.net.
Directed by Krista Schafer Ewbank of Grosse Ile Township, the cast features Lindel Salow of Dearborn as Rudolf Bauer; Linda Rabin Hammell as Louise Bauer, his wife; and Jan Cartwright of Novi as Hilla Rebay, Guggenheim curator and Bauer’s lover.
German painter Rudolf Bauer, best known for his abstract or “Non-Objective” art, was imprisoned by the Nazis for his “degenerative” art until his lover, Hilla Rebay, arranged for his release. Bauer arrived in America shortly before the outbreak of World War II, and Solomon Guggenheim built a New York City museum to house his art.
Guggenheim assured Bauer of his patronage, and had him sign a contract that committed all his future work to his foundation, which a language barrier prevented the artist from understanding at the time. In addition, when Bauer married Louise, his maid, in 1944, his relationship with Rebay became volatile.
Ewbank said she learned about the play “Bauer” from an audience member when OBTC produced “Red,” a play about artist Mark Rothko, last year.
She said she fell in love with the script, which she describes as a beautifully written drama, and since it was unpublished, had to track it down through the playwright’s agent.
The original production of “Bauer” was commissioned by the San Francisco Playhouse, and then moved to New York City. The OBTC run will be its second production.
Ewbanks said that while an actual meeting between Rudolf Bauer, his wife Louise, and Hilla Rebay never occurred, the events discussed by the three characters in the context of the play are historically accurate.
“Each character has their own point of view on the events, which is quite true to life,” Ewbank said. “I’ve enjoyed researching Bauer and seeing how the history fits into the play.”
Ewbank said she is surprised Bauer’s work is not better known today, considering his influence at the time he worked.
“The reasons why are intricate and fascinating,” Ewbank said, “many of which are revealed in the play.”
Ewbank said people who enjoy new movies and books should take a chance and see new plays like “Bauer.”
“This story captivated me from the start,” she said. “It’s got all the good stuff: love and betrayal and intrigue and inspiration. It’s uplifting and interesting.”
She said Gunderson is one of the best American playwrights, and the OBTC cast has strong actors.
“I only do plays I love, and I think others will love, too,” Ewbanks said. “That’s one of the great things about running a theater company.”
She hopes the play will inspire people to learn more about artists like Bauer, and to develop an appreciation for and curiosity about artistic work.
“I hope people will be inspired to make art,” Ewbanks said, “and inspired to be kind and honest and encouraging in their dealings with others.”
She said the play is a 90-minute slice of life.
“We have to tell the story with this arc, at this moment,” Ewbank said. “There is so much at stake for each of these characters, which makes for really interesting moments on stage.”
Salow said the role of Bauer interested him when he read the script.
“It just sounded different, something that would be challenging,” Salow said. “(Bauer) is far more ruthless, far more upset and angry, (and) harbors a lot of unresolved rage than I initially suspected.”
Salow said he tells people the show is an interesting blend of art, love and betrayal, and defiance.
“That’s what will intrigue them about the show,” he said, “and it’s almost an unknown story, at least here in the United States.”
Cartwright said she loves seeing a show on stage that she knows nothing about beforehand.
“It makes the experience of theater all the more magical,” Cartwright said.
She said her goal while playing Rebay is to create a character with a complete personality and bring her to life for the audience.
“Hilla was a fascinating woman, absolutely dedicated to Non-Objective art and artists, and to Rudolf Bauer in particular,” Cartwright said, “yet plagued with insecurities and a need for love that she hides with a sharp tongue and sharper opinions.”
She said her challenge is to avoid making Rebay a caricature of an overbearing, pushy woman.
“She did have those character traits,” Cartwright said, “but I know there was much more to her than what appears on the surface.”
Cartwright said she hopes audiences take away a renewed vigor to pursue their dreams and goals.
“Bauer shouts toward the end of the play that he will, ‘stop fading away,’” Cartwright said. “I think that is something we should all strive for as we travel through life.”
Hammell said that she, like her character Louise, finds marriage to be both joyful and stressful.
“Finding the reality of a woman who was initially her husband’s maid is a bit of a novelty,” Hammell said. “So is trying to find a balance between the class and gender subservience of a woman of Louise’s era, with the bravery and plain-spokenness of the character that I see on the page.”
Hammell said her fine art friends will be drawn to the play’s portrayal of real artists and art world icons, while her theater friends relate to Bauer’s struggle to reclaim his own work.
“My Marxist friends will see a story about a man alienated from his own labor,” Hammell said.
Hammell hopes after the curtain falls audiences will discuss the corruption of artistic creation by the demands of commerce, the unexpected resolution of a love triangle, and a slice of history that is seldom taught in schools.
She said the show is entertaining with high stakes, but without zombies or explosions.
“Open Book is an ambitious and serious participant in the wonderful Detroit-area theater scene,” Hammell said. “What keeps stage actors going? Probably the same impulses that drive Bauer.”
OUTVISIBLE THEATRE COMPANY HOLDS ‘CAGEBIRDS’ AUDITIONS
Allen Park’s Outvisible Theatre Company will launch its inaugural season with David Campton’s “Cagebirds.”
Auditions for the eight female roles will be held at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 17 at 18614 Ecorse Road in Allen Park, with callbacks at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 18.
To schedule an audition slot, contact Adriane Galea at [email protected].
Those auditioning should prepare a monologue of 90 seconds or less, and bring a theatrical resume and an 8-by-10 headshot.
The show runs April 1, 2, 3, 8 and 9.
In the story, six women live in a locked room, each absorbed in her own self-interests and placating the Mistress who takes care of them. When a Wild One enters their world, she tries to convince them to make a break for freedom. The captive birds are conflicted until the dramatic conclusion of the play, which offers eight unique roles for women.
For more information, go to outvisibletheatre.com.
PGD TO HOLD ‘MOUSETRAP’ AUDITIONS
The Players Guild of Dearborn will hold auditions for Agatha Christie’s “Mousetrap” at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 11 and 12, with registration beginning at 6:30 p.m. at the theater, 21730 Madison in Dearborn.
Directed by Karen Pritchard, the show runs at 8 p.m. March 4, 5, 11, 12, 18 and 19, and 2:30 p.m. March 6, 13 and 20.
For character descriptions, an audition form, and a conflict calendar, go to the Guild’s website, playersguildofdearborn.org.
DAG HOLDS ‘CAMELOT’ AUDITIONS
The Downriver Actors Guild will hold auditions for the Lerner and Loewe musical “Camelot” at 2 p.m. Jan. 31 and 7 p.m. Feb. 1, with callbacks (if needed) at 7 p.m. Feb. 2 at the Catherine A. Daly Theatre on the Avenue, 2656 Biddle in Wyandotte.
The show runs at 7:30 p.m. May 6, 7, 13 and 14, and 3 p.m. May 8 and 15.
Rehearsals will be held two to three days a week, with more rehearsals closer to opening.
Peter Sonberg Schmidt will direct, with Wendy Fichter musical director.
For character descriptions and audition music cuts, go to the group’s public Facebook page and click on the Camelot audition link for a PDF file.