The 1890s Paris-set piece began performances at Lincoln Center Theatre's Mitzi E. Newhouse Theatre on Oct. 28. Charles L. Mee provides a text. It runs until Jan. 2, 2005.
Mark Povinelli, who stands under four feet, has the role of post-Impressionist painter Toulouse-Lautrec. He played Torvald in the praised late 2003 production of Mabou Mines' Dollhouse, which had choreography by Clarke. In the piece, director Lee Breuer cast actors whose heights ranged from 3-foot-4-inches to 4-foot-5 inches as Torvald, Rank and Krogstad to emphasis the "smallness" of their characters next to Nora.
In Belle Epoque, images from Toulouse-Lautrec's life and art whirl about him as he suffers through his final hours on earth.
The cast of the 75-minute piece also features Vivienne Benesch (of After the Fall, Clarke's Vienna: Lusthaus (revisited)), Rob Besserer, Joyce Castle, Tomé Cousin (Contact), Honora Ferguson, Nina Goldman (Contact), Ruth Maleczech (of Mabou Mines fame), Gabrielle Malone, Michael Stuhlbarg (The Invention of Love, Cabaret), Paola Styron (Vienna: Lusthaus (revisited)), Rebecca Wender.
Toulouse-Lautrec, who died in 1901, has inspired a number of works of art over the years. Pierre La Mure used the artist's life as the basis of his 1950 novel "Moulin Rouge," named after the Paris nightclub Toulouse-Lautrec haunted. Jose Ferrer played the often impoverished painter in John Huston's 1952 film "Moulin Rouge." More recently, John Leguizamo essayed the role in Baz Luhrmann's unorthodox 2001 movie musical, also called "Moulin Rouge." Toulouse-Lautrec frequently painted his expressionistic depictions of the Parisian demi-monde on cardboard and other cheap material he could find, unable to afford canvas. He found his first fame turning out stylish posters advertising the cabarets he frequented, and their entertainers. His images were typically filled with top-hatted, long-legged society gents and high kicking can-can girls, and evoked a joyous, but decadent and ghostly world.
The scion of an aristocratic family, he was the victim of a genetic bone condition that made him vulnerable to fractures. He walked with a cane by the time he was 13 and grew to be only 4-feet-11-inches tall. As an adult, he fought an addiction to alcohol. He died at the age of 36.
Clarke's Pirandello will run at New York Theatre Workshop in the 2004-05 season. The show is based on several short stories by Luigi Pirandello.
NYTW was where Clarke's Vienna: Lusthaus (revisited) was presented in spring 2002. The collaborative work featured music by Richard Peaslee and text by Charles L. Mee. Freud and fascism meet in the piece, which delves into the unconscious world of Vienna at the onset of the 20th century. The play premiered in New York in 1986 at St. Clement's Church, then transferred to the New York Shakespeare Festival and Kennedy Center later that year.