What is art? The answers are myriad, never more so than when the show in question is called "Art." The play, opening Friday for a four-show run at The Empty Space, is going to give it a go.
For director Tevin Joslen, art is synonymous with hard work and dedication. Fresh out of the glitter and platform boots of "Hedwig and the Angry Inch," the performer is focusing on bringing his next show to the stage. (He's also in rehearsals for "Parade" at Bakersfield College.)
As magnet drama teacher at Juliet Thorner Elementary, Joslen had directed big musicals with casts of 50-plus children, but didn't consider directing adults until serving as assistant director of BC's "Into the Woods," helmed by BC theater director and former Empty Space executive director Brian Sivesind.
"He gave me a lot of free rein in terms of giving notes and adding moments that I thought necessary," Joslen wrote of the 2017 show in an email. "He suggested I try the real thing and referred me to pitch day at The Empty Space."
Drawn to playwright Yazmina Reza, Joslen pitched "God of Carnage," which the theater presented in 2012. The board offered another Reza show, "Art," which had been on their radar.
"I read it once and fell in love with it," Joslen said. "The thing that I find so enthralling about it is the dialogue. It's so musical. Similar to an Aaron Sorkin film or a David Mamet play."
"Art" is less about plot and more about discussion, sparked by Serge's (Perrin Swanson) lavish purchase of an unusual piece of modern art, Thinking his friends Marc (Ron Warren) and Yvan (Nolan Long) will be as excited as he is, he instead finds a debate about the nature of art and the bonds of friendship.
Joslen hopes audiences walk away from the show with a new perspective on how to view visual art or any creative form.
"To ask how you consume it, why it affects you in the way that it does, and how that could apply to the relationships around them."
As for the friendships in the show, they fluctuate all the way until the very end, Joslen said.
"... The final scene is definitely an emotional rollercoaster. Chekhov has a famous saying about if a gun goes off in the last act, then it has to be introduced in the first. Well there is no gun in 'Art,' but there definitely is something that packs just as much of a punch in my opinion."