Modern art is clearly in the eye of the beholder. Open to interpretation, it can elate or confuse, inspire controversy, stimulate debate and be priced in the stratosphere. A large canvas of white on white paint has even been the subject matter of a play by Yasmina Reza, simply called “Art,” where three connoisseurs of the genre argue vociferously on what the painting means and if it is really art. A new invigorating view on the topic is being launched by Bated Breath Theatre Company in a novel manner and you’re invited to pull up an auction chair and take part in the action.
The New Britain Museum of American Art has rolled out a vivid red carpet to welcome Bated Breath Theatre’s talented membership for an evening or afternoon of audience participation in an original theatrical piece entitled “Beneath the Gavel.” If you’ve ever imagined what it might be like to play with the big guys at an auction house like Sotheby’s or Christie’s, this is your golden invitation. You can wave your numbered paddle, without fear of embarrassment or bankruptcy and bid on one of a trio of art offerings.Bated Breath even provides the monetary medium to fund your bid, as they “shoot” out $100,000 bills enthusiastically into the crowd. Imagine being in the enviable position to plunk down $2.3 million for a piece to hang over your fireplace mantle. Director Mara Lieberman has researched this current topic based on true stories from news headlines and auction world insiders and incorporated the ideas of her acting company, Frankie Alicea, Gabriel Aprea, Missy Burmeister, Sri Dopp, Rebecca Ellis and Debra Walsh, to flesh out the experience. Exploring the often outrageous sums bid on a canvas, the persona of the larger-than-life players like the artist Andy Warhol of Campbell Soup fame and the controlling manipulation of prominent art dealers like Leo Castelli, “Beneath the Gavel” assails the senses with a bombardment of sensory matter.
In pantomime (an artist painting a model with imaginary paint in an empty frame), with dance and movement (the frenetic bustle of city dwellers hurrying to work), in scenes of a behind-the-canvas look at art auctioneers, the art world is revealed, warts and all. Bated Breath uses specific sites that enhance its message, which makes being in an art gallery and museum a visionary decision. With the rich legacy of paintings as a backdrop, the audience is immersed in the subject matter.For tickets ($25, museum members $20), call 800-229-0257 ext. 203 or go online at www.batedbreaththeatre.org. The remaining performances are Saturday, March 19 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. and Thursday, March 24 at 7 p.m. at the New Britain Museum of American Art, 56 Lexington Street, New Britain. Hurry!Grab your paddle, don the fancy patron of the arts glasses as a gift, collect as much fake moola as you can and enjoy the theatrical endeavor that is the creative whirlwind “Beneath the Gavel."