What It Means to be an Artist

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It is a visceral play, where the line between friendship and envy is blurred.

Pool (No Water) is currently being staged at the Muse Theatre in Ft. Lauderdale. It comes from the pen of noted English playwright Mark Ravenhill, who became the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Writer in Residence in 2012.

First produced at the Drum Theatre in Plymouth, England, the play was introduced to the audience by director Nicole Stodard as one that “deals intensely with what it means to be an artist.” That was an understatement!

The play centres around a person who gets severely injured in a pool accident, and the reaction of her “friends” as she lies in a coma at the hospital. Instead of viewing this as simply a grotesque accident, they find aesthetic and artistic beauty in her mangled body. Not content with sitting by her bed, they decide to take a series of photographs to document her recovery. “There is a beauty here,” we are told. “We are moved by the intense beauty of this image.”

The victim of the accident never actually appears in the play. What we see are her beatnik coterie of fellow artists. It is this absence that marks both the beginning and the end of the play.

As it commences, we here one of the beatniks tell the audience absence was “the quality in her work that sells.” At the end, we hear this line. “It was such a relief she wasn’t absent anymore.”

Those members of the audience who captured these book-ending statements will have been able to grasp the intent of the play, which could be thought of as a reversal of the normal human passage from birth to death. The victim goes from dark to light.

The beatnik crew, by contrast, experience a passage from light to dark. Regretting their opportunistic stance, we hear their death knell as artists. “We took a wrong turn into art and it led us nowhere.” Stranded in limbo, they shrink from the scene.

A thought-provoking play performed by an excellent ensemble cast, Pool (No Water) is a must-see event in Ft. Lauderdale.

The play runs through March 8, 2014. Call 813.220.1546 to Reserve Tickets by Phone.

Photo with this article: (left to right) Hannah Citrin, Scott Douglas Wilson, Noah Levine, Niki Fridh, Casey Dressler, Miles Alexander, Desiree Mora. Photo by Nicole Stodard.

Clifford Cunningham

Clifford Cunningham is a planetary scientist currently affiliated with the National Astronomical Research Institute. He did his PhD work in the history of astronomy at James Cook University, and has undergraduate degrees in science and ancient history from the University of Waterloo. He is the author of 12 books on asteroids and the history of science. In 1999 he appeared on the TV show Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Asteroid 4276 was named in his honour by the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in 1990.

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