Polar Bear in a Snowstorm

play about all-white painting examines art

Thadeus Logan, photos by Sarah Word |

The distinctive strength of a local, community-based theater organization, like the Menomonie Theater Guild, lies in its close tie to the audience. A relationship is built out of a play, a communal occurrence built from art. Directly emphasizing this, the MTG will be host to a unique, three-piece cultural event: a production of the Tony Award-winning play Art, by Yasmina Reza, bolstered with an art exhibit containing pieces cultivated by local and university artists, and all followed by post-show discussion sessions mediated by Charles Lume, an art professor at the University of Wisconsin–Stout.

Art revolves around the story of three friends: Serge, who happily shells out 200,000 francs for a piece of abstract, expressionist art, and Marc and Yvan, who react to their friend’s artistic taste with honest, and brutal, criticism (though the play’s dialogue can enter profane territory, it’s used as a comedic tool and not for shock-value). Through this conflict, the aesthetics of art are called into question while underlying friction between the three friends is revealed.

“Considering that the play so deftly explores the question, ‘What is art?’ it’s no surprise thekind of audience response it generates,” says Blaine Halverson, who plays Serge, the impulse art-shopper. “We put on this same play in the past, for a smaller audience, and the amount of comments from those who attended was staggering.” When you have half an audience artistically inspired to discuss aesthetics, it seems like a logical step to, in economic terms, supply the demand: an organized, open discourse via a post-show sit-down.

    Led by Professor Lume, these sit-down sessions will be structured as a panel discussion; members of the play’s cast and crew, artists involved with the art exhibit, and other guests will field questions and open a dialogue concerning themes and ideas presented in the play. All audience members are welcome and encouraged to attend.

The third portion of the Art Trinity, the actual exhibit, will surround and support both the play and the discussion sessions.  Initially inspired after an abstract painting was commissioned to be used as the titular piece in Art, the exhibit has evolved to display pieces created by local Chippewa Valley community members and UW-Stout students.  To meld the exhibit even further with the performance and the dialogue created through the panel discussions, additional elements, like quotes concerning the nature of art and aesthetics, will be present. Like the rest of this multi-media event, the exhibit will combine numerous theoretical and artistic elements, not just creating something for the community, but allowing the community to be part of that creativity.

    Art. Oct. 2 through Oct. 5 at Mabel Tainter Theater in Menomonie. Nightly shows at 7:30 pm and afternoon shows on Oct. 4-5 at 2 pm. $13 for adults, $12 for seniors and students, $7 for student rush tickets available 20 minutes prior.

    Discussion “What is Art?” Oct. 4 at Mabel Tainter Theater in Menomonie. Following Saturday’s afternoon show at about 3:30 pm and evening show at about 9 pm.

    Local Artist Exhibit. Sept. 29 through Oct. 5 at Mabel Tainter Theater in Menomonie. 10 am to 5 pm. FREE.