A famous artist with a colorful background will be the focus of the upcoming production at The Rose Theater.
The Rose world premiere production, “Van Gogh & Me,” opens Friday and runs through Nov. 12 on The Rose mainstage.
Rose artistic director Matthew Gutschick’s original play, “Van Gogh & Me,” is based on actual events. It finds artist Vincent Van Gogh (played by Ezra Colon) in the small town of Auberge-Sur-Oise during the three months preceding his death in 1890.
His colorful and challenging career has left him weary and struggling to find his way as an artist. His unusual painting style and lack of formal education is misunderstood, and even ridiculed, by his peers. His greatest wish is simply to be left alone to paint.
At the same time, a young girl named Adeline (played by Anna Jordan) and her parents (Stephanie Jacobson and Nils Haaland) also have moved to the town where they run a small inn and café. Unhappy and lonely, Adeline struggles to make friends and has a hard time fitting in with a pair of rambunctious children, Rene (Robby Stone) and Cecile (Mallory Freilich), when they show an in interest in her (and her family’s tasty café rolls).
The two neighbors tell Adeline of the mysterious artist Van Gogh, whom they have heard is “crazy” and will be staying at her inn. Adeline is not excited about this prospect because such a guest – as Rene warns her – might scare away other customers, like the somewhat arrogant Martinez, an artist already staying at the inn.
When Adeline finally meets Vincent while she is preparing his room, she finds him gruff and not very pleasant. But as she gets to know him better – and witnesses how others treat him – she starts to develop a friendship with him.
After getting roped into a couple of unkind pranks Rene and Cecile orchestrate to harass Van Gogh, she feels very badly. She eventually agrees to pose while Van Vogh paints her portrait and he teaches her more about why he creates his art the way he does.
Gutschick and director John Hardy have spent years studying the artist and draw inspiration from his creative life for their own work.
“When I was about to hit my teen years – about the age of the protagonist in this play – my mom and I want to the Art Institute of Chicago where they had a Van Gogh and Gauguin exhibit,” Gutschick said. “We went through the first couple of rooms and slowly, things started to activate for me. If you have ever had the experience that everything in your life is suddenly in sync – that is the only way I can explain what that moment was like.”
That moment sparked Gutschick’s lifelong curiosity with Van Gogh. He saw parallels with his own life and became inspired to write a play about the artist.
“I was born with a congenital defect as a kid, I needed a lot of surgeries,” Gutschick said. “When you experience something like that, you realize that you don’t want that thing that you couldn’t help to define you.
“One of the things that happened to Van Gogh after he died, he started to be defined more by his mental illness than anything else. I wanted to write something that looked beyond that.”
The production, which runs about 60 minutes, is designed for families with children ages 10 and up.
Performances are on Fridays at 7 p.m., Saturdays at 2 p.m. and 5 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m. A bonus performance is offered at 5 p.m. on Nov. 12. The 2 p.m. show on Nov. 11 will be interpreted for people who are deaf or hard of hearing; this show also will include audio description services for audience members who are blind.
The 5 p.m. show on Nov. 11 is designated as sensory-friendly, with special accommodations made for families attending with a child on the autism spectrum.
Tickets are $20 and may be purchased by phone at 402-345-4849 or online at www.rosetheater.org.
Discount ticket vouchers are available for $16 at Omaha area Hy-Vee stores.