MSU Theater performs Yasmina Reza’s “Art”


Colin Stevenson

Theatre sophomore Luke Craddock, theatre sophomore Davis Scobee and theatre freshman Brayden Young co-star as Yvan, Serge, and Marc in Yasmina Reza’s “Art,” Jan. 19.

The MSU theater program recently put on Yasmina Reza’s “Art,” a play about friendships, perspective and, of course, art. They held shows on the Fain mainstage at 7:30 p.m on January 21 and 22 and another at 2:30 p.m on January 23. “Art” was student-directed by Jack Pittman, theater senior, with the intention of shifting the audience’s perspective. 

“Art, not just literal art but theater, music, anything, there’s always a perspective. My goal and my hope is to be able for the audience to resonate with characters,” Pittman said. “Obviously it’s a character-driven show, so you learn a lot about the characters. But I think the takeaway is really for you to understand each other, to see each other’s perspectives.”

The three characters in “Art,” Serge, Marc and Yvan, experience tension and conflict after Serge buys an all-white painting. Davis Scobee, theater sophomore, who played Serge, said that this is when the group’s friendships begin to be tested.

Serge, played by Scobee, watches on as Marc and Yvan, played by Young and Craddock, argue with each other.
Serge, played by Scobee, watches on as Marc and Yvan, played by Young and Craddock, argue with each other, Jan. 19. (Colin Stevenson)

“Serge is the buyer of the titular piece of art, which the show is based around. It is Serge’s prized possession but it also seems to be the bane of one of the other characters, Marc,” Scobee said. “Serge does try to keep his cool with how much he can take from Marc’s not-liking of the painting, but eventually everyone has a breaking point.”

Brayden Young, theater freshman, played Marc. Young said that Marc’s character is based on stubbornness.

“Marc is the, I would say, closed-minded, stubborn, older friend of the three. Marc is friends with Serge and Yvan. He’s been friends with Serge for quite a while and they picked up Yvan in the middle of their friendship,” Young said. “That’s kind of his place in that dynamic.”

Luke Craddock, theater sophomore, played Yvan, the most eccentric of the trio but layered just like his friends. Craddock said that one-on-one character work was essential to establishing those layers. 

“Yvan is very chaotic, very sporadic. Out of the trio, he is kind of the less-put-together out of all of them,” Craddock said. “He’s very energetic. He’s got a lot going on. [He] can get stressed pretty easily, but then he also couldn’t care less.”

Under the surface of each character, there are motivations that Pittman planned out with his cast. Some of these motivations show the less-likable or more insecure sides of each character. Scobee said he hoped the audience would accept these different sides of Serge. 

“I would like [the audience] to see Serge as not someone who thinks that they are necessarily better than everyone else around them, but that his unique hobby or what he likes may not necessarily be what other people like,” Scobee said. “It’s okay to be different and even if they are a little different maybe you should just try and accept them even if it might not be that [understandable] to you.”

Yvan points out a rat in Serge's flat after the former's scuffle with Marc.
Yvan points out a rat in Serge’s flat after the former’s scuffle with Marc, Jan. 19. (Colin Stevenson)

Serge isn’t the only character with emotional layers. Young said that Marc’s stubborn and argumentative qualities came from an innate fear.

“I find that Marc has struggled with empathy, and think that at the very end, in an abstract way, he finds out that empathy isn’t that scary,” Young said. “I think that the audience could learn that it’s not that scary to be human and to see somebody else’s point of view.”

After rehearsing in-person during the fall 2021 semester, on Zoom over the winter break and in-person again this semester, each cast member, according to Craddock, became familiar with their character’s motivations and how to express them to the audience. Craddock said that Yvan’s motivations came from a hidden depression.

“If you want to go super deep with it, there’s a lesson to be learned about Yvan… There’s kind of this façade of chaotic energy and eccentricity, but then lying underneath is this, almost, depression. He doesn’t really know how to get across how he’s feeling until he’s at the breaking point. When he does break, everything just goes terribly wrong, at least for him,” Craddock said. “I think there’s a time and place to hold back some of your emotions but then there’s also definitely good places to [express them], especially with your friends. With his two best friends he doesn’t really explain how he’s feeling and then it’s too late.”

Yvan, played by Craddock, reads off a philosophical quote to Marc and Serge, played by Young and Scobee.
Yvan, played by Craddock, reads off a philosophical quote to Marc and Serge, played by Young and Scobee, Jan. 19. (Colin Stevenson)

The cast and Pittman both agreed that being on Zoom for a large portion of “Art” rehearsals was a difficult but educational process. They worked in a way to prepare them well for in-person rehearsals. 

“It’s really hard for the actors to do Zoom, but it’s really just the technical stuff,” Pittman said. “So when they come back, they’re able to fully implement themselves into the scene, into the blocking and that’s when we get that snap, that click, that change to making the whole show a whole show.”

Online rehearsals were a way to use the time the cast had over the break and also a way to stay safe during COVID. Young said that even when the semester started, the cast met online a few times. 

“The process has been crazy. It’s been amazing. I couldn’t have asked for a better cast and a [more] wonderful swing, [who were] just always ready to be adaptive and willing to do whatever they need to do to make the show happen,” Pittman said.

Directing “Art” was a part of Pittman’s senior requirement. He could either take a class or direct a main-stage show, and he said that given his future career in theater education, he knew he had to grab the opportunity to direct. He said this experience taught him to be ready for anything and that he hoped the audience would see how important it is to be open to new perspectives. 

“Don’t be married to the idea that there’s only one way of looking at things, just like art. Conceptual art, modern art, anything. You see a painting, you have a different idea of it to someone else,” Pittman said. “It’s a forever going thing. It’s an infinite thing, to be able to escape, take away, pull out of your own reality, your own perspective [and] see others’. And that doesn’t just go for art; that goes for life.”

Serge, Marc and Yvan all discuss the white painting that is a prominent part of the play.
Serge, Marc and Yvan all discuss the white painting that is a prominent part of the play, Jan. 19. (Colin Stevenson)