The Ghost of an Artist

Vinie Burrows and Edward Bauer. Photo by Nick Benacerraf

Vinie Burrows and Edward Bauer. Photo by Nick Benacerraf

Many classic dramas have taken on the idea of art and legacy, attempting to piece together a departing person’s message in their work. But in I Will Look Forward to This Later, The Assembly examines the monuments built up in a person’s life not by the physical body of their work, but rather in the bodies of those they left behind. A swirling intergenerational examination of aging and relationships follows in a haunting tale that takes place in the days after a famous author’s death.

The play was inspired by conversations held between members of the Assembly’s ensemble and some of their mentors in the arts, including recently deceased theatre luminary Judith Molina. The script produced by Kate Benson and Emily Louise Perkins, though, is a family drama that touches little on the art and more on the souls of the artists. Wyatt Holloway (James Himelsbach) is a novelist of great renown whose ghost lingers throughout the story, yet little is mentioned about the subjects of his books. Instead, how he inspired and discouraged his loved ones, all also practicing or aspiring artists, is what creates the rich complexity of the play.

After Wyatt’s death, his wife and sons begin a relationship in earnest with his former lovers. The characters are a bold mismatch of ages and temperaments, and all disagree on what Wyatt would have wanted. Despite so many gaps in age, experience, and success between them, the company tries to find meaningful reflection. Each tussles with the ghost of Wyatt (who appears onstage), who was unsatisfyingly distant to all parties involved. Each character has thrown themselves headlong into their art in the attempt to make it count. “I gave my life to write a sentence,” one opines miserably.

What is most surprising about Benson and Perkin’s script as it unfolds is how starkly generational conflict persists in art. The more that the younger generations turned to their mentors and muses with questions in the show, the fewer concrete answers seemed to emerge. The script left many scattered musings on the table without trying to tie them up cleanly.

Nick Benacerraf’s production design, an unfurling surprise of simple wooden boxes that turned into bars, refrigerators, and art studios, further amplified the show’s many layers. Borrowed elements from Kabuki text, including grand entrances from a central platform choreographed by Katie Rose McLaughlin, added to the grandiosity of the show’s ghostly figures.

With I Will Look Forward to This Later, the Assembly provides a quietly contemplative piece that completes their own life cycle of research into how artists age, grow, and falter.

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