Events

A Variety Show Takes Inspiration from a Forgotten Book on a French Painter

Each month, the Necromancers of the Public Domain stages performances based on a little-known book from the New York Society Library.

Jules Bastien-Lepage, “Haymaking” (“Les Foins,” 1877), Musée d’Orsay (via Wikimedia)

Over the past 260 years, the New York Society Library has accrued more than 300,000 books in its collection. Inevitably, a number of them have gone forgotten. Each month, Ayun Halliday rescues a different library book from oblivion and uses it as inspiration for a variety show known as the Necromancers of the Public Domain. Produced by the Theater of the Apes, the next edition of this monthly affair takes place this Thursday at Manhattan’s performance space the Tank.

For this week, Halliday chose Masterpieces in Colour: Bastien Lepage by François Crastre, a compact illustrated book from 1911 on the life and art of the late-19th century painter Jules Bastien-Lepage. “[It] really called out to me as a physical object,” said Halliday of the book. “I love the dramatic, antique language used to describe his work, and his horrible-sounding death.” Bastien-Lepage died at the age of 36 in his studio, after struggling with an illness that led his kidneys and intestines to fail.

Among the nine performances planned for Thursday, Raquel Cion will deliver a monologue about Bastien-Lepage’s battle with illness. But rest assured there will also be less bleak interpretations of the book, including a comic slideshow by Hyperallergic contributor Katie Fricas “in which she questions Masterpieces of Colour author, François Crastre’s true opinion of his subject Bastien-Lepage.” Other highlights include a “risqué song about ‘Hay Making'” by Nick Balaban and a rebuttal by Greg Kotis from the perspective of a chimney sweeper in a Bastien-Lepage painting. There will also be the opportunity to stencil on shirts, pillowcases, and bags, but please bring your own.

When: Thursday, February 8, 8pm
Where: The Tank (312 West 36th St, Midtown West, Manhattan)

More info at the Tank

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