Tarragon Theatre proudly presents the world premiere of The Bakelite Masterpiece, written by Tarragon playwright-in-residence Kate Cayley, directed by Tarragon’s Artistic Director Richard Rose and starring two award-winning, powerhouse actors, Geordie Johnson and Irene Poole. Set in the Netherlands in the aftermath of World War II, this penetrating new play exploring art, forgery and war crime. Previews start Oct. 21, the production runs from October 29 to November 30, 2014 in the Tarragon Extraspace.
Amsterdam, 1945. Minor artist and gallery owner Han van Meegeren sits in a holding cell awaiting trial for collaboration with the Nazis. He stands accused of selling a previously unknown painting by Dutch master Johannes Vermeer to none other than Hermann Goering. In his defence, van Meegeren claims that the work (entitled “Christ with the Woman Taken in Adultery”) was a total invention – a forgery of Vermeer’s style. Van Meegeren says he purposely conned the Nazi leader – along with the greatest art critics of the time – into believing it was a genuine Vermeer to make a fool of him. Art historian and former resistance fighter Captain Geert Piller has been brought in to investigate. Initially inclined to execute him for treason, Piller decides she has to know for sure whether the prisoner is lying or telling the truth. To save his life, van Meegeren must paint another flawless Vermeer.
What is authenticity in art, which even when genuine is merely a replica of reality? Is there something admirable in a good forgery? Or in a bad one? When the prevailing order is based on a haze of lies, how difficult is it really to sell one more?
Says Cayley: “I wrote this play after coming across a piece in The New Yorker about the art forger Han van Meegeren, investigated as a war criminal in the aftermath of World War Two. He was charged with selling a newly discovered, priceless Vermeer to the occupying Nazis-and claimed he had forged the Vermeer to make the Germans look like idiots (this made him an overnight folk hero). However, van Meegeren was my jumping off point. Almost all the “plot” of the play is fiction with a tiny kernel of fact. (I like to think that, as a forger, he would appreciate my elasticity with the truth.) I seized on his story as a way to explore art, the cult of authenticity, the nature of Fascism as it relates to aesthetics, and the profound ambiguities of desire and human imagination. This is a play about art, but also about vengeance, justice, redemption, and how what we believe determines what we see.”
Geordie Johnson was last seen on the Tarragon stage in 1988 in I Am Yours, for which he won a Dora Mavor Moore Award. He spent 11 seasons with the Stratford Festival. Other theatre credits include appearances at Halifax’s Neptune Theatre (Red – Merritt Award), Hamilton’s Theatre Aquarius (Amadeus, Educating Rita, Sherlock Holmes), Ottawa’s National Arts Centre (Mother Courage and Her Children, A Walk in the Woods [co-production with the Citadel Theatre]), Theatre Calgary (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels), A Woman of No Importance (Yale Repertory Theatre), and American Conservatory Theatre (Travesties, The Rainmaker). Other credits include appearances in the film The English Patient, a recurring role in the BBC television series Copper, and appearances in the TV shows The City (Gemini Award), Murdoch Mysteries and Traders.
Irene Poole was last seen on the Tarragon stage in 2012 in The Little Years, for which she won a Dora Award. She also won Doras for her performances in Birdland Theatre’s The Last Days of Judas Iscariot and Factory Theatre’s The Leisure Society where she also appeared in Bethune Imagined, Escape From Happiness and Better Living. Other theatre credits include appearances at the Stratford Festival (The Little Years, Three Sisters, The Taming of the Shrew), Soulpepper (The Gigli Concert), Citadel Theatre (God of Carnage), Alberta Theatre Projects (The Age of Arousal), Resurgence Theatre (A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Much Ado About Nothing, Talley’s Folly, Salt-Water Moon) and many more. Her film and television credits include Killjoys, Murdoch Mysteries, Carrie, Republic of Doyle, Breakout Kings and Rookie Blue.
Kate Cayley’s previous play, After Akhmatova, was produced at Tarragon Theatre in 2011 and earned her a nomination for the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize. She is the artistic director of Stranger Theatre, and has co-created, directed and written eight plays with the company; her work with Stranger Theatre has been performed in Toronto, Montreal, Halifax, New York City, Philadelphia, Chicago, and Istanbul, Turkey. She was the co-founder and co-artistic director of The Cooking Fire Theatre Festival from 2004 to 2012. Her first collection of poetry, When This World Comes to an End, was published last year by Brick Books, and her first short story collection, How You Were Born, was recently published by Pedlar Press. She has also written a young adult novel, The Hangman in the Mirror (Annick Press) that won the 2012 Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction. Her poetry, short stories and essays have appeared in literary magazines across the country, and she has been a playwright-in-residence at Tarragon since 2009. Upcoming for Cayley is a three-year collaboration with Halifax company Zuppa Theatre, writing a devised play tentatively titled The Library of Missing People.
THE BAKELITE MASTERPIECE by Kate Cayley Oct. 21 – Nov 30, 2014 TARRAGON THEATRE EXTRASPACE, 30 Bridgman Ave., Toronto TICKETS $27.00 – $53.00 416-531-1827 www.tarragontheatre.com CAST Geordie Johnson and Irene Poole DIRECTOR Richard Rose SET AND COSTUMES Charlotte Dean LIGHTING Andre du Toit