When Herbert Siguenza was seven years old, he saw a book by photojournalist David Douglas Duncan called The Private World of Pablo Picasso. Although today Siguenza is perhaps best-known as a founding member of the Latino troupe Culture Clash -- the company's American Night was shown at the Denver Center a year ago -- he is also a widely exhibited visual artist. "I was born with a talent to draw," says Siguenza, who earned a BFA in printmaking. And he was fascinated by Duncan's book, which "showed Picasso on a daily basis, painting, eating and playing with his children in his chateau. To me that was the image of an artist. Art was in his life every day."
Siguenza's one-man play, A Weekend With Pablo Picasso, opens this weekend at the Denver Center.
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The play shows Picasso completing a commission for six paintings and three vases over a three-day weekend in his studio in the South of France, and talking with the audience about everything from his dreams to the brutal Soviet invasion of Hungary.
Siguenza paints the supposed commissions onstage. Picasso's estate would not allow him to project or reproduce the painter's work, Siguenza explains: "I said, 'Okay, I'll do my own.' The play is better that way because it's really my own now."
It took Siguenza 45 years to write A Weekend With Pablo Picasso. "Since I was seven I've been wanting to do this play," he says. "There's a line in it where Picasso draws this lady in three minutes and she says, 'I'm not going to pay you for that. It took you only three minutes.' And he says, 'No. It took me all my life.' All the knowledge I have in art and acting is in this play. They dance together. Otherwise, it's very hard to do both; you have to do one or the other. I've always struggled with that as an artist. This play really is the ultimate expression for me.
"Theater's becoming more and more visual nowadays, more about the technology of visuals and less about the word," he adds. "I'm not sure if that's a good thing or not. This play combines visuals with profound words and Picasso's philosophy; the words are the star of the show."
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Siguenza doesn't call A Weekend With Pablo Picasso a play. "I call it an experience. I want the audience to participate, to feel like they're a part of it. I want them to leave saying, 'Wow, I spent a weekend with Pablo Picasso,'" he says.
"Picasso was about devoting yourself to the art every day. There's just no other way," he concludes. "That's how an artist keeps fresh, how he keeps creative. The play starts when Picasso's about 76. He's already a legend; he's already a millionaire. What motivated him? An artist should always be hungry, should always be curious, should always be looking for the next challenge."
Siguenza himself has begun on his next challenge, a theater piece about Abbie Hoffman.
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A Weekend With Picasso runs from March 22 through April 28 at the Ricketson Theatre in the Denver Performing Arts Complex. Tickets are $35 to $45; for more information or to buy tickets, call 303-893-4100 or go to www.denvercenter.org.