DORA: Insights from Director Kellie Yvonne Raines

•September 10, 2015 • Leave a Comment

KYRAs our next KOLT show, ADORATION OF DORA, rolls through the rehearsal process, we thought it would be an excellent opportunity to hear from our incredible director and KOLT Associate Artist, Kellie Yvonne Raines. KOLT audiences will remember Kellie from previous productions Escape From Happiness, Antigone, Vinegar Tom and My Own Stranger. With DORA, Kellie is flexing her artistic muscles in entirely different ways and it is a joy to work with her in this new capacity. We asked her to share her thoughts and insights on the script and process so far.


“What if there is nothing left? What if, when I look through my lens, nothing is there?” ~ Dora, Adoration of Dora

What. That quote by itself is what inspired me to take on this project. Like Dora, like every artist, I always have the fear that this time, the well of my imagination, artistry, and voice will be empty—void. However, it is the choice to dive in with that fear that forges the most unique and compelling art and experiences. My favorite artistic projects are the ones I don’t know how to do—maddeningly difficult, without glossaries of answers in the back pages of some dog-eared book tested by another before me. Sometimes it’s a matter of knowing what I don’t want and carving the path from there. The first time I read Adoration of Dora with the lens of a director I knew the road less traveled was the way to go with this story, this production.

“Art should disturb the order of things.” ~ Dora, Adoration of Dora

_MG_9962How. The individual components of how we’re staging this script are not new to theatre. Rather, it’s the choices we’re making in concert with each other that don’t follow an easy order of things—of before—especially when we could have made it easier, but chose differently. I wanted to stage the story in an alternative space. I wanted the story and actors to live in the round or a deep three-quarter thrust. And while the script requires an extreme amount of images (I have extensive spreadsheets just mapping the images alone), I didn’t want to go the easy and popular route of using projections. I wanted the images, as much as the actors, to have breath. I wanted there to be physical art in a show about art. I come to theatre first as an actor, second as a writer, and recently as a director. Throughout my training and experience in theatre, I’ve recognized repeating elements that appeal to my storytelling aesthetic. And I’m embracing them in this production. I am deeply moved by bodies, scripts, and scenic elements that have and use breath. I love sculptural elements—whether in the negative spaces created by bodies or by scenic elements. I love the rhythm of language that can only be fully realized in a theatrical setting. I am drawn to questions of identity. The Adoration for Dora is the perfect invitation to stage what I love most about theatre—story, sculpture, sound…and identity. And this play is the perfect vehicle to ask questions.

“Do you want me in any special way?” ~ Dora, Adoration of Dora

Why. We are going through an extensive rehearsal process. We began with in-depth table work which included the playwright. We’re asking questions about everything—Why is this character silent here for so long? Why the dog? Why do these sentences begin with the same word? Why is that sentence only one word? Why does this image matter? Why is there a frame here? How will we represent that image? And why that way? How will this prop matter along with the why? Why? A million whys and hows and more. We’re investigating movement—space, weight, time, flow. We’re using dance and rhythm. And these actors, designers, and producers are building something—moment by moment, frame by frame, step by step.

“Ask any poet, any painter. Ask anyone who creates, imagines, daydreams. For God’s sake, ask anyone who has faith in anything! None of that can exist without listening to one’s inner voice.” ~ Maar, Adoration of Dora

_MG_0410Listen. As artists we must listen to our inner voice—the questions and the answers. The Adoration of Dora brings us the story of Dora Maar, one artist in history who struggled to find and listen to her inner voice vs. being consumed by another—one of the biggest voices of all—Picasso. Her identity and struggle to realize herself and her potential away from Picasso is universal at the elemental level. While we all may not have our own personal Picasso in our lives, we all know the challenge and the joy in discovering our own voice independent of any other voice—of realizing our potential amidst all of the noise. I’m not entirely sure what the end product will be. But I’m in love with the process and the collaboration of this group disturbing the order of things.


Tickets are selling quickly! So make sure to order yours today on our website at www.KOLTRunCreations.com!

Advertisements

DORA: From Text to Image & Uptown Delivers Again!

•September 3, 2015 • Leave a Comment
Artists making art at The Painted Cork

Artists hard at work making art at The Painted Cork.

As we embarked on week two of rehearsals for ADORATION OF DORA, we brought tablework and dramaturgy to a close and took a little field trip. If you’ve been following the blog, you know that every actress in the show plays an artist or member of the visual art community at the time. Beyond Dora Maar, these artists are painters such as Jacqueline Lamba or collagists such as Nusch Eluard and Valentine Penrose. The very language of the script is a visual one, a translation of experience from text to image and back again. So we thought it would be a fun experiment for our cast to try their hand at painting for themselves, thanks to the fabulous folks at The Painted Cork!

If you’ve never been, The Painted Cork is a comfortable and fun art studio where guests are led by a professional art instructor to reconstruct a selected painting of the evening. They provide the instruction and supplies; you provide the beverages and snacks; and, for 3 hours, you attempt to create your own masterpiece. Looking for an entertaining evening while flexing your artistic skills? The Painted Cork is the perfect place!

Led by the wonderful Savannah, our cast, director, producer and stage manager all took their brushes to canvas to recreate a starry Sacramento landscape, in the spirit of Van Gogh’s “Starry Night.” Everyone was nervous and scared to begin, but with the help of Savannah, the laid-back atmosphere in the studio (and a little wine), we had a great time improving our painting skills, as you can see from Yuri Tajiri’s photos.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

In a nice example of confluence, our graphic design sponsor Uptown Studios made their own masterpiece for ADORATION OF DORA. We are always amazed by the marketing images that Uptown is able to create for our productions, whether its the “Last Supper” look of ESCAPE FROM HAPPINESS or the beautiful simplicity of this year’s THERE IS A HAPPINESS THAT MORNING IS.

Our managing producer Lisa Thew, production designer Nastassya La Rocco and DORA lead actress Bridggett Bess worked with photographer Yuri Tajiri to capture the initial photo. Then we sent the image to Anton at Uptown Studios who worked his impeccable magic and gave us a marketing image that evokes DORA’s central struggle between painting and photography, violence and collaboration, artist and muse. We couldn’t be more pleased with the end result!

ADORATION OF DORA poster. Design by Uptown Studios. Photo by Yuri Tajiri.

ADORATION OF DORA poster. Design by Uptown Studios. Photo by Yuri Tajiri.

Overall, its been a week of watching the journey between text and image. If you are feeling the urge to create some art yourself, we recommend a night at The Painted Cork. However, if you want some incredible design artwork made for you or your company, we recommend you talk to the folks at Uptown Studios. Either way, you can’t go wrong.

But most importantly, make sure to purchase your tickets to ADORATION OF DORA because they are now on sale on our website! Tickets are already selling so buy early – you don’t want to miss this!

DORA: Beginning Process & Playwright Insights

•August 27, 2015 • Leave a Comment
ADORATION OF DORA cast, designers, producer and playwright

ADORATION OF DORA cast, director, designers, producers and playwright

Rehearsals for ADORATION OF DORA, KOLT’s fall show, began last Tuesday with a full first read, designer presentations and playwright introduction — all in the performance space at Sierra II Center. It was fabulous to have everyone together and see all the energy, time and talent that is invested in this production. It was also quite thrilling to see a production team — from playwright to director to producers to cast — made up almost entirely of women. (Plus our vital and awesome sound designer Victor La Rocco! #allwomenandvictor).

Led by managing producer Lisa Thew, the first night covered all aspects of the production: director Kellie Raines laid out the heart of and guiding concepts for the piece; production designer Nastassya La Rocco and prop designer Martha Kight delved into the elements of Surrealism that are influencing every aspect of design; lighting designer Ciara McClary talked about the unique way the cast will be using lighting instruments in-hand during their performance; sound designer Victor LaRocco described how the audio effects will enhance and support the onstage action; costume designer Gail Russell took cast measurements and discussed the use of color for the show; playwright Lojo Simon posed questions to the whole team regarding their own artistic journeys, and documentarian Yuri Tajiri captured it all in photos. All in all, it was a great start to the process.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The next two nights were all tablework, where the cast and director (and in this instance, the playwright) sit down and go through the script. Tablework involves breaking down the script, finding the arc of the scene/show, asking questions about what certain elements or lines mean, learning about the history of the setting/characters/themes, exploring the background relationships and figuring out character objectives. Although it can feel tedious at times, tablework is a crucial step in the rehearsal process as it lays out the strategy for the play and gives director/actors a solid foundation to draw from for the next stage of the process, when they are on their feet and blocking the show.

Having the playwright present for part of the tablework process was incredibly rewarding. Lojo was able to clarify and point us in the right direction, while also offering crucial insights into the triumphs and pitfalls of previous productions of the script. Since KOLT’s focus is always on the playwright’s intention, having the playwright there with us in tablework and getting access to her thought process behind the words has already been an invaluable opportunity.

While Lojo left to return to SoCal at the end of the week, she will return later in the process. In the meantime, we wanted to take the opportunity to introduce readers to the woman behind ADORATION OF DORA.


lojsimonheadshot

MEET THE PLAYWRIGHT: LOJO SIMON

Lojo Simon studied playwriting at the University of Idaho, where she received her MFA, and she holds a BA from Brandeis University. Her expanding body of work has been produced in California, Connecticut, DC, Florida, Idaho, Montana, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Wisconsin and Washington. Lojo’s plays are frequently expressionistic, rooted in memory, and attentive to universal human struggles with the mysteries of soul, identity, place and purpose. In addition to writing, Lojo is a dramaturg, helping other writers develop new work, as well as assisting directors on productions of both new work and classics. She also works part-time for Laguna Playhouse. Her script for ADORATION OF DORA won the Kennedy Center ACTF/ATHE David Mark Cohen Playwriting Award in 2012.

KOLT: What led you to be a playwright?

LS: I thrive in an environment of artistic collaboration. At the same time, I am also very quiet, private and like to be alone. Writing for theatre allows me to do both.

KOLT: Where did the idea for ADORATION OF DORA come from?

LS: Dora Maar’s story is the story of many women who are creative, artistic, smart, and passionate, yet who struggle to stay whole in relationship. Plus, with all the drama and art surrounding her, how could I not translate that story for the stage? It’s a perfect vehicle for women actors and artists.

KOLT: What has the journey with this script been like, especially as you have seen it transcend from script to stage?

LS: I spent years working on this piece because of its complexity and my desire to remain faithful to the surrealist ethic. It’s been a joy to hand over the script to dedicated directors, actors and designers who bring their own stories to each production, so that it becomes a complex, layered and personal work of art for everyone involved. I had feared that the play wouldn’t resonate with audiences because it’s not an easy piece to absorb in one evening, but people of all ages and levels of education and sophistication have been incredibly receptive and excited about it. That’s a joyful process.

KOLT: If there is one thing you want audiences to take away from DORA, what would it be?

LS: To love, support and treasure artists and the work they create. Artists reveal the humanity and soul of the world.

KOLT: What other projects/scripts have you written or are you working on?

LS: I write every day, so I always have multiple projects I’m creating. My next production is a play called ONE FOOT, which goes up in November at Idiom Theatre in Bellingham, Washington, which did DORA last season. I’m developing a one-man show called RELIC, and looking for a venue for a memory play/family drama called LOVE ALL, which I’d like to see performed on a tennis court.


We’re already having some fun adventures this week as we delve deeper into character/relationship work, and take the time to enter into the painting arena ourselves. Stay tuned for those pictures!

ADORATION OF DORA runs from October 23 – November 14 and tickets go on sale in September at www.KOLTRunCreations.com!

ADORING DORA: The Life of Dora Maar

•August 13, 2015 • Leave a Comment

DORA MAAR

“The trajectory of Dora Maar, in life as in photography, seems that of a meteorite which came too near the sun …”

The title character of our upcoming play, ADORATION OF DORA, is Surrealist photographer and painter Dora Maar. Despite her own astonishing body of work as a photographer and painter, she is most widely known as Pablo Picasso’s lover and muse of nearly a decade, including for his widely known pieces Guernica and The Weeping Woman. The latter immortalized her as a desperate crying woman, a dismantled and objectified woman, another of Picasso’s long list of muses wiped out by his glory. While her associates described her as inscrutable and mysterious, Picasso used her enigmatic features in The Weeping Woman to process his own pain as Europe was consumed by Fascism. So who is the real Dora Maar?

Henriette Theodora Markovich was born to a French mother and a Croatian father, who also happened to be a renowned architect, and she spent most of her childhood in Buenos Aires. At school in Argentina, Theodora spoke both Spanish and French fluently, and read widely in English. Like many left-handed children of her time, she was made to write, eat and conduct her normal affairs with her right hand. However, she drew and painted with her left hand her whole life long.

As a young woman in 1920, she settled in Paris where she became the assistant of Man Ray, collaborated on fashion photography with Harry Ossip Meerson and portrayed nudes for erotic publications, before opening her own studio in 1935. Her work often featured signature techniques such as contrasting lights and shadows, high-angle or low-angle shots that highlighted her taste for theatricality and distorted reality. Her experimental shots revealed her intimate anxiety and her troubled relationship with life and its disturbing reality. By 1929, just as Dora was embarking on her career, the New Photography – with its emphasis on directness of vision, on materials, and on the beauty of everyday and mundane objects – was at its height in France. Her images of street life in Barcelona, Paris and London, of the poverty-stricken, the lame, the blind and the down-and-out, mark clearly her interest, personal, artistic and political.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

“. . . blind people and images of blindness appear and reappear in Dora Maar’s work. True vision is interior vision: what Surrealism will call, finally, the interior model.” ~ Mary Ann Caws, Picasso’s Weeping Woman: The Life and Art of Dora Maar

Pere Ubu

Pere Ubu

Dora knew photography could not replicate reality but that it could see the world, like an artist, in its essential forms, extending beyond reality. She understood better than any artist of her time the naturalism of Surrealism. She knew that there was far more within every image, every person and place, than could possibly be described, that “interior vision” is more than matched by what is outside ourselves. The full sensual, intellectual, emotional person is the expression of that moment of time and space and light. For example, one of the most compelling and repellent of Surrealist photographs is her Pere Ubu, titled after the infamous and absurd antihero of Alfred Jarry’s play, Ubu Roi. By using the monstrous reality of a baby armadillo, Dora presents her incarnation of the bestial nature of man.

“for me, there are only two kinds of women – goddesses and doormats” ~ Picasso

Dora Maar first met Picasso in late 1935 on the set of a film, Le Crime de Monsieur Lange, where she was the set photographer. Surrealist Paul Eluard brought Picasso to visit the set and introduced him to Dora. At 54 years old, Picasso was estranged from his wife Olga and recently fathered a daughter with Marie-Therese Walter. (He was to remain in close touch with Marie-Therese throughout his involvement with Dora. Marie-Therese was his private lover, Dora his public one.) While Dora remembered this meeting, he did not. In early 1936, a much more dramatic encounter took place that would change both their lives as well as the arc of modern art. Picasso is at the Café des Deux Magots, where he notices Dora at a neighboring table, “a sensitive uneasy face, with light and shade passing alternately over it. She kept driving a small pointed penknife between her fingers into the wood of the table. Sometimes she missed and a drop of blood appeared between the roses embroidered on her black gloves.” Picasso addressed Dora in French, which he assumed to be her language; she replied in Spanish, which she knew to be his. Picasso was fascinated by Dora’s gratuitous act of self-mutilation, playing with a knife as one would with fire. His attraction to danger was expressed in the torturous imagery with which he surrounded some of his images of Dora – uncomfortable chairs, angles sharp as blades, insects and spiders and horns.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The numerous paintings and drawings Picasso made of Dora Maar in this period show her as being constantly in transformation: she becomes a bird, a water nymph, she takes on horns or then the features of flowers. Once she began her love affair with Picasso in 1936, she put an end to her photography practice, partly at his insistence – with one famous exception.

“The German bombers appeared in the skies over Guernica in the late afternoon of April 26, 1937 and immediately transformed the sleepy Spanish market town into an everlasting symbol of the atrocity of war. Unbeknownst to the residents of Guernica, they had been slated by their attackers to become guinea pigs in an experiment designed to determine just what it would take to bomb a city into oblivion.”

On Sunday April 26, 1937, the defenseless Basque town of Guernica was devastated in a bombing attack by the German Condor Squadron. Picasso had been approached at the beginning of the year by the Spanish Republican government to paint a mural for the Spanish Pavilion in the Universal Exposition, due to open in Paris in May. The atrocity of Guernica gave him his theme.

Guernica, in process

Guernica, in process

During the Spanish civil war, it was Dora who was Picasso’s photographic witness and collaborator. Her pictures provide the only record of Picasso’s process as he created what became Guernica, his most famous work. She even painted some of the vertical strokes on the horse of Guernica, a minor but symbolic contribution, on what would become one of the most celebrated works of modern art.

Following Guernica, Picasso painted more and more portraits of Dora, many conveying violence. Picasso portrayed her again and again as the Weeping Woman in 1937, or entrapped her insect-like image in dense networks of lines. However, besides turning her powerful features into an equally powerful lament against the cruelty of war, Picasso expressed in them optimism, energy and tenderness.

“She has managed to keep herself free of Picasso’s formidable influence. Her still lifes – a loaf of bread, a pitcher or a jug – are extremely austere and recall nothing of her friend’s colors or any of the periods of his work.” Brassai, photographer, on Dora’s still life paintings in a 1944 exhibition

“Lamp or an alarm clock or a piece of bread … [they] made you feel she wasn’t so much interested in them as their solitude, the terrible solitude and void that surrounded everything in that penumbra.” ~ Francoise Gilot on Dora’s still life paintings

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Picasso had urged her to return to painting, believing that in every photographer was always a painter eager to be released. Therefore, she began painting a great deal, particularly experimental and stylized portraits of Picasso and friends. Dora even drew upon her lover’s imagery in her own representations of his work. Her paintings during this period say a great deal about her strength, in the recovery of her image and the agency of her own art. She was not simply imitating Picasso, as has been said: she was too intelligent for that. Nor is she imitating his portraits of her. She is collaborating in their representation of this tragedy, as she did in photographing his work.

As the war escalated and Germany invaded France, the frustrations of life under occupation were grave. Almost 13,000

Dora Maar with crown of flowers

Dora Maar with crown of flowers

Jews were rounded up by French police and taken to a nearby concentration camp. Hitler gave the order for all French Jews to be deported. Dora’s Jewish parentage was overlooked, and no one gave her away; nevertheless the fear and claustrophobia of this time was overwhelming. The relationship between Picasso and Dora came under severe strain. In 1943, Picasso met Francoise Gilot, 20 years younger than Dora and 40 years younger than him. During their entire relationship, Dora had shared Picasso with Marie-Therese, a sharing that was never simple. He would insinuate that Dora was unfeminine and sterile. In his portraits, Picasso would sometimes deliberately confuse their representation, crowning Dora with Marie-Therese’s flowers, or dressing Marie-Therese in a costume more fitting for Dora. With this new lover, Dora’s state of mind became increasingly unstable as her jealousy mounted, especially after she gave up photography completely. Her submission to what seems to have been Picasso’s wish demonstrates a great sacrifice of her talent and her individuality.

Picasso and Dora continued to see each other until 1946, but by then a final separation was inevitable. Friends had warned Dora that she should protect herself against Picasso, the satanic genius, her “demon lover”, as people called him; but she had her pride, her stubbornness and her originality. After her long relationship with Picasso ended, Dora struggled to regain her emotional footing. Her mother died unexpectedly, followed by the sudden death of her best friend, Nusch Eluard. To Dora, it must have seemed that she was losing everyone she loved at the same time.

“After Picasso, God.” ~ Dora Maar

Screen-Shot-2014-11-21-at-12.20.48-PMDora suffered a nervous breakdown. She was taken to a psychiatric hospital, where for three weeks she was subjected to a series of electric-shock treatments, and then moved to a private clinic at the intervention of the psychiatrist Jacques Lacan, called upon by close friend Paul Eluard. Dora underwent two years of analysis with Lacan. Little by little, she regained her poise and composure. She had not, of course, forgotten Picasso. And even ten years after they had separated, he never ceased in his attempts to humiliate her. In 1958, when he gave the critic and collector Douglas Cooper permission to produce a facsimile edition of a 1906 sketchbook, Picasso suggested he also look at a Facteur Cheval sketchbook that was in Dora’s possession. Dora was initially reluctant to show the notebook. When she did, tearfully and only at Picasso’s insistence, it turned out to contain close-up drawings of her crotch.

Dora eventually embraced Roman Catholicism, and spent her last years living between Paris and a house that Picasso had given her, in Provence. She displayed her paintings through the 1990s, with a last show two years prior to her death. She died on July 16, 1997, at the age of 89, outliving Picasso by 24 years.

Dora Maar Au Chat

Dora Maar Au Chat

Nine years after her death, Picasso’s Dora Maar au Chat (“Dora Maar with Cat”) was auctioned for $95.2 million, making it one of the world’s most expensive paintings sold at auction.

Meet KOLT’s Newest Associate Artist

•July 16, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Beyond the KO (Kelley Ogden) and LT (Lisa Thew) that are the founding producers, KOLT benefits from the insight, talent and expertise of certain theatre artists with whom we have built a rapport. These “Associate Artists” are actors, designers and directors that have worked with us on multiple projects, lent us their skills and craft, understand KOLT’s unique mission and ethos, and have provided counsel and guidance that both challenge and elevate the company on all fronts. Currently, those artists are:

  • Brian Rife (actor — Keely and Du, Lips, Crime & Punishment)
  • Nastassya LaRocco (designer — Crime & Punishment, Escape From Happiness, Antigone, Where We’re Born, Smudge, Vinegar Tom, Adoration of Dora)
  • Patrick Murphy (actor — Crime & Punishment, Escape From Happiness, Antigone; sound environment — Vinegar Tom; director — There Is A Happiness That Morning Is)
  • Kellie Yvonne Raines (actress — Escape From Happiness, Antigone, Vinegar Tom, My Own Stranger; director — Adoration of Dora)
Mariam Helalian

Mariam Helalian

And now, we are overjoyed to add stage manager extraordinaire Mariam Helalian as our newest Associate Artist.

Mariam has been stage managing in the greater Sacramento area for over twelve years. She has worked locally with SacImpulse, Asclepius Productions, Theater Galatea and Sacramento Shakespeare Festival. For KOLT, she has gone above and beyond the call of duty, managing and organizing our site-specific productions of Vinegar Tom and My Own Stranger, as well as keeping the rowdy cast and director of our last production, There Is A Happiness That Morning Is, in line and on task. (“Zipper check, Mariam!”) Mariam is also stage managing our upcoming production, Adoration of Dora. She is smart, resourceful, easy to work with, organized, insightful, straightforward and always knows how to brighten the mood of all those around with her quick wit.

To sum up, Mariam makes our world a better place and we are honored to have her as part of the company. As an Associate Artist, she has won our undying support and this link to the Stage Manager Ryan Gosling tumbler page.

ryan gosling

ADORATION OF DORA: The Cast and Creative Team

•July 14, 2015 • Leave a Comment

When we put out the casting notice for our fall production of ADORATION OF DORA, we were heartened by the interest expressed by local actors and the dialogue that ensued. During the extended audition process, we were truly excited by the talent and thoughtful choices brought by our auditionees, making for some difficult casting decisions. However, we are now thrilled to announce the cast and creative team behind ADORATION OF DORA, written by Lojo Simon and directed by Kellie Yvonne Raines.

CAST
DORA: Bridggett Bess
MAAR: Kelley Ogden
MARIE-THERESE: Analise Langford-Clark
JACQUELINE: Kim Brauer
NUSCH: Stephanie Hodson
VALENTINE: Sarah Rothaus

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

CREATIVE
Managing Producer: Lisa Thew; Stage Manager: Mariam Helalian; Production Design: Nastassya LaRocco; Lighting Design: Ciara McClary; Costume Design: Gail Russell; Prop Design: Martha Omiyo Kight; Sound Effects: Victor La Rocco.

A huge thanks to everyone who came out and auditioned for the show. Make sure to follow our blog for updates on pre-production, dramaturgical background, rehearsal photos and other exciting info as we move forward!

The Secret: Marie-Therese Walter

•June 25, 2015 • Leave a Comment

This is the second of three blogposts, each highlighting the real women behind the characters of our upcoming production, Adoration of Dora.


When Pierre Cabanne interviewed Marie-Thérèse in 1974, the year after Picasso’s death, he asked her “When the name ‘Pablo Picasso’ is said, what first comes into your mind?” There was a silence and then she replied, “The secret, because we were living in secret.”

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

On January 8, 1927, a pretty young blond was on her way to a Parisian department store to buy herself a blouse with a Peter Pan collar and matching cuffs. A man approached her and said, “you have an interesting face. I would like to do a portrait of you. I sense we are going to do great things together. I am Picasso.” She was 17 years old; he was 45 and still married to his wife, Olga Khokhlova. But from that moment, Marie-Therese and Picasso began a passionate affair that would change their lives, as well as the history of modern art.

Most of what we know about Marie-Therese today, we have learned from Picasso’s paintings of her. She had a passion for sports and frequently hiked and climbed in the mountains, went swimming and rowed – she was always in symbiosis with nature. As his muse, her physicality, freshness and youth inspired a change in his work:

She inspires Picasso to infuse his art with color, pattern, decoration, arabesques, solidity, lyricism, gentleness, and sensuality. But it does allow us to witness the manifold stylistic, psychic, and sexual leaps that led to Picasso’s arguably most powerful work: the faces and figures, anguish and ecstasies, that would become the “weeping women” and Guernica, in which Marie-Thérèse appears three times.

Picasso always used his women as his muses – there were many and they depicted and reflected each stage of his emotional life – but his relationships with these women were also described as “vampiric,” with his muses and loves having to surrender everything to him and his art. From 1927 to 1937, no one knew of Marie-Therese or that she was Picasso’s mistress. She was his conquest, described as “endlessly submissive and willing.” She said of herself, “I always cried with Picasso. I bowed my head in front of him.”

In 1935, Marie-Therese gave birth to Picasso’s child, a daughter named Maya. Although his wife, Olga, had been in the dark about Picasso’s young mistress for years, word of the baby soon got to her and Olga left him. However, he refused to divorce her, to avoid having to comply with France’s “division of property” divorce laws. Soon thereafter, Picasso would meet Dora Maar, and that relationship symbolized the official end of any significant role Marie-Therese would have in Picasso’s life. Although Picasso maintained contact with both Marie-Therese and Maya and supported them financially, they never existed as a family unit. She was forever shut out after she had his baby. Marie-Therese never married and, in 1977, four years after Picasso’s death, she hung herself in the garage of her home in France. She was 68 years old.

“You don’t resist Picasso … a woman doesn’t resist Picasso.” ~ Marie-Therese Walter

In the next blogpost, we’ll explore the dilemma of Picasso’s next muse — in that she was more than muse, but an artist in her own right and his intellectual equal — the story of our title character, Dora Maar.


To note for our upcoming auditions on Saturday, while Marie-Therese was caucasian, we will be considering actresses of all ethnicities when casting her role.