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Friday, April 19, 2024

Photo Courtesy of Ross Zentner

‘The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk’ is a spectacle of art and love

“The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk” made its regional premiere Jan. 25-Feb. 11 at the Overture Center, put on by the Forward Theater Company.

“The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk” brought a brilliant show of color, music, dance and poetry to the Overture Center at its regional premiere from Jan. 25 to Feb. 11. 

The Forward Theater Company, a local professional theater company based in Madison, put on the musical during its opening run in Madison. The musical was written by Daniel Jamieson, an actor and London native. 

Set in the backdrop of the early 20th century, “The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk” tells the captivating love story between Marc Chagall — a famous Russian Jewish painter best known for his early modernism — and his wife, Bella. 

Chagall’s artworks were transformed from canvas to theatrical stage by Forward. The design team took his paintings and layered them throughout the 90-minute play in the form of lighting, set design and emotionally rich music, creating an imaginative spectacle combining multiple mediums of artistic storytelling. 

Chagall’s art showed up in the stained glass backdrop of the stage, costuming for Chagall and Bella, and Chagall’s actual portraits. One character, a Rabbi, was even played by a physical Chagall painting.  

What did art mean in an inaccessible age? Like most theatrical shows, “The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk” informally asked big questions through poetry, movement and song. Chagall witnessed wars, revolutions, births and deaths. Different social and environmental circumstances influence the inward reflections upon viewing art in the theater. This was just one of the musical's many messages, art is based on interpretation. It is based on human experience. 

For Chagall and Bella, art was not as accessible as it is today. You could not create something on a computer or find inspiration from apps like Instagram or Pinterest. Art was much harder to create, and artists who could make a living from their work were few and far between. 

What held the two together in their pursuits was mutual love. 

“Each night Marc comes home, and we invent a new color,” Bella (Emily Glick) said during the show. 

The couple emphasized that to create art, you also need to create love, a concept the show depicted as an inseparable duality with pain. To continue as an artist, you must believe in what you are creating, who you are creating for and why you are creating. 

“The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk” immerses audience members into a world of pure imagination. In the show, Chagall (Marcus Truschinski) took much of his artistic inspiration from his childhood. When he grew older and had to report to the financial and social constraints of being an adult, he came to an artistic block. 

The lighting team showed the ebbs and flows of Chagall’s creativity. Lively bright hues of green and purple appeared when Marc was inspired, and darker, bleaker colors appeared when he was frustrated. 

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The audience is put directly into Chagall’s mind, seeing and feeling what Chagall sees and feels, just through different eyes. The perspective furthers a central theme addressed in the show: when someone is your soulmate, you see things the same through different eyes. 

“The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk” shows how love can be art. It is a painfully beautiful and inspiring show that encompasses the immeasurable existence of an artist. 

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