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First Acts: “The Imperial Image” a new play by Alvin Eng
March 20, 2017, at 7:00 pm
The Imperial Image, a new play by Alvin Eng, is a dramatic triptych that explores how and why portraits of political leaders and royalty have come to hold a powerful place in societal structures and rituals. The triptych spans three different regions and eras. The play begins with a dialogue in Mughal era India, as Western-educated and influenced emperors and court painters contemplate how to communicate and relate to their largely illiterate populace. Part II is a monologue from Marie Antoinette’s court portraitist, Louise Élisabeth Vigée LeBrun. During the French Revolution she fled to St. Petersburg, where she was befriended by Catherine the Great. Many of Mme. Vigée LeBrun’s works are included in the original Hermitage collection. The play concludes in the current era: OBEY/HOPE re-imagines the circumstances surrounding Shepard Fairey’s creation of the ubiquitous Hope poster for Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign.
The Imperial Image is the third work of Alvin Eng’s Portrait Plays cycle of historical dramas about artists and portraiture. Three Trees, the first Portrait Play, about the haunting relationship between Alberto Giacometti and Isaku Yanaihara, premiered Off-Broadway with the Pan Asian Repertory Theatre and was also presented as a workshop reading with Baltimore Center Stage and the Moving Parts Theatre in Paris. The second work, 33 & 1/3 Cornelia Street, was presented at the 2016 Howl Gallery’s “Beat & Beyond Festival,” featuring Bowery Poetry founder Bob Holman as Joe Gould and the legendary Mink Stole—of John Waters’ film fame—playing iconic painter Alice Neel.
Alvin Eng is a playwright, performer and educator. Last fall, he was a Visiting Professor with
The MFA Program in Creative Writing & Literary Translation at Queens College