The play is a farce about tragic people.
Zacharia Smythe, assistant professor of art, has come to Madrid to take a short sabbatical and study a painting by Fernando Rafael Vasquez de la Cruz. Zach considers the painting a masterpiece and the painter one of the greatest Spanish artists of the last 100 years. He is entirely alone in this. The artist has been missing for three years, and those who are familiar with his work believe he is dead. Nevertheless, nothing will deter Zach from betting any hope of a real career on championing his favorite to the art establishment by writing an article about this enormous painting.
This mission will require all his focus, a focus already beset by several difficulties. He has run out of professional chances. The memory of his wife’s suicide preys on him. His time in Madrid is limited. His sobriety is tenuous. Enter an astonishingly brilliant and beautiful Spanish woman full of secrets and rage. Teresa Flores first approaches Zach in the museum while he is studying the painting. She gradually reveals truths about herself, including a claim to have actually met Fernando, and the game is afoot. Through further revelations, sexual encounters, scholarly collaboration, a theft, a knife attack, and an encounter with a mysterious, gun-wielding Blind Man in a bar, Zach and Teresa finally meet the great Fernando, which leads to an act previously unimaginable.
I heard a story about a woman who vandalized a Velásquez painting at the London National Gallery in 1914. She took a meat cleaver to his Toilet of Venus. The story was told to me by an art curator friend, and a tale started forming in my head.
I imagined a lover of art destroying a beloved painting crowded with hundreds of characters, only to realize he is obsessed by the painting because he has been looking at a long-lost lover who haunts him, her tiny doppelganger staring at him from within the painting without his realizing it! That didn’t work, not at all, waste of time, bad idea. But it did lead to imagining an encounter in a museum between an art scholar at the end of his rope and a strange woman who ridicules his efforts to champion a painter no one else thinks is worthy. This became the first scene of Fernando. And then personal feelings about the absurd nature of love, art, obsession, rejection, abuse of power, and even God, all found their way into the play.
Fernando is a love triangle with one very significant member missing, a psycho-sexual thriller farce, and a play about a love of art that connects to the eternal. But it all began with a story from a friend about a woman in the London National Gallery who really hated a painting.
|Blind Man and Fernando||Douglas Rowe|
|Stage directions||Rachel Kostrna|
Madrid, the present.
Steven Haworth was Writer-in-Residence at 2018’s Seven Devils Playwrights Conference, working on his play Monkey in the Shade. He wrote Fernando, which opened the Obie Award-winning Ice Factory Festival 2017 at the New Ohio Theatre (New York), and was also a winner at the Ashland New Plays Festival and the First Look Festival in Los Angeles. He was commissioned to write [home] or The Quest for the Lost Tablet of Ur for Zoo District in Los Angeles; it received five LA Weekly, a Garland, and Ovation award nominations.
Steven was also commissioned to freely adapt Mikail Bulgakov’s Flight for the Open Fist Theatre. New York productions include Little Fishes (Abingdon Theatre); Dark Age (Project III Ensemble Theatre); and The White Cave (Jesco Productions). Time and Tony Oliva, commissioned for the Seventh Inning Stretch at Mile Square Theatre, appears in the Best Ten-Minute Plays of 2018, published by Smith and Kraus. Two Tribes was performed in the Carnegie Mellon Showcase of New Plays. In New Zealand, he was one of four playwrights contributing to the Big Kahuna project, directed by Christine Sang. Blue/Whitney was a winner of Stage Left Theatre’s 10th Leapfest New Play Festival in Chicago.
Steven was a founding member and Associate Artistic Director of the Project III Ensemble Theatre in residence at New York’s Ohio Theatre, where he wrote Dark Age, directed The Grand Ceremonial, and performed in many productions. As an actor he has performed in New York, Los Angeles, and regional theatre. He is a recipient of the Central Michigan University WCDAC Michael Goldberg award and has an MFA in playwriting from Carnegie Mellon University.