Human Fruit Bowl
Fringe Club Studio Oct 18-22
A part-time job in college taken by a theatre major to earn some extra cash has evolved into an insightful look into the ambiguous and possibly passionate relationship between the artist and the artist’s model on stage. But how daring must a woman be to pose nude for painters? American actress Harmony Stempel openly shares an experience that we frequently neglect or misconceive when we admire paintings and artwork with a nude woman and presents that in Human Fruit Bowl, which was conceived by Stempel and written by New York-based playwright Andrea Kuchlewska.
While stripping bare in front of strangers may prove awkward and intimidating for many, Stempel finds posing nude a comfortable, therapeutic experience allowing her the time to zone out and bury herself deep in her thoughts. “It is also a powerful thing to be sitting there naked and everybody treats you like a bowl of fruit,” she says. When she is posing, says Stempel, a sheltering wall appears between the model and the painter because it’s not really her up there, but rather a still life of her.
Human Fruit Bowl explores what power a naked person has when they bare all in a room of artists. But there’s more to it than just that. The suicide of Renee Monchaty, the muse of post-impressionist French painter Pierre Bonnard, has deeply moved and captivated Stempel. The story goes that Monchaty killed herself in a bathtub when Bonnard marries another woman. Stempel believes that Monchaty’s death is what made Bonnard a legend but, strangely enough, the information regarding this incident is different in every one of the artist’s biographies. “[The inability] to find a dependable source on Bonnard and Monchaty and an explanation to what actually happened,” she says, “is what pulled Kuchlewska into this project.”
This mystery prompted the two women to collaborate and create this one-woman storytelling performance that inquires and investigates the stories about models and artists, as well as the roles they play in each other’s lives. Human Fruit Bowl is rapidly delivered in the structure of a modelling session, where the audience takes the position of the artist as Stempel models nude while she recites a monologue. The actress has already performed the show in two European cities: “In Prague, it was smaller and more intimate, but Amsterdam was definitely more challenging because I was there by myself and the audience didn’t react as much.” After Hong Kong, Stempel is trying to bring the show back to where it all began. “Ideally I’d love to do it at the New York Studio School, where this started,” she says.
Tickets: 3128 8288; www.hkticketing.com.