Editor's note: The following play was rekeyed and reprinted on January 14, 2011 in Resource Library with permission of the author. If you have questions or comments regarding the play, please contact the playwright at either this street, phone or web address: Steve Hauk, 331 Lighthouse Ave. Pacific Grove, CA 93950, 831 373-5764, haukfa@pacbell.net



 

Fortune's Way, or Notes on Art for Catholics (and Others)

by Steve Hauk

(Copyright 2009)

 

A screen, on one side a pulpit, on the other a chair. There is a slide image on the screen of a Fifteenth Century religious painting.
 
E. Charlton Fortune and Bishop Edwin O'Hara enter arm in arm.
It will be a while before we see her clearly. She can be played anywhere from her late fifties and up. She is tall and angular and strong with attractive, intelligent eyes.
 
Fortune and Bishop O'Hara separate. She stands by the pulpit, her back to us, facing the screen.
 
Bishop O'Hara looks at us. He radiates casual strength and assurance, and an easy humor and natural forbearance, which Fortune frequently tests.
 
 
BISHOP O'HARA: It's the early 1940s. The war rages in Europe and the Pacific. People are tense and anxious in the United States.
 
In the heartland, in Kansas City, Missouri, Miss E. Charlton Fortune has begun a lecture on art and, as it will turn out, on her life as well.
 
Who am I? Oh, she'll tell you.
 
What am I doing here? She'll tell you that as well.
 
Though I'll give you hints to both questions ­ I am her loyal friend and frequent theological adversary.
 
(She turns her head slowly toward him, smiles.)
 
Quite frequent.
 
(He smiles at her, sits in the chair.)
 
So, the lecture begins. Rather, continues.
 
 
(Strong lighting change.)
 
 
FORTUNE (Looking at image): . . . A section of a fresco by Piero della Francesa . . . ``Discovery and Proving of the True Cross'' . . .
 
. . . Painted mid-Fifteenth Century . . .
 
(She moves behind the podium, her face somewhat in shadow.)
 
Note the powerful diagonal plane created by the cross and the figures
. . . set against the vertical lines of the buildings to the right . . . the circular and rounded shapes, like the human figures, keep the eye moving through the painting, holding our interest.
 
(She studies it a moment.)
 
None of this is an `accident' ­ all thought out. Della Francesa brought his love of mathematics and geometry to his art. I think you can see this. It feels geometric.
 
A powerful composition, important, because despite what some may tell you, ecclesiastical art is exactly the same as any other art.
 
Except for subject matter.
 
Fine professional painting . . . of the most supreme importance.
 
The ability to paint superbly well . . . say, a lemon on a plate . . . as Manet can do so beautifully, is the best preparation for any religious subject.
 
I mention this in a lecture I give in a seminary and . . .
 
(A beat; smiles.)
 
. . . shock one of the students . . . scandalized, I think, my discussing God in conjunction with a lemon.
 
(# 2 Slide: Her name: E. Charlton Fortune.)
 
Your lecturer.
 
I prefer to introduce myself a little into a lecture. Introductions by others are nice, but often a bit too effusive . . .
 
(Smiles.)
 
Some will tell you I use the initial to disguise my gender, but actually it is to disguise my given name: Euphemia.
 
Still, many women artists do use initials to hide the fact they are women. It's a matter of survival if you want to have any chance in the competitions.
 
And, if the judges know you are a woman and still judge you to be any good, it's because ­ they say ­ you paint like a man.
 
One reviewer said of me: ``Her work is unusually strong for a woman ­ having the vigorous brush stroke attributed to men only.''
 
Well, I ask you, what am I to do? Develop a weak brush stroke?
 
Still, there's a danger in using initials. For instance . . . in 1927 I won a medal at the Paris Salon. A nice moment in my rather mixed career. The award certificate read . . . ``To Monsieur Fortune.''
 
Monsieur Fortune is preferable, by the way, to Miss Fortune ­ we don't want to be reminded of that., do we, misfortune?
 
Anyway, friends call me Effie. Much nicer.
 
(Looks at the screen; tilts her head.)
 
This lecture, as you know, is ­
 
(# 3 Slide, with the words:)
 
­ ``Notes on Art for Catholics.''
 
(She glances at Bishop O'Hara, who smiles indulgently.)
 
But it's good to remind you as we go along, since I do get sidetracked.
 
Non-Catholics might also benefit from this lecture. But then, I feel
the world might benefit from understanding and appreciating art.
 
Mind you, I'm not liberal about this subject. There's a fallacy that anyone with a pair of eyes is capable of deciding what is good or bad in art. That is, may I say . . .
 
(Looks again at Bishop O'Hara, changes her mind as he
clears his throat.)
 
. . . a way of letting you know that, at the tea afterward ­
 
(A beat.)
 
Is there a tea afterward, Edwin?
 
BISHOP O'HARA: Yes ­ in the lobby.
 
FORTUNE: Not the rectory?
 
BISHOP O'HARA: No ­ support guild's replastering the living room. We don't want plaster drifting into the tea.
 
FORTUNE: Oh no . . . This, by the way, is Edwin O'Hara, distinguished bishop of Kansas City, Missouri . . . I was saying?
 
BISHOP O'HARA: ``A way of letting you know.''
 
FORTUNE: Thank you. No ``I know what I like,'' unless it comes
from an informed basis. And if you come from an informed basis,
you won't say ``I know what I like.''
 
You may wonder why the bishop sits nearby . . . He's here in case you may have questions about religion I am unable to answer.
 
BISHOP O'HARA: Trust me, she'll try anyway.
 
FORTUNE: But the most important reason ­ the projector jamming. It does sometimes and I'm terrible with machines.
 
BISHOP O'HARA: That's true.
 
FORTUNE: It jammed a dozen times in Portsmouth. That's in Rhode Island.
 
BISHOP O'HARA: In Boston it jammed and then the light bulb burned out, so we adjourned early for tea.
 
FORTUNE: And if I get off track, Edwin can steer me back. Isn't that so?
 
BISHOP O'HARA: I try.
 
FORTUNE: If I faint ­ I did once, it was Cleveland in August ­ Bishop O'Hara to the rescue.
 
BISHOP O'HARA: It was St. Louis, Effie.
 
FORTUNE: Excuse me?
 
BISHOP O'HARA: You fainted in St. Louis.
 
FORTUNE: In August?
 
BISHOP O'HARA: You'll recall they installed a tub in the cathedral vestibule so you could bathe when the heat became unbearable.
 
FORTUNE: Oh, yes! I plunged in every two hours.
 
BISHOP O'HARA: Except the the day you got caught up in your painting and didn't jump in ­ and suffered heat prostration. You scared us that time.
 
FORTUNE (A beat): Did I?
 
BISHOP O'HARA: Of course, very much. You were so ill, even Rome heard of it.
 
FORTUNE: Rome?
 
BISHOP O'HARA: The Pope himself ­ didn't you know?
 
FORTUNE (Touched): No.
 
BISHOP O'HARA (Back tracking): Oh, right ­ we thought it would go to your head if you heard the Holy Father was concerned.
 
FORTUNE: If I'd known . . .
 
BISHOP O'HARA: Exactly our point.
 
The lecture, Effie.
 
FORTUNE: The Holy Father . . . really?
 
BISHOP O'HARA: Really.
 
FORTUNE: My goodness.
 
(A moment as she collects herself, giving him a second look,
then # 4 Slide, a classical public building.)
 
This is the entrance to Kansas City's William Rockhill Nelson Gallery of Art . . . Many of the works of art you will see this evening are housed in this museum.
 
A surprise for the bishop: I am adding some extra slides to
today's lecture . . . freshening it up.
 
 
(She smiles in his direction; he arches a brow.)
 
 
BISHOP O'HARA: Are you?
 
FORTUNE: Not so many.
 
(Turning front.)
 
I add images because . . . the war grows worse in Europe . . . so
maybe we need to talk about things other than just art. I know the
war's on your minds, how could it not be? We can't just ignore it, pretend it isn't.
 
And my brother is over in . . . well, I don't know . . . North Africa, perhaps Burma, an engineer searching for oil for the war effort. Jim's second war . . . No longer young, and we haven't had word from him for some time and Jim takes chances, so I worry . . .
 
(Bishop O'Hara gives her a look of concern, shifts in his
chair.)
 
(No. 5 slide ­ sculpture of a Greek lion.)
 
So I would like to discuss some things that bear on art, mine and others, that I usually don't talk about.
 
(Pause, briskly, glancing back at image.)
 
This falls into our usual parameter: A stone sculpture of a lion, to be found in the Museum's Classical Gallery. Greek. Four centuries before Christ.
 
A few wars since then . . .
 
(#6 Slide ­ sculpture of a Chinese lion.)
 
Chinese lion of the seventh century after Christ. In the --Chinese Gallery, of course.
 
(#7 Slide back to the Greek lion.)
 
. . . as far apart in conception ­
 
(#8 Slide back to the Chinese lion.)
 
­ as China from Greece.
 
Both distinctly different from the image of ­
 
(#9 Slide ­ photograph of a lion.)
 
­ a real lion . . . snapped this photograph the other day in
your zoo.
 
(Smiles.)
 
Handsome galoot, isn't he? Lazy, too.
 
(Reversing slides, #10, 11 and 11A)
 
These statues resemble our lion only remotely as subject
matter, but absolutely as to its attributes.
 
Kingliness and ferocity depicted to the point of exaggeration through economy of design . . . the deliberate discarding of
nonessential details.
 
Details may be seen in the `absolutely truthful' product of the
camera ­
 
(#12 Slide of photograph of lion.)
 
­ which reduces our lion to the importance of a contented
dog sprawled on a hearth rug.
 
(Looks at him for a few moments.)
 
You'll note this is not a ``Catholic'' photograph, anymore than the previous image was a Catholic sculpture.
 
In fact, this is the sort of fellow who made a habit of eating Catholics.
 
BISHOP O'HARA (Pained): Something we'd like to keep in the past, Effie ­ lions eating Catholics.
 
FORTUNE: Today of course we'd toss him Lutherans, Baptists, Methodists, Catholics ­ a kind of lion's Christian stew.
 
(Smiles.)
 
You might as well know, the bishop and I had a tussle over the title of this lecture. Over the word ``Catholic.'' I thought it should be simply ``Notes on Art.''
 
I'm quite proud of being Catholic . . . I like being Catholic, but I truly feel that art is for everyone, as God is for everyone.
 
A pagan may be taken by a ``Catholic'' art work, as we may be charmed by a pagan work of art. If you take my meaning.
 
BISHOP O'HARA (Intentionally very Irish, with some humor but clearly irritated): Aye, that we do, Effie my dear.
 
FORTUNE: Aye, I won't budge from that.
 
(#13 Slide: a painting of night, a city on fire.)
 
(She stares, pause.)
 
When people lecture, we need to know where they come from . . . what gives them their point of view . . . makes them the way they are, if we're to credit them at all.
 
(Pause.)
 
My memory of April 18, 1906 ­ the San Francisco earthquake and
fire . . . painted a year later . . .
 
. . . because time is needed to distill ideas and emotions.
 
Why artists often paint from memory. The reporter . . . the news photographer . . . says, ``I must get it now!'' The artist can take her time, let the images filter through the unconscious . . .
 
(Looks at it a moment.)
 
It lacks certain ``details'' . . . buildings falling, people running, the odor of burning flesh. I'm not altogether happy with it . . . yet, one can sense the terror, I hope . . . the ``Where to run?''
 
(Tense.)
 
One can paint the terror , the stench of burning flesh. Never doubt it. Not me, but the great artists can . . . Goya, for instance. He understood flesh and pain . . .
 
Artists such as Goya, one envies them . . . but one doesn't.
 
(Pause.)
 
(Slide: detail of the image, larger, brush strokes vivid,
color more intense.)
 
Same painting. Closer. Reminds us of what is going on now in Europe. London's burning.
 
(Pause.)
 
In London I saw Sarah Bernhardt as Camille.
 
Five times I saw Isadora Duncan dance . . . in London, then again in Paris. Her mastery of self-expression! ­ I found it . . . stunning! . . . moving.
 
Had never seen anything like it. That was before the first war.
 
Bernhardt's dead . . . as is Duncan.
 
One can hardly forget Duncan is dead, the way she died ­ the scarf tangled in the car wheel . . . her beautiful, graceful neck.
(#15 Slide: names scribbled on white rag labels.)
 
(Pause.)
 
What is this, you may well ask. It's still that night.
 
We tore off pieces of rag, Mother and I, wrote our names and address and pinned them to our coats . . . should we
have died that night, our identity might be known.
 
We discovered many people did this. For them, us . . . death was
not as great a fear as anonymity . . . of bodies being disposed of . . . anonymously.
 
I've never forgotten that.
 
They dynamited our house that night . . . to halt the progress of the fire. Our house was one of many to be destroyed that way . . It almost worked.
 
We become refugees, lived in tents for months. Many homes destroyed that night, many lives . . . much art, Catholic and otherwise.
 
(#16 Slide: black and white photo of a murdered body on a
sidewalk.)
 
 
(Brief silence.)
 
 
BISHOP O'HARA (Reacting to the image; measured): Effie, what are you thinking?
 
(She doesn't respond.)
 
It's in bad taste.
 
FORTUNE: It happens.
 
BISHOP O'HARA: I don't care.
 
FORTUNE: It has a point. Like the fire.
 
(A beat.)
 
And when you compare it with what's going on in Europe . . . the death everywhere . . .
 
BISHOP O'HARA (Not pleased; showing it): `What's one more?'
 
Very well. If you really feel you must.
 
FORTUNE (A beat): Thank you.
 
Victim of a shooting, not San Francisco ---­ front of a New York restaurant, some years ago. A gangster. The moment the shooting takes place, I am having dinner inside with another distinguished clergyman ­ an archbishop.
 
(#17Slide, a clergyman.)
 
The Archbishop. A sketch.
 
(Glance at O'Hara.)
 
Another Irishman to boot.
 
(Irish accent touched with sadness, sing-song, quickly.)
 
``A luvly man.''
 
`` With us still?''
 
``No, alas.''
 
``Where then?''
 
``With the angels, I think.''
 
(Pause.)
 
(#18 Slide back to shooting victim.)
 
Just before the shooting, we're talking, the ­
 
(#19 Slide to Archbishop.)
 
­ Archbishop and I.
 
I say, ``Where, Archbishop, are the great Catholic artists of the past? The Leonardos, the Michelangelos, the Raphaels?''
 
He replies over a glass of wine . . .
 
(Looks at him.)
 
Edwin?
 
BISHOP O'HARA (Surprised): Effie?
 
FORTUNE: You've heard me tell it enough times.
 
BISHOP O'HARA: So?
 
FORTUNE: So be the Archbishop. The Archbishop says ­ come on, Edwin!
 
BISHOP: Really, Effie, if Rome knew I was impersonating an archbishop . . .
 
FORTUNE: You've done it before. You've done this before.
 
BISHOP O'HARA (Slight blush, a glance toward us): But not before
people. Really, I didn't expect . . .
 
FORTUNE: Please.
 
BISHOP O'HARA: Must I?
 
(She nods. Put on the spot, he sighs, prepares himself, initially without enthusiasm.)
 
Well. Here goes.
 
(Strong Irish accent, self conscious.)
 
``If you feel that way about it, Effie my dear . . .''
 
(Unsure, but strong.)
 
He spoke like that, did he?
 
FORTUNE: Bring it down a little, Edwin ­ he wasn't all that Irish.
 
BISHOP O'HARA (Grimaces, then): ``If you feel that way about it, Effie dear . . .''
 
FORTUNE: Better.
 
BISHOP O'HARA (Drily): Thank you.
 
(Clears his throat.)
 
``. . . Then do something about it! . . . Be our Leonardo.''
FORTUNE: Well, that brings me up short! Still, I look at him . . . give up my art, my Impressionism ­
 
(#20 Slide to Fortune Impressionistic painting, ``The Cannery.'')
 
­ turn to religious art? Was I to do that? Start over? . . . At my age?
(Pause, then playing to Bishop O'Hara:)
 
``Is that what you're suggesting, Archbishop?''
 
BISHOP O'HARA (Getting more comfortable with it, becoming more natural): ``Well, look, Effie, you posed the question, didn't you?''
 
(Sitting straighter, now conversational, speaking for himself
in a way, making eye contact with her.)
 
``And what's your art got you, other than venom of critics who look down on anything painted by a woman? They say women artists, haven't the genius of men, and they ignore you.
 
``Well, let them try to ignore your work for the Church. We'll put you there with the Leonardos and the Michaelangelos. You'll decorate the great churches and cathedrals across this country.
``And let's face it, Effie, we need you: Catholic art in this country has become almost as poor as Protestant art!'
 
FORTUNE (Slightly taken aback): Well! . . . well, it's a fair argument. Still, I have my doubts, but then . . .
. . . then the shooting happens . . . Someone who probably deserves shooting ­ that's what the newspapers imply . . . but I somehow think if that gangster's not murdered outside that restaurant . . . on that night . . . perhaps I would have taken a different path with what . . . what remains of my life.
 
(#21 Slide: the shooting victim.)
 
Looks martyred . . . the blood, the arms that way, makes one think, in an odd way, of the Pieta. Without Mary to comfort him, of course.
 
Maybe that was it ­ maybe that was the attraction. What do you think?
 
(Pause.)
 
The Archbishop bravely goes out. . . administers last rites . . .
 
(Smiles softly.)
 
Yes, the gangster was Catholic . . . then returns and we have dinner, or try.
 
(Pause.)
 
I remember being fascinated by . . . he doesn't know it's there
. . . a blood stain on the right cuff of the Archbishop's shirt . . .
can't take my eyes off it . . .
 
He says . . . the Archbishop thinks my eyes downcast from
trauma . . . he says, ``Effie, it happens.'' Then, then he reaches across with his right hand and takes mine . . .
 
And all I can see is, well, the blood on his sleeve. The gangster's blood.
 
(Pause.)
 
(#22 Slide, a headless stone sculpture.)
 
This, as you can see, is without a head and therefore without
facial expression, which is so important to the layman.
 
(Smiles.)
 
Well, I'm sorry, but without a head we simply can't have a face,
can we? But, I say, doesn't it leave a lot to the imagination? Doesn't it
excite the imagination?
 
It's Maitreya, Chinese, Seventh Century! Found in the T'ien
Lung Shan caves. This little statue is the worthy ancestor of the Romanesque figures of Christ found in French Medieval churches.
 
(#23 Slide, a stone tympanum of a religious scene.)
 
A tympanum, Cathedral of Chartres . . .Notice the draped clothing, sensuous line of the legs, in both pieces. This is, of course, Christ; the other, some deity.
 
(#24 Slide ­ the Tribute Bearer.)
 
Sculpture in relief is stone cut away from a background. A splendid example of low or bas-relief ­ the Tribute-Bearer from Persepolis, done fifth century before Christ.
 
``Is it not passing brave! . . .'' A figure to have inspired Christopher Marlowe!
 
(#25 Slide ­ Virgin and Child.)
 
Another bas-relief: Virgin and Child. Carved twenty centuries
after our Persepolis figure. Greater variation of planes or levels,
so more fluid, but less compact in design.
 
Variety and ``color'' are obtained by undercutting the stone for shadows. Of color . . .
 
(#26 Slide.)
 
(Pause, a touch of reflective sadness.)
 
. . . Color . . . what I was once known for.
 
``Summer Morning, St. Ives.'' Paris Salon silver medal ­ Medaille D'Argent ­ to Monsieur Fortune. Silver is second, but I was happy
to have it.
 
(Stares at image, touch of nostalgia.)
 
Sort of work I used to do.
 
``Saint Ives.''
 
(Sounds of voices ­ talking, calling ­ screams of gulls.)
 
The color and life: reds, blues and yellows . . .Gull wings beating the air . . . blood on the fishcleaners' leather aprons . . .
 
. . . peasant girls and their print scarves . . . coarse language and pendulous breasts . . .
 
Little ponies pulling carts of fish up from the beach . . . leaning into their traces until their hearts crack and give out . . . cut from their traces . . .
 
(Pause. Stares at image a moment.)
 
Fishermen, waiting to go out ­
 
(Suddenly quite animated.)
 
I noted the oddest thing! ­ the fishermen pacing on the beach, their hands clasped behind their backs, walking four paces then turning, walking four paces then turning. Back and forth, on and on. Do you see?!
 
(Proud of her deduction.)
 
Do you see, Edwin?
 
(Front again.)
 
They were walking the length of their boats!
 
(Pause.)
 
The woman in the straw hat and rose blouse carrying a basket ­
I think I imagined her to be me. Alone as usual.
 
(Sounds die out, just waves gently brushing the shore.)
 
Without the cleft palate, of course.
 
(Long pause.)
 
You noticed that? Childhood birth defect. Reason I prefer shadow.
 
(Smiles.)
 
Perhaps why I rail against facial expression? Do you think?
 
(Pause, slide #26A, a child.)
 
I came across this recently . . . myself . . . seven or eight . . . First Communion.
 
Covering my mouth . . .
 
. . . self-conscious, of course . . .
 
(Pause.)
 
In my school, near that time, there was an award each week for the best artist. You received it in front of the class. I never won. You know what imaginations children have, how they exagerrate the slightest thing ­ I began to think I didn't win because of my . . . disfigurement
. . . that to give an award for beauty to someone who looked like me was more than the school could make itself do.
 
Well, you don't forget these things.
 
I nearly gave up art.
 
I think, sometimes, ``Where would I be today if I had done that?''
 
I really don't know.
 
(Pause, looks at image, then #26 again, St. Ives.)
 
Had a nerve, didn't I, making her attractive? I've always kept my figure, that part's true.
 
(Pause.)
 
I didn't want to be alone. No one really wants to be alone. I had a pal then ­ Ethel.
 
(Bishop O'Hara looks at her sharply.)
 
We were best friends. But she was back in San Francisco.
 
She . . .
 
(Starts to say something else, decides against it.)
 
(Abruptly: #27 Slide, an altar of vivid colors.)
 
Is it not breathtaking? . . . Spanish altar piece from a church in Valencia . . . Spain and Mexico, countries rich in liturgical art . . . make us look clumsy by comparison.
 
I am redoing the altar here at St. Peter's. I will be borrowing from
this . . . being so beautiful.
 
(#28 Slide ­ Ethel young.)
 
My friend Ethel, whom I told you about . . .
 
(Pause.)
 
A black and white image, so . . . difficult to guess her hair color . . . Red then, she had freckles. The first time I saw her ­
 
(#29 Slide, a photograph.)
 
­ was here, Point Lobos ­ Point of the Sea Wolves ­ near Carmel . . .
California . . . a place to this day much favored by artists . . . But dangerous, the ocean very dangerous.
 
(Again, sound of waves brushing the shore.)
 
. . . Ethel wore a pale blue dress, kind of smock, with paint spots, looked as much boy as girl ­ and she was late for the first day of my painting class.
 
(Mock shock.)
 
And had forgotten her paint box!
 
I had just sent the class down to the beach to paint the waves.
 
Ethel was nervous . . . out of breath, very young, two years younger than myself. I'm sure, to her, I seemed ancient.
 
``I'm sorry, I'm ­ ''
 
``You are the last to arrive ­ so, you must be Ethel McAllister. And you've forgotten your paint box. I must say, it makes one question your seriousness.''
 
``But I am very serious! I am passionate to paint!'' she says to me.
 
``Are you? Are you indeed?''
 
``They say you send people away. You musn't send me away. I want to learn from you.''
 
I said . . . Well, nothing, because something caught my attention
. . . on the beach ­ the roar of an incoming wave ­ and at that moment ­
 
(We hear through her, fear in her eyes, the sound of a wave approaching, a low, growing rumble.)
 
­ a glimpse of the white dress of one of my students at the
water's edge ­
 
(The crash of the wave.)
 
I held my breath! I don't remember closing my eyes ­ but I remember opening them. The white dress was still there, the girl in it wet ­ and laughing!
 
Laughing!
 
The others, too. Sometimes they can be so stupid!
 
But, oh, the relief I felt! I was trembling.
 
I rushed to the edge of the bluff, yelled my loudest down
at my students, startling them, and Ethel, too, I am sure ­
 
``Ladies, ladies! Do not, do not, turn your back to the
sea. Ever! Ever! For it will come up behind you and kill
you!''
 
Then I turned on Ethel
 
``Do you hear me? Do you understand, Ethel McAllister?''
 
(Pause.)
 
Quite frightened her, I am sure.
 
I was angry at myself, of course. I had been so taken by
Ethel's passion to paint, I had neglected the safety of my
students.
 
Well . . . sometimes we're lucky.
 
And we forget that, don't we?
 
(Looks at image, then #30 slide, a woman's face.)
 
I soon stopped teaching ­ not tempermentally suited to it. Not the patience. Others much better at it than me.
 
Head of the Virgin. Fourteenth Century fresco. Northern Italy. Dark
hair. Almond eyes.
 
(Pause.)
 
What soft, gentle eyes. Very beautiful. Not unlike Ethel's. A similar
. . . sadness . . . seeing what is to come.
 
(Pause, stares at it.)
 
I think Modigliani might have seen this fresco. Perhaps as a boy, the image staying with him. What do you think?
 
(Pause.)
 
Fresco . . . a method of applying paint directly to wet plaster.
Most successful in countries where climatic conditions insure its permanency . . . such as Italy . . .
 
Art not cared for ages just as we do. The Virgin would become an
old lady and, like us, eventually turn to dust, which wouldn't do.
 
(#31 Slide, a stone sculpture.)
 
Saint John. Stone sculpture. Late Sixteenth Century or perhaps early
Seventeenth Century.
 
(Pause, studies it intently.)
 
To the point, no doubt work of art. Pain clearly etched in . . .
 
Pieces such as this . . . sometimes I wonder if I should have turned to liturgical art.
 
(A glance toward Bishop O'Hara.)
 
The profound sorrow, as we see in St. John's face . . . or in the Virgin's, makes me sometimes doubt my decision to ­
 
BISHOP O'HARA: Effie, we're not here for this.
 
FORTUNE: Nothing wrong with doubt, Edwin, forces us to think.
 
BISHOP O'HARA: A time and a place.
 
FORTUNE: The lecture is Catholic art after all.
 
(Waits, then #32 slide.)
 
Me and my brother, Jim . . . on his motorcycle.
 
A bonus: can't quite make out my cleft at that distance.
Inherited it from my father. Still, I was told, such afflictions were
more likely to be passed down through women than men.
 
That is what they believed . . . then.
 
What I resented most was being denied the idea of being a mother. To imagine being a mother would be to imagine a deformed child.
 
I thought that was very cruel of them ­ to not let one imagine . . .
 
(Pause.)
 
Well, what do they believe now? I have no idea. I've lost interest.
 
I would have been a terrible mother ­ much too spoiled. And artists as parents . . . well, not the best sometimes . . . I've seen that. I'm sure you have, too. Anyway, had close friends . . . my chum, Ethel
. . . and later, in the Church, nuns and priests I could count on . . .
 
(Smiling at Bishop O'Hara.)
 
. . . how privileged to know and be accepted by people such as Edwin.
 
(Pause.)
 
And I had, in a way, a child, a boy, Peter . . .
 
(Smiles.)
 
Not a fantasy ­ Ethel's son, my godson.
 
(Pause; looks away, then, after a moment, turning to image,
a bit of the little girl in her:)
 
We were having fun, weren't we, Jim and I? He drove his motorcycle very fast, faster than I drive my car.
 
BISHOP O'HARA: That would take some doing.
 
FORTUNE: I'm not so bad as that.
 
BISHOP O'HARA: Oh? . . . Let me tell you, she calls her car ``Blasphemia.''
 
FORTUNE: Better than cursing it, Edwin.
 
BISHOP O'HARA: Perhaps.
 
FORTUNE: Anyway, I don't know why we were in such a hurry . . . so restless . . . both of us . . .
 
. . . brother and sister alike that way . . .
 
(#33 Slide, a stained glass window of brilliant colors.)
 
Stained glass window . . . depicting the life of Saint Catherine.
Catherine was a mystic and a martyr. Her father more practical: an artist!
 
(Smiles.)
 
Takes a martyr to make an artist seem practical, doesn't it?
Catherine's father was a dyer of textiles in Sienna. He outlived his daughter. Not surprising ­ most martyrs are young, sometimes children.
But our window. The glass glows . . . amber, emerald and vermillion
. . . broken into a thousand hues of red and blue, producing a glittering jewel like whole.
 
Here again we are meeting order and variety, the foundation
of all the arts.
 
(#34 Slide.)
 
A flute. On a side table with a vase of geraniums. Painted
by my friend Ethel.
 
(Pause.)
 
You can see her talent . . . promise of . . . takes work.
 
But her instinctive understanding of afternoon light . . . its effect on us. Pleasant, warm, suggesting solitude . . . Sitting by a window, light pouring in . . . dozing off into eternity.
 
(#35 Slide.)
 
Another still-life. A masterpiece. Pieter Claesz: 1600­1661. Dutch.
 
Something eternal about a still-life. . . Still life. As if time has
stopped and life is on hold, something we all wish for now and then.
 
(Pause.)
 
The artist drowned himself after the accidental death of his son.
 
People . . . the Church . . . say that's wrong, suicide ­ well, he was
a passionate man and to lose a child is a terrible thing . . .
 
The focal point of Claesz's composition? Perhaps the peeled lemon on the pewter plate. Remember what I said about Manet?
 
But about the Claesz' pewter plate ­
 
(#36 slide.)
 
­ like the flute in Ethel's painting. In both light coming in from an angle ­
 
(#37 Slide.)
 
­ creating a diagonal plane and tension on the canvas. As opposed to ­
 
(#38 Slide, a landscape.)
 
­ landscapes, with a distant horizon and generally horizontal plane, dissipating tension . . . Landscapes often inspire a sense of quiet, perhaps well-being . . . you breathe easier . . .
 
(Studies the image.)
 
. . . why, why I think so many of us like landscapes, especially
in these times . . .We can escape into them . . . like a Sunday drive
in the country . . .
 
By Ethel, incidentally . . . you can see her becoming good.
 
(A beat, then #39 Slide, a large tapestry.)
 
``The Procession to Calvary.'' Flemish tapestry. Early Sixteenth Century!
 
(Deep, excited breath.)
 
Imagine! ­
 
Executed by skilled Flemish craftsmen . . . from drawings by
masters! The craft descending from father to son to son! Many
pieces taking years to complete, for only a very few inches could
be woven in a day!
 
In Italy, Raphael himself designed tapestries ­ the great Raphael!
 
(Pause; pulling back.)
 
Well . . .
 
Sometimes I get overly . . . Go off this way and that. No telling.
Don't know myself.
 
Maybe that's why . . . why my life needed structure. And that's one thing the Church offers. And if it was good enough for Raphael . . .
 
 
(She glances at Bishop O'Hara.)
 
 
BISHOP O'HARA (Roused): Well, you tell me, Effie, was it?
 
Was it good enough for the great Raphael?
 
FORTUNE: If we're to judge by his art . . .
 
BISHOP O'HARA: Then you say ``Yes''?
 
FORTUNE: Then ­ ``Yes.''
 
BISHOP O'HARA (Having won a point): Thank you.
 
FORTUNE: And: well: let's be honest, Edwin: the Church was offering a place ­ a home ­ for my art.
 
(To us.)
 
The real world offers no such assurance to the artist.
 
None at all.
 
(#40 Slide.)
 
The Annunciation. Florentine. Agnolo Gaddi, born in 1346,
died in 1396.
 
Reached fifty; not bad for then.
 
(Studies image, brightly, mischievous smile:)
 
And a natural death! . . .
 
BISHOP O'HARA (Dry, looking up): Thank Heaven.
 
FORTUNE (Conspiratorially, to us, smiling slyly): We think . . .
 
(Studies image.)
 
Naturalistic qualities alone are of no great importance in
ecclesiastical painting, because the function of religious art
is to raise the heart and mind above nature.
 
(Looks at Bishop O'Hara, teasing him.)
 
See, Edwin, yet another piece of liturgical art.
 
BISHOP O'HARA: Amazing.
 
FORTUNE: As I noted earlier, the bishop and I had a bit of a tussle over the title of this lecture. Over the word ``Catholic.''
 
BISHOP O'HARA: Now, Effie.
 
FORTUNE: The bishop felt if we didn't say ``Notes on Art for Catholics'', then Catholics wouldn't come! What kind of faith is that in those of you who are Catholic? And what are we saying here ­ Protestants would come?
 
BISHOP O'HARA (A little worried): Our Protestant friends are always welcome, Effie ­ we both know that.
 
(Looking out, smiles charmingly, a little nod.)
 
I'm sure we have a few with us this evening.
 
FORTUNE: Good. I am glad to hear it, because . . .
 
(Determied.)
 
Because in Ireland, the country of Bishop O'Hara's origin . . . with Mother, decades ago, we arrive . . .
 
(Sudden Irish accent.)
 
. . . at the Isle of Saints . . . Tis watery dawn. I buy a Belfast paper and read of Catholics hating Protestants and Protestants hating Catholics and bloody violence.
 
Sad, I turn the pages and peruse the advertisements offering employment . . .
 
Not that I am wanting work, but to feel the pulse . . .
 
I see . . .
 
I read . . .
 
``Wanted ­ Catholic kitchen maid'' . . .
 
``Needed: boot boy, must be Protestant''. . .
 
``Wanted: Catholic for brick laying.''
 
``Needed: Ladies' corset salesman ­ Protestant preferred''
 
(A beat.)
 
I say, can't a Protestant lay a brick?
 
A Catholic sell a corest?
 
So! . . .
 
Too much separation already . . . and look what it's got us ­ hate and war and killing.
 
(#41 Slide.)
 
(A beat.)
 
The Nut House! My house. Monterey, California.
 
(Glances at Bishop O'Hara.)
 
That's what we called it, scene of many lively parties, some minor transgressions . . .
 
(Considers image.)
 
I recall poets, writers, photographers. Successes and failures.
All seemed promising then . . . death far away.
 
There was a journalist . . . a poet turned stone mason . . . railroad man turned poet . . . mother of a war hero ­ this war . . . home now . . . she tending his wounds . . . but alive.
 
I think of my brother Jim, God knows where.
 
I know you're thinking of someone as we huddle here, safe for a time.
 
(Pause.)
 
Well . . . you can do this with any group photo . . .
 
. . . look back this way . . .
 
(#42 Slide of women gathered on a street.)
 
Did this painting then ­ ``The Gossips''! They're talking, talking . . . gossiping . . . about . . . us!
 
I'd look out in the morning, from the Nut House ­ there they'd be . . . this was before the first war . . . a Greek chorus . . . their husbands and sons . . . off fishing . . . like St. Ives. But I understood ­ gossip, a way to distract themselves . . .
 
. . . from watching the sky . . .
 
. . . black clouds . . . churning white caps . . .
. . . So they turn, look inward . . .
 
. . . land, not sea.
 
(A beat.)
 
More dangerous, though, St. Ives and the Atlantic than Monterey and the Pacific. Still, both kill and those killed often so young . . . they who venture out too far . . .
 
(A kind of Irish accent.)
 
``In the big world the old people do be leaving things after them
for their sons and children, but in this place it is the young men do
be leaving things behind for them that do be old.''
 
Do you recognize the writer?
 
Edwin, do you?
 
BISHOP O'HARA (His eyes lighting up): Could it be . . . ?
 
FORTUNE: Yes?
 
BISHOP O'HARA: Might it be . . . J.M. Synge?
 
FORTUNE (Nodding): John Millington Synge ­ ``Riders to the Sea.''
The grieved Maurya speaking . . . so like those Monterey women.
 
(Pause, looking at the painting.)
 
We must have seemed stupid and shallow to them, rowdy and spoiled. . . Life so hard for them . . . . . . and us, given everything.
 
(Pause. Lost a moment. Looks at image. Distant.)
 
I was . . .
 
BISHOP O'HARA (Some concern): You were? . . . Effie?
 
FORTUNE (Smiles, easily): Oh, simply thinking of people ­ lost people who had been given everything.
 
BISHOP O'HARA (Relieved, the state of the world after all): Oh, well.
 
 
(#43 slide, a sculpture.)
 
 
FORTUNE (Smiles, to audience): Sorry. Sometimes I worry the Bishop.
 
Madonna and Child. Damaged, so . . . part Madonna . . . part Child. Fourteenth Century . . . French. Limestone. Has that remote quality and dignity desirable in religious art . . .
 
Compare to . . . well, put it this way ­ does she need a halo?
 
Interesting . . . a work of art, even if severely damaged, holds our attention. We imagine the rest, don't we? Complete the image in our heads.
 
The Madonna's hand. The Child's face.
 
Or . . . or the injury to the art work, becomes real, feeds our religious
fervor . . .
 
 
(Glances in O'Hara's direction, knowing he approves. Small smile.)
 
 
BISHOP O'HARA: Always a good thing.
 
FORTUNE: Not always, Edwin. Remember Ireland and Easter Week ­ no good came from that.
 
BISHOP O'HARA (Smiles ruefully): Well, I walked into that one.
 
FORTUNE: That you did.
 
BISHOP O'HARA: Not the first time.
 
 
(Gestures for her to continue.)
 
 
(#44 Slide, an oil portrait, a man grieving.)
 
 
FORTUNE: Saint Peter, by Velasquez. Now here is artistic religious fervor, a different and totally acceptable thing. Of course, I'm biased. Note the boat in the background ­ Velasquez reminding us: Peter's a fisherman.
 
Important.
 
(Looks at image.)
 
Velasquez is more concerned with Peter's emotional state than portraiture, so any preconceived notion we have of his likeness becomes secondary to his grief . . .
 
(#45 Slide.)
 
``Christ Awakening His Disciples in Gethsemane.'
 
By me, in California, Mission Carmel ­ San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo.
 
The crucifix . . . waiting. He knows . But also, waiting for Christ,
the comfort of angels.
 
(Pause, looking at the image.)
 
I agonized over this painting. Put all I had into it.
 
Everything.
 
Still, not altogether happy with it, but has a kind of presence . . .
 
(#46 Slide, colorful, an angel and St. Peter.)
 
A study, by me again. Here composition is all. Design. Simplicity.
And you can see I've kept a love of color.
 
An angel. The man, Peter again.
 
Of Peter . . . a name dear to me . . .
 
(#47 Slide.)
 
Showed this earlier . . . painting by Ethel . . . I didn't say, flute was Peter's . . . my godson's . . . Ethel's boy . . .
 
(#48 Slide, a little boy.)
 
Here he is, as a child ­ Peter. Such a fine boy. So much promise.
I wrote to his mother about this time:
 
``Ethel, my dear, I'm sending my godson, your Peter, a charming wool sweater. Knit by the wife of a St. Ives fisherman . . . knit to fill the waiting hours . . .
``I so hope he likes it. Tell him his godmother loves him and thinks
of him as she watches the children run and play on the beaches here.
 
(Pause, some bitterness, hurt.)
 
``They think me funny . . . the children. Laugh at me. At my mouth. . . It is so odd, to have people look at your mouth, not into your eyes, as you did . . . why I love you . . .
 
``But the worst is, they make fun of my painting. Peek over my shoulder and yell ­ `Look, she can't get it right, the picture's all
crooked.'
 
``I hope Peter is keeping you on your toes. It will be good exercise for you if, as I suspect, you are no longer painting. Tell Peter not to forget his extra parent, here in St. Ives . . .''
 
(Pause.)
 
Then at age seventeen Peter is made first secretary of the Sierra Club. Imagine that! So young and he has a cause, to save nature. You see, a good boy.
 
(#49 Slide, water and twilight.)
 
``St. Ives After Sunset.''
 
Mine. Fewer unmannerly children at that time of day. Safer.
 
I did some of my best painting in St. Ives. It was on my first trip to St. Ives that I learned Ethel had married. A military man. Handsome. Stood quite straight. A good man.
 
In St. Tropez, in France, I heard Ethel was pregnant with Peter.
 
(Smiles.)
 
Well, anyone who forgets her paint box, there's no telling. I knew our friendship would never be the same.
 
(Pause. Bishop O'Hara shifts uncomfortably in his chair. A
slight inclination of her head toward him.)
 
Selfish of me, of course.
 
(Suddenly animated.)
 
Do you know, if you get lost in the Sierra Mountains, there is a hut . . . named in Peter's honor . . . by the Sierra Club. . . where you can find food and blankets. It's called ``Peter's Hut.'' It has saved lives.
 
(#50 Slide.)
 
A mountain in the Sierra. Note the notch in it . A climber wrote . . . the rock is ``metaphoric'' . . . One must ``hold the rock together with one hand while he climbs it with the other . . . ''
 
(Smiles, proud.)
 
Peter wrote that. The mountain, too, is named for Peter . . . Perhaps someday I will visit it and paint it . . .
 
I do so miss doing landscapes.
 
(#51 Slide ­ Ethel as a mature woman.)
 
Ethel.
 
Note her eyes looking down . . .
 
The light coming from the right . . . softening her profile . . . The person who took this photograph understands strong composition.
 
(Sighs.)
 
. . . I must admit, I've railed against photography. But this is a moving picture, taken some time after Ethel learned . . .
 
(A beat.)
 
. . . of Peter's death . . .
 
. . . the sadness in her eyes, like the Virgin's in the fresco I showed you earlier.
(Pause, then #52 Slide of a young man.)
 
This taken of Peter, shortly before he died . . .
 
. . . that was so long ago, somewhere in Europe, after I had returned home . . . All those years in France and Great Britain, when I might have been of use . . . could have perhaps rushed to his side . . but he was alone, his extra parent of no help . . .
 
. . . an educational trip . . . before college . . . We still don't know how he died, what killed him, just eighteen . . . a mystery . . .
 
(Pause.)
 
I think of Pieter Claesz losing his son . . .
 
. . . of Saint Catherine's father . . .
 
. . . of the mothers of the Irish fishermen . . .
 
. . . he ``do be leaving things behind for them that do be
old'' . . . ''
 
Synge, remember? Edwin's favorite Irish writer.
 
 
(Looks at him.)
 
 
BISHOP O'HARA (Smiles, softly): O'Casey, too.
 
FORTUNE (Also): O'Casey, too . . .
 
. . . I never did box Peter's ears.
 
(Smiles.)
 
Wish I had . . .
 
Think I frightened him a bit, though; he was always on his best behavior around me . . .
 
Though he never shied from me, as other children did, those children in St. Ives . I was so afraid he would.
 
Why I loved him so much, I suppose ­ and because he was Ethel's child.
 
(Repeat of the slide of Ethel, pause.)
 
So, we lost Ethel too.
 
. . . she abandoned her faith . . . a Protestant, by the way, a proud Episcopalian . . .
 
(A glance toward Bishop O'Hara.)
 
Can a Catholic be godmother to a Protestant?
 
Awkward, but . . . if a Catholic can model a corset . . . a Protestant
lay a brick . . . why then . . . such miracles . . . it can be done . . .
 
 
So, Ethel consulted mystics . . . some dark spirits in search of Peter
. . . she became . . . well . . . removed from her family . . . others . . . from me . . . we had no meeting point . . .
 
. . . she could no longer enter my world, nor I hers . . .
(A glance at Bishop O'Hara for understanding.)
 
Couldn't allow myself to . . .
 
. . . and stay in this one . . .
 
. . . in mine . . .
 
(Pause.)
 
So there ­ there is separation, whatever I might say.
 
There is no helping it.
 
For when you have such grief . . .
 
(Pause.)
 
(#53 Slide, her ``Artists at Work,'' on a sunlit day.)
 
I couldn't bear thinking of her that way, so this painting . . .
 
Ethel and myself, the early days.
 
Just finished it days ago, paint still wet, haven't even shown it to Edwin.
 
Hadn't done a painting like this ­ an `Impressionistic' painting ­ for decades. Thought perhaps I'd forgotten how. And maybe I have. It's a bit clumsy, but the artist's heart is in the right place.
 
(Looks at it.)
 
We're painting together.
 
Laughing.
 
Nothing better.
 
I was so proud in the painting of it ­ that I could recapture something of that time so long ago . . .
 
We were happy then, and that is enough.
 
(Studies it.)
 
Painted so many years after because, remember, time is needed . . .
 
. . . to distill ideas and emotions . . .
 
(Pause, looks at Bishop O'Hara, smiles.)
 
So, I'm not sure, but didn't I admit a photograph can be a work of
art? . . . that photograph of Ethel? . . .
 
(Pleasantly surprised, looking front.)
 
I think I did! That's something, isn't it? That I work at it? . . .
 
Moving into the Twentieth Century? . . .
 
A lttle late, but I can be open minded about what is and isn't art?
 
(Again smiles at Bishop O'Hara.)
 
We'll end with a `Catholic' piece . . .
 
(#54 Slide: her ``Christ and His Disciples . . . '' again.)
 
. . . in honor of Edwin O'Hara, bishop of Kansas City.
 
You've seen it before.
 
An unknown artist.
 
(Pause, measured, sure.)
 
Art is our understanding of beauty. . .
 
. . . as necessary today in the Church and in our daily lives . . .
 
. . . as it has always been.
 
(A beat.)
 
We'll meet in the lobby for tea . . . What do you say? . . .
(Pause.)
Shall we? . . .
 
 
(A final glance at the screen image, then she turns off the
machine; simultaneously, the lighting out on her and up on
Bishop O'Hara, who stands.)
 
 
BISHOP O'HARA: Soon after, her work for the Church won the gold medal from the American Institute of Architects. As Effie liked to point out ­ again and again ­ it was a secular award.
 
(Lights up on both, O'Hara offering her his arm.)
 
 
BISHOP O'HARA: Effie, did you notice?. . . A miracle! The projector didn't jam.
 
 
(She smiles. They walk down the stage stairs, then up the aisle to
the tea in the lobby.)
 
 
 
End of play . . . with the tea to come.
 

About the Playwright

Steve Hauk is an art dealer, journalist and writer in Pacific Grove, California. He wrote the award-winning documentaries ``The Roots of California Photography: The Monterey Legacy'' and ``Time Captured in Paintings: The Monterey Legacy.'' Both films won a CINE Golden Eagle and have been seen on PBS; both were narrated by the late Jack Lemmon. Hauk's plays include ``The Floating Hat,'' on the friendship of Charlie Chaplin and the deaf artist Granville Redmond, and ``A Mild Concussion: The Rapid Rise and Long Fall of an Idealistic Computer Genius,'' a play that is based on a true incident of idea theft. He has twice been published writing on threats to novelist John Steinbeck's life in the Steinbeck Review, and is working on a play on the Nobel Prize-winning author. In 1996 he co-curated the inaugural art exhibition at the National Stenbeck Center in Salinas, California, ``This Side of Eden: Images of Steinbeck's California.'' His blogs can be found on the writers' website Redroom.com. He runs his gallery, Hauk Fine Arts, with his wife, Nancy. They have two daughters, Amy Hauk and Anne Hauk, and three grandsons.

 

Play History

``Fortune's Way, or Notes on Art for Catholics (and Others),'' directed by Conrad Selvig, featuring Teresa Del Piero and John Brady, premiered in staged readings in March, 2010 at the Carmel Mission, Carmel, California. Performances followed at the Carl Cherry Center for the Arts in Carmel, the Monterey Museum of Art, Monterey, California, and the Pacific Grove Public Library, Pacific Grove, California. Future performances are pending, including the possibility of a European production.

 

(above: John Brady as Bishop O'Hara in ``Fortune's Way, or Notes on Art for Catholics (and Others).'' Photo by Paul Boczkowski.)

 

(above: Teresa Del Piero as E. Charlton Fortune, in ``Fortune's Way, or Notes on Art for Catholics (and Others).'' Photo by Paul Boczkowski.)

 

Resource Library editor's note:

The above play was rekeyed and reprinted on January 14, 2011 in Resource Library with permission of the author.

Resource Library readers may also enjoy:

E. Charlton Fortune, 1885-1969, is a 22-minute video produced in 2002 by the Carmel Art Association, narrated by William H, Gerdts, based on the 2001 exhibition of the work of the artist.

Julianne Burton-Carvajal wrote an article which appeared in the May-June 2010 issue of American Art Review concerning the E. Charlton Fortune exhibit at Carmel Mission titled The Liturgical Arts of E. Charlton Fortune.

rev. 6/7/11


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