blackbirdonline journalSpring 2011  Vol. 10  No. 1

Introduction to Nureyev’s Eyes

spacer Rudolf Nureyev
   Rudolf Nureyev, 1961

Playwright’s Notes
Published here is a scene from the full-length play, Nureyev’s Eyes. The germ of the play was planted two years ago when my partner and I toured Pennsylvania. Since I have been an avid collector of N.C. Wyeth materials and a fan of Andrew Wyeth’s work for many years, we inevitably visited Chadds Ford, where the Brandywine Museum—devoted to the works of all the Wyeths—is located. While walking around, I saw a man who looked like Andrew’s son, Jamie—also a brilliant painter. I asked him if that’s who he was, and he admitted that it was true. I told him of my interest in his family’s work, we chatted a bit, and then I let him go about his business. A few minutes later we walked into the upstairs gallery where we encountered the originals of many of Jamie Wyeth’s paintings, including a number of paintings of the ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev. While looking at the paintings, I learned about Jamie’s relationship to the dancer, and it struck me instantly as the subject for a play.

When I returned home, I wrote to Jamie, introducing myself and reminding him that we’d met, and asked permission to write a play about his experience with Nureyev. After a long wait, his assistant wrote that he had said yes. I was thrilled and set to work. About a year later, I finished the play and sent him a draft. He wrote back that he liked it very much. The completed play chronicles how they met, how Jamie convinced Rudolf to sit for him, how they gradually became intimate friends, and how they changed each other.

Blackbird’s Notes
Nureyev’s Eyes comes to Blackbird via the Richmond-based Firehouse Theatre Project’s Festival of New American Plays, where it was named the best play of the 2012 competition. In keeping with the Firehouse Theatre’s mission of promoting new work by American artists, the Festival of New American Plays began in 2002 as a way to encourage and incubate new plays by established and emerging playwrights in the United States.

Rudolf Nureyev (1938–1993) was a Soviet-born ballet dancer who defected to the west when the Kirov Ballet (of what was then Leningrad) was on tour in Paris in 1961. For twenty years, he was primarily identified as a star with Britain’s Royal Ballet, where he was also the primary partner for Dame Margot Fonteyn. In 1983, Nureyev was appointed director of the Paris Opera Ballet, where, as well as directing, he continued to dance and to promote younger dancers. He remained there as a dancer and chief of choreography until 1989. He continued to work as a conductor and choreographer until his death from AIDS in November 1992.

James Browning Wyeth (born in 1946) is a contemporary American realist painter. He was raised in Chadds Ford Township, Pennsylvania, son of Andrew Wyeth and grandson of N.C. Wyeth. Best known as a portrait painter, he has shown his work extensively in the United States and around the world, and his work has been acquired by the National Gallery of Art, the National Portrait Gallery, and other major collections. He paints primarily in Chadds Ford and Southern Island, Maine.  end