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Picasso’s Only Play Is Performed Again at the Guggenheim

The museum hosts a reading of the artist’s “Desire Caught By The Tail,” starring greats from the art and theater worlds

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Back in 1984, the Maison Française at NYU and the annual performing-arts series Works & Process collaborated on a once-in-a-lifetime experience: A reading of Desire Caught By The Tail, the only play ever written by Pablo Picasso, at New York City’s Guggenheim, featuring esteemed artists like Louise Bourgeois and David Hockney.  
Now, Works & Process has shown such an event can occur twice in a lifetime. A reading of that same work, performed by another group of luminaries, took place at the Guggenheim on Oct. 14 and 15. Desire Caught By The Tail was written in the last year of World War II after Picasso and his friends (think Albert Camus, Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir) got together in a small, freezing-cold studio to stay warm—and to stay away from the Germans. “They made up this nonsense play with large pictures of food hanging over their head,” explained Mary Cronson, producer of Works & Process.
Flash forward to 2012. Cronson decided that in honor of the “Picasso: Black and White” exhibit—up through January 2013—a restaging of the play, starring a new crowd of greats from the worlds of art and theater, should take place. “It was an homage to Picasso, and we had all these esteemed artists willing to come and honor him,” she said. The amazing cast included artists Joel Shapiro, Guillermo Kuitca and Jane Kaplowitz Rosenblum; Richard Armstrong, director of the Guggenheim; Diana Widmaier Picasso, the granddaughter of Picasso; actors Gian-Murray Gianino and Ellen Lauren; and playwright John Guare. The two-night production was directed by renowned theatrical director Anne Bogart.