Jarman (all this maddening beauty) is a premiere solo performance project inspired by queer activist, artist and filmmaker Derek Jarman (The Last of England, Caravaggio, Sebastiane).  OBIE Lifetime Achievement Award-winning playwright Caridad Svich in collaboration with force/collision present a mixed-media film/theatre project which questions the nature of beauty and art and to what lengths we will go to find it.

Performed by force/collision Founding Director John Moletress, work-in-progress performances begin April 17 through April 27 at Atlas Performing Arts Center in Washington, D.C.  For information regarding tickets and venue details, please visit AtlasArts.org.

For an inside glimpse into the process of creating Jarman (all this maddening beauty), please take a look below at our trailer and other information we will update regularly-



12Derek Jarman was a leading avant-garde British filmmaker whose visually opulent and stylistically adventurous body of work stands in defiant opposition to the established literary and theatrical traditions of his sometimes staid national cinema. Jarman advocated a personal cinema more dedicated to striking imagery and evocative sounds than to the imperatives of narrative and characterization. His comments on one of his strongest films are revealing: “The Last of England works with image and sound, a language which is nearer to poetry than prose. It tells its story quite happily in silent images, in contrast to a word-bound cinema.”

Jarman displayed a fascination with violence, homoeroticism, gay representation and mythopoeic imagery. Proudly and openly gay, Jarman shared news of his HIV infection with his public and incorporated his subsequent battles with AIDS into his work, particularly in  The Garden (1990) and Blue (1993). Excavating and reclaiming suppressed gay history was an ongoing project that informed his several unconventional biopics: Sebastiane (1975), Jarman’s sun-drenched directorial debut about the martyred Christian saint; the unusually accessible and slyly anachronistic Caravaggio (1986); the raw and angry modern dress version of Christopher Marlowe’s Edward II (1991); and the stark and theatrical Wittgenstein (1993).

Trained in the fine arts, Jarman began as (and remained) a designer of sets and costumes for ballet and opera. He made his first films (super-8 shorts) while working as a set designer on Ken Russell’s  The Devils (1971) and Savage Messiah (1972). He continued to paint and exhibit his work at London galleries while making his own films, which also reflected a painterly concern with composition. In Jubilee (1978), Queen Elizabeth I is conducted on a tour of a futuristic England in which violence and anarchy hold sway; the film became something of a beacon of the punk movement in the late 1970s. Jarman’s take on The Tempest (1979) was a typically irreverent and somewhat rambling reworking of Shakespeare’s play. The WWI poems of Wilfred Owen, set to the music of Benjamin Britten, shaped War Requiem (1988), a powerful essay on the wastes of wars past while commenting on the modern ravages of AIDS.

He chronicled much of his life on super-8 film and incorporated this footage, blown up to 35mm, into his more personal, non-linear narrative films. Jarman’s super-8 movies of beautiful young men in dramatic landscapes featuring caves, rocks and water lent a lushly romantic mood to The Angelic Conversation (1985), a non-traditional rendering of Shakespeare’s sonnets. Last of England, a raging, despairing, and emotionally overwhelming vision of Britain as an urban wasteland, intercut shots of Jarman writing in his room with excerpts from home movies shot by the director, his father, and his grandfather and surreal tableaux of violence and degradation. Pastoral sequences of Jarman’s childhood evince a longing for simpler times for the filmmaker and the nation.

In his last years, Jarman was an outspoken advocate for the rights and dignity of gays and PWAs (Persons With AIDS), but art remained his primary cause. A champion of film art and a dedicated experimentalist, he was a critic of, and at odds with, what he saw as the stifling, repressive commercialism of mainstream cinema. Always struggling for funds, Jarman produced his first seven features for a combined cost of only $3 million. His final film, Blue, was his most unconventional—an unchanging field of blue over which we hear voices and sounds. Blind and mortally ill, Jarman remained a visionary film maverick. He authored a number of books, including a 1984 autobiography, Dancing Ledge. In 1994, Jarman succumbed to AIDS complications at age 52.



Caridad Svich received a 2012 OBIE Award for Lifetime Achievement in the theatre, and the 2011 American caridad-svichTheatre Critics Association Primus Prize for her play The House of the Spirits, based on the novel by Isabel Allende. Among her other work are 12 Ophelias, Any Place But Here, Alchemy of Desire/Dead-Man’s Blues, Iphigenia Crash Land Falls on the Neon Shell That Was Once Her Heart (a rave fable), Instructions for Breathing, The Way of Water, and the multi-media collaboration The Booth Variations. Last season Repetorio Espanol in New York premiered her play Love in the Time of Cholera, based on the novel by Gabriel Garcia Marquez; , Single Carrot Theatre in Baltimore premiered The Tropic of X; and Borderlands Theatre in Arizona premiered GUAPA as part of a rolling premiere, courtesy of the National New Play Network, that continues at the Miracle Theatre in Oregon and Phoenix Theatre in Indiana. Other regional premieres include In the Time of the Butterflies (based on the novel by Julia Alvarez) at Mixed Blood Theatre, Fugitive Pieces at Ex-Pats Theatre and The Archaeology of Dreams at University of Nebraska-Omaha. Among her awards are: Trusts National Theatre Artist Residency at INTAR and NEA/TCG Playwriting Residency at the Mark Taper Forum Latino Theatre Initiative, She is an alumna playwright of New Dramatists, founder of NoPassport theatre alliance and press, Drama Editor of Asymptote journal of literary translation, associate editor of Routledge/UK’s Contemporary Theatre Review and contributing editor of TheatreForum. Ms. Svich is also an affiliated artist of the Lark Play Development Center, Woodshed Collective, New Georges and a lifetime member of Ensemble Studio Theatre.



Scenic Designer, Lisi Stoessel

We were particularly inspired by the image of Jarman in his studio subtitled “The Sky Capes 1971”. There is a sparse elegance to the composition of this environment that I invoke for our set design: a place to work, a place to rest, a lamp, a table, artwork on the wall. Dashed across a calm white ground I imagine the exuberant, rough textures found in Derek Jarman’s sketchbooks and films: burnt canvas, splattered paint, a patch of green inside a baroque gilt frame, red flowers. This space is at once an artist studio, a movie set, and a garden. The swooping canvas shape on the wall, the translucent white curtains, and the painted floor all become surfaces to color and animate with projection.  -Lisi Stoessel, Jarman scenic designer

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In photo: Christin Meador


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