In the Age of Paint and Bone takes place in three time periods, the present, the ancient past, and the recent past when the caves were rediscovered. The nimbus stage has been transformed into a cave, with paintings either drawn on the wall or projected. Before the show the audience is invited to explore the area, while actors, in the form of museum tour guides, answer questions. The play begins as a presentation in a museum, and we flash back to the discovery of the cave paintings in Altamira, Spain in 1879. An amateur explorer and his daughter find the paintings, but his belief that the paintings are ancient are disbelieved, until he's finally proven right after his death. We also witness the accidental discovery of the cave paintings in Lascaux, France in 1940 by a couple of teenage boys. But the most fascinating scenes of the play are the flash-way-backs to the people who created this art. The light is dim, music is playing, and we never hear them speak (perhaps they didn't speak in the way we currently do). But we see them painting (including a cool trick of projection that shows the lines of one of the drawings appearing as the artist moves his brush), performing rituals, and communicating with each other.
|a painting of a bison in Altamira|
This piece doesn't answer any questions about why the paintings were created (probably for the same reason anyone creates art, which are many and varied), but rather it plants a seed of interest in the audience, or at least it did in me. What a different life our long ago ancestors lived, but maybe they're not that different from us than we think. Minnesota has its own version of cave paintings in the Jeffers Petroglyphs, which are carvings rather than paintings, that I hope to visit someday. What fun this piece must have been to explore and create. I wish I could take a leave of absence from my day job to re-read the Clan of the Cave Bear books and some of those suggested in the playbill. But if you don't have time for that either, you can spend 70 minutes in nimbus theatre's exploration of the Age of Paint and Bone (playing now through March 1).
|a progression of light in the three time periods|
(photo by Mathieu Lindquist)