We’ll Always Have Paris

VLT’s Raw Canvas tackles issues of motherhood and the artistic life

Nancy Hopps in Raw Canvas. Photo by Thom Schumacher.
Nancy Hopps in Raw Canvas. Photo by Thom Schumacher.

When performer Nancy Hopps first tackled the one-woman show Raw Canvas in 2001, her life was in a radically different place than it is today.

“I had just come through cancer, relationship changes,” Hopps recalls. “I was a busy, active parent to a teenage daughter. Coming back to the play now, I realize even more that the character’s weighing her own passions and artistic fulfillment against societal and familial expectations.”

The newly formed Fools Haven theater group, the brainchild of Judith “Sparky” Roberts and Joe Cronin, sponsors the play’s revival June 19-21 at Very Little Theatre.

Written for Hopps by Barratt Walton and directed by Roberts, Raw Canvas is based on Walton’s own mother-in-law, a painter, who made the audacious decision to leave her family in order to take an extended artistic sabbatical to Paris in 1952.

Raw Canvas grapples with the question of whether its main character Rosalyn will return to the confines of domesticity or, rather, stay in Paris, enveloped with a young lover and living the life of a starving artist.

“She’s not willing to play it safe,” Hopps says of the character she portrays. “And that’s what she’s struggling with.”

Rosalyn’s conflict is one that any mother who is also a creative person could relate to, Hopps says. But the conflict is bigger than motherhood versus creativity; it’s about finding life’s balance.

“Being an ‘anything else’ and a creative person is a juggling act,” Hopps says, pointing to pragmatic issues like dealing with time constraints in everyday life.

“If you take time for yourself, then there can be this guilt,” she adds.

Written in a lyrically imagistic style, Raw Canvas has been tweaked a bit since its premiere nearly 15 years ago.

“Like any original work, with a first production under our belts, it’s been revised and edited,” Hopps explains. She credits the playwright’s openness to change, along with the director’s penchant for a collaborative approach, with tightening up the play while also bringing new life to the work.

“I’ve known [director] Sparky for many years. I love her attention to detail, artistically,” Hopps says. “She has a background in mime and movement, and physical acting and physical humor. And we both feel an affinity for this play.”

Raw Canvas plays 7:30 pm Friday and Saturday, June 19-20, and 2 pm Sunday, June 21, at Very Little Theatre; Q&A session with the playwright, director and performer to follow each performance. $10; tickets at thevlt.com or 344-7751. 

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