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Scenes From An Execution probes the relationship between art and power

CFA production is Boston-area premiere of Howard Barker’s epic play

CFA Associate Professor Paula Langton plays Galactia in Scenes from an Execution. Photo by Stratton McCrady

Scenes from an Execution is an epic about a young woman painter in renaissance Venice. But the play has extraordinary relevance for today’s audience, says director Jim Petosa, because it centers on a conflict between an artist’s need to be true to herself and the demands of her patron. The play is being presented by the College of Fine Arts during the next two weekends at the Boston Center for the Arts.

The painter, Galactia, is determined to depict with her brush the true brutality of a naval sea battle, clashing with the political requirements of the fresco desired by the Venetian authorities who have commissioned the work, according to Petosa, a CFA professor and director of the school of theatre.

The Venetian state wants Galactia, played by Paula Langton, a CFA assistant professor, to memorialize and triumphalize in a painting the battle of Lepanto, “in which many Venetians lost their lives in a hapless mission of occupation over the Turks,” says Petosa, But the bold artist is “single-minded in the pursuit of the truth” in her work.

Petosa points out that Langton is well suited for the part of Galactia — and as a teacher, “Paula possesses that unique combination of skill, instinct, and visceral connection to her material that makes the role a natural for her,” he says. “As a school, we have come to recognize that some of the best teaching occurs when we directly collaborate with our students. Paula’s work on this play, and the remarkable student performances that are supporting her, is a wonderful example of the effectiveness of that approach.”

Students appreciate Petosa’s style as well. “He’s incredibly articulate,” says Therese Barbato (CFA’06), who plays Galactia’s daughter Supporta. “His vision for the characters is crisp. There’s no ambiguity.”

Scenes from an Execution, written by British playwright Howard Barker in 1984, will be performed on Friday, December 9, at 8 p.m., Saturday, December 10, at 8 p.m., and Sunday, December 11, at 2 p.m., at the Calderwood Pavilion’s Wimberly Theatre at the Boston Center for the Arts, 527 Tremont St. There will also be performances December 15 to 18 (click here for the complete list of performances and times).

Tickets for Scenes from an Execution are $10 for the general public and $8 for BU alumni, students, and senior citizens. Members of the BU community can receive one free ticket (subject to availability) with BU ID at the door on the day of the performance. To order tickets, call 617-933-8600 or visit www.BostonTheatreScene.com.