For many of us, museums can be a relatively rare pleasure – even if we live in a cultural hub like Washington. They are an escape from reality and mundanity – a chance to reflect deeply on art and meaning.
For some, however, they are the backdrop of daily life. The Guard, debuting this week at Ford’s Theatre in conjunction with the Washington region’s Women’s Voices Theater Festival, takes a look at the often overlooked world of a group of people with a very unique view of museums and art – the guards charged with protecting them.
You’ve seen them. Often silent and stone-faced, on their feet all day, standing in the shadow of priceless works of artistry. But who are they really?
Playwright Jessica Dickey (The Amish Project) was inspired by a chance encounter with a guard at the National Gallery in London. “I thought a lot about the type of person that was drawn to that job – the dichotomy of those who protect the art and those who protect the building,” she said. “The entire subculture was fascinating.”
The Guard has already received accolades before its first performance on September 25th. Dickey has been named a recipient of the National Theater Conference’s 2015 Barrie and Bernice Stavis Award, given annually to outstanding emerging playwrights.
“To be frank, I was utterly delighted and thrilled,” Dickey said of the honor. “That was an incredibly competitive process, full of plays I admire. I felt giddy. It feels like the play already has gathered its family and already found people who believe in it – that’s a very rare treat.”
“There’s always a subtle but interesting difference between writers and writers who also act, like Jessica,” said director Sharon Ott, a professor at the Savannah College of Art and Design and the former Artistic Director of Berkeley Repertory Theater. “I love working with writers like her who really understand actors. It has been a really good partnership.”
In the play, the title character breaks the ultimate art taboo and dares to touch a famous Rembrandt – plunging him into a remarkable journey through time that brings him face to face with artistic geniuses across the ages.
“As a practicing artist, I loved the central idea – the sense that art lives long and people live short,” Ott said. “Our lives may be impermanent, but we have the opportunity as artists to work on some of these works of art. I’ve directed King Lear, for example, and I just love to work on plays that have a long past. We are all trying to add to that canon through our work.”
September 25 – October 18, 2015
511 10th St, NW
Washington, DC 20004
Tuesdays thru Sundays
Tickets: $20 – $62
Dickey and Ott took full advantage of their location, going on a number of “dates” to sites like the National Gallery and other theater venues. “DC really has a buffet of interesting things to say about the markers of our past and how they define who we are in terms of civilization,” Dickey said. “The city is kind of a living testament to that idea.”
The cast includes Tim Getman, Mitchell Hébert, Josh Sticklin, Kathryn Tkel, and Craig Wallace. The Guard was commissioned by Ford’s Theater, where it will run September 25th through October 18th.