By David Walters

It ends with a clip of the musical/sound/performance art, an almost mass-like piece, entitled Rerememberer, composed for loom (the weaving kind), DJ, accordion, and 50 violinists who have never played the violin before. But it begins in a catholic church in the small town of Pasadena, Texas where a little girl really likes to color and is wondering how to make a life out of that like.

Artist Suzanne Bocanegra has been delving into presentational art in her work. One of her newest pieces recently played for one night only at the NYU Skirball Theater, When a Priest Marries a Witch. It is a story about the birth of an artist, herself. It’s a deeply personal tale sharing the themes and experiences that led that little girl with bits of worn-down Crayons in her hands to become the internationally acclaimed visual, sound, installation, and performance artist that she is today.

Everyone has a story to tell, but the way you tell your story makes it uniquely you. Suzanne’s storytelling is uniquely her which makes it enthralling, educational (I didn’t know that Elvis and Mary Tyler Moore were the romantic leads in a movie together!), a personally revealing window into herself, and rather fun.

When a Priest Marries a Witch is performed by the actor Paul Lazar, as Suzanne. He has an earpiece in place and is fed the script directly from Suzanne who is sitting at a table stage right with a reading lamp, the script in front of her, and softly speaking the lines into a microphone that only Paul can hear. Projected behind Paul are personal pictures and remembrances from Suzanne’s life as well as historical reminders of what was going on in Texas, the country, and the world during the 60s while she was growing up.

The priest and the witch come into play in her life as the priest was the much-loved father of the church her family attended. He commissioned a work of art by a local artist, Bob Fowler, that was timely, striking and very controversial to this conservative congregation all the while being secretly married. After the art was installed in the sanctuary, and contractually required to stay in place for 10 years, the father announced his eight month marriage to a woman twenty years his junior with five kids. Many parishioners believed the only way all of this could have happened to their congregation was that the woman had to have been a witch and seduced him to behave in this manner.

What it did give Suzanne is a front row seat into an artist’s life as the alter and chancel were being transformed, and that there was a reality to her idea of becoming an artist and creating a life by doing it.

When a Priest Marries a Witch is playing in a number of different venues around the country, along with three other sister works, Bodycast, Honor, and Farmhouse Whorehouse. Do keep an eye out for them as you will be drawn in by this very personal and revealing work the same way that Suzanne was drawn to art as a child. It might never let you go.

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When a Priest Marries a Witchperformed at the NYU Skirball Theater  for one night only. Written by Suzanne Bocanegra, directed by Lee Sunday Evans, performed by Paul Lazar, and Joseph Wolfslau was design and technical director.
One hour with no intermission.