SUMMERWORKS: Interview with Maev Beaty by Chris Dupuis

Chris: Although the show is set in the 1920’s there’s something timeless about the way it addresses the experience of the artist—namely wanting to do something that you’re passionate about but not having enough time to dedicate to it because you’re working so hard to make ends meet. Can you talk a bit about your own experiences of this and how (and if) you manage to balance the two?

Maev: Luck, persevering, a generous and patient family and friends. Waitressing, getting better at writing grants, selling CD's. Diversifying talents, letting the house be messy, courage, discipline, and trying to put aside money when it's feast so that you can survive the famine.

Chris: Have you ever been an artist model before? Why did you decide to do it? or Why have you never done it?

Maev: I have not yet modelled nude, no. I think the honest reason is a combination of never having needed to (it was not a job option I explored) and being too shy/self-conscious. But I would definitely definitely consider it now. In fact, I think it's crucial for us to do at least one session before we do this play again. We have had some wonderful feedback and research from friends/colleagues who have modelled, and have incorporated their insights into the script. I have gone to several life drawing classes, which has proven to be invaluable for playing Amelia - the artist of our protagonists. I was surprised by many things: that I had a visceral, blushing, reaction to the nudity at the beginning but that it disappeared immediately and permanently, that I soon began to see the model as line and shadow and tiny little pieces and then finally I looked at my page and thought "Oh my god! there's a naked lady on my paper!" I had a deep respect for the models and their professionalism, grace and stamina.

Chris: In some of the press material the show is described as “erotic”. What does that mean, exactly? Are you expecting/encouraging people to be turned on by the work?

Maev: Short answer? Yes.

Longer answer? We are looking at the tensions/complexities of this unique profession. At this time in history - Paris was an unbelievably sexually open place. Almost freer than any place we can think of today. There was a restaurant where you could get an omelette cooked to order and then eat it off a naked woman's stomach. Not a seedy, backroom club. A restaurant, like Susur. Orgies, threesomes, trading partners, artist's balls with hundreds of naked revellers out on the streets. It was also a mecca for queer culture. For gay men certainly, but apparently it was a uniquely vibrant milieu for lesbians. A safe place.

The art model was a women who was neither wife, nor prostitute, nor showgirl, whose job it was to take her clothes off in front of men. Sometimes it was just a job, sometimes it became a romantic relationship, or led to consensual sex, sometimes it was a famous Muse/Artist team, sometimes it led to harassment and rape. One of our profound inspirations is Anais Nin's erotic accounts of art models in Delta of Venus. Have you read them? HOT.

We're playing with/looking at nakedness vs sexiness vs aesthetic artiness vs seduction vs nudity. In one scene of seduction I am fully clothed, another scene about boredom and the frustration of a "Joe-job" I am completely naked.

There have been times in the greatest galleries of the world (Tate, Louvre) where I have stood in a room with many people looking very serious and academically at a whole bunch of naked women and it makes me laugh. Yes, the paintings are gorgeous, important, glorious - but are we all pretending it's fruit-bowls and landscapes? There are naked women everywhere! Bushes! Boobs! It's wonderful. But who are these women? Their names? We, and thousands of others, can call her naked body to mind in a Modigliani or a Picasso, but few know her name.

Chris: As I was reading the script I kept thinking about the poster campaign created by the Guerilla Girls art collective in 1989 that addressed the Metropolitan Museum’s simultaneous over-representation of female nudes and under-representation of female artists. Let’s talk about the experience of being a female artist in the world today. What has improved and what concerns still need to be addressed?

Maev: It's funny you mention that Chris, because someone brought in one of those postcards to show us while we were workshopping at Tarragon. (I think it was Waneta Storms?) It was definitely an inspiration for Amelia's journey. I was at the AGO last week with my mother and had a particular eye to the representation of the woman artist. There is one room in particular on the first floor that is themed around 'women as muse, model and artist'. I really wanted to leave a couple of postcards for our show in there, but my mom wouldn't let me. I would be lying if I said I have done enough research about the contemporary plight of the woman artist. But I have noticed an effort made in my travels to Paris, London and here too. My mother and I had an interesting talk, in fact. There is a room at the AGO dedicated to "feminism in art". It's a small room with some really neat work in it. There are several pieces that are obviously addressing issues to do with being a woman specifically. But there are also a few that, as my mother pointed out, deal with violence and war in a non-gendered context. Why, she asked, are these pieces in a room about feminism? They are political, yes, but universal and perhaps should be in a room where they are seen in a universal context (ha - I just realized I said they are universal but they both use text - in English - to get their point across. So how universal is that? Not very). So - this makes me ask - are female artists still being seen as "female" artists? With their own rooms and subject heading? I don't know. But speaking of female artists - there is an really fabulous exhibition at the AGO right now that everyone should go enjoy:

Sarah Anne Johnson: House on Fire


Angelika Hoerle: The Comet of Cologne Dada



Written by Maev Beaty and Erin Shields

Director/Dramaturg: Andrea Donaldson
Presented by Sheep No Wool Theatre Company

Featuring: Maev Beaty, Erin Shields

Presented at Theatre Passe Muraille, Mainspace,


August 6th 10:30pm
August 8th 6:30pm
August 9th 4:30pm
August 12th 8:30pm
August 14th 6:30pm
August 16th 2:30pm

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