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Artist Shakor to take center stage at "Side Man"

NOTE: The upcoming production of the Tony Award-winning Side Man at the Indiana University Department of Theatre and Drama, which opens Feb. 2, will feature the unique involvement of professional artist Shakor, whose studio was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. Two of his three surviving works have been incorporated into the set design for Side Man, a meditation on jazz music and the American family. The following story, written by Tom Robson, tells how Shakor came to the attention of IU's theatre department.

B. Cameron White was born and raised in New York, one of the epicenters of American jazz. In 1990, however, after adopting the name Shakor, he moved from one major musical city to another, relocating to New Orleans. There he applied his training from Boston University, the Rhode Island School of Design and the Cooper Union to his vibrant work in both portraiture and murals. Over the course of 15 years in New Orleans, Shakor became one of the most sought-after artists in the city, until the fall of 2005 and Hurricane Katrina.

Side Man

An artistic rendering of the set design for the upcoming production of "Side Man" at the IU Theatre and Drama Department. The design incorporates paintings by the artist Shakor, whose studio and most of his paintings were destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.

When the strong winds of Katrina ripped through New Orleans, they also ripped through Shakor's studio and all but three of his paintings. With his home of 15 years in ruins, Shakor was forced to start over. Poetically, two of the three paintings that survived the destruction embodied the musical heart of New Orleans: Jazz Line 1 and Jazz Line 2. It was these two paintings that brought Shakor to the attention of scenic designer Seamus M. Bourne.

In the process of researching images of jazz for Side Man, Bourne, an M.F.A. student in scenic design, came across Shakor's paintings. They immediately struck a chord with Bourne, who brought them to the attention of director Erik Friedman, an M.F.A. directing student. Together, Friedman and Bourne decided they wished to incorporate Shakor's artwork into the design of the play. Bourne contacted the artist, who generously agreed to allow the production to use his paintings without charge. Indeed, the sheer size of their presentation excited Shakor. Bourne says, "One of the first times I talked to him on the phone he asked me how big it was going to end up being. I said it would cover up most of the stage and gave him the dimensions. He said, 'Whoa, that's big.'"

Bourne and Shakor have been in contact throughout the entire process, with the designer sending the painter pictures updating him on the progress of the design. "He's been really cool to talk to," says Bourne, who hopes the artist will be able to travel to Bloomington to see the finished product.

Assistant Professor of Scenic Design Fred M. Duer, Bourne's advisor, believes this project serves not only the specific production, but also the educational mission of his program. "Seamus came to us with a strong background in carpentry," Duer says, while noting that Bourne's experience with designs that were more "sculptural and painterly" was less extensive. This concept for Side Man allowed the designer, "to push himself to do new stuff, which is exactly the reason to come [to graduate school.]" Duer says that he tries to be very individualized with each of his students, focusing on their particular needs, and this design created a tremendous opportunity for Bourne to grow as a designer.

As a companion to the paintings incorporated into the scenic design, four of Shakor's prints will be on display at the Lee Norvelle Theatre and Drama Center during performances. Two of these prints are on special loan for this project, while two have been purchased by the department as additions to the permanent collection and will be on display in the Monroe Bank Theatre Art Gallery. We invite audience members to view these spectacular artistic contributions to our building.

For more information on Shakor, visit his Web site at http://www.shakorart.com.