LIVINGSTON, NJ – For generations, people have been fascinated by the life of post-Impressionistic painter Vincent van Gogh, but possibly none so much as Livingston resident, playwright and director Ed Schiff.
Schiff’s one-man show, “A Eulogy for Vincent” opens Sunday at 2 p.m. Sunday at the West Caldwell Public Library, 30 Clinton Road; 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 29 at the Livingston Public Library, 10 Robert Harp Dr.; 7:30 p.m. March 5 at the Apples and Oranges Production office, 129 Grove St., Montclair; and 8 p.m. March 6 at the Mayo Performing Arts Center, Morristown. The Morristown show is sold out. All other shows are free and open to the public.
The show stars Brendan Walsh, also of Livingston. Schiff told The Alternative Press has been fascinated by the painter since he was a child after seeing Kirk Douglas as van Gogh in the movie "Lust for Life." Schiff said he started writing the play two years ago and has continued to modify it as he learns more about van Gogh. The play is largest based on the letters the painter sent to his younger brother, Theo.
Schiff, an actor, director, producer, playwright and 40-year member of the Screen Actors’ Guild, said the reviews have been overwhelmingly good since “A Eulogy for Vincent” was first performed, and that has led to two outcomes: the show is booked at various venues through July; and he gets phone calls from scholars all over the country telling him their theories about van Gogh.
“Today we’re putting the finishing touches on a new scene because new evidence has come out that his supposed suicide wasn’t a suicide at all but he was possibly shot by two teenaged boys who would taunt him,” Schiff said. “They’d take his pistol and shoot at his feet and make him dance. The theory is that they accidentally shot him in the chest, but he covered for them and said he’d shot himself. We’re always incorporating new things as they come about. He’s such a great subject of scrutiny for academicians.”
Schiff and Walsh have spent considerable time doing the play at area schools. The presentation starts with them asking the students what they know about van Gogh.
“Someone always mentions that he cut off his ear, someone always mentions that they’ve seen his painting ‘Starry Night,’ someone usually mentions the song ‘Starry, Starry Night,’” Schiff said. “He’s part of the general knowledge that people have, then we are able to fill them in on the details. It’s been a thrilling experience.”