A famous artist and glamorous celebrity in her own day, Artemisia Gentileschi led a Mawrter-worthy life. At a time when women artists were few and far between, she forged a brilliant career and commanded an international clientele. Today, her work hangs in the Met, the Uffizi, and the Tate—and she’s been further immortalized in a new work by Nahma Sandrow ’61.
Artemisia: Light and Shadow, a one-woman, multimedia music theater piece, debuted last spring with soprano Sarah Chalfy in the title role and will tour college campuses. Produced by the early music ensemble ARTEK, the show is composed of a monologue interspersed with period arias. To construct the piece, Sandrow drew on letters and court records that reveal Gentileschi’s thoughts on her tumultuous life that included encounters with the likes of Galileo and the Medicis; a sensational rape, trial, and ordeal by torture (to verify her testimony); a marriage of convenience; a great love affair—and, of course, the art.
Artemisia is only Sandrows’s most recent foray onto the stage: she wrote the libretto, based on the I.B. Singer novel, for Enemies: A Love Story (music by Ben Moore)—currently rehearsing its second production—and the book of the award-winning musical Kuni-Leml. Her translation of Mirele Efros (The Jewish Queen Lear) is being staged next spring in Washington. A scholar of theater—particularly Yiddish theater—and cultural history, Sandrow wrote Vagabond Stars: A World History of Yiddish Theater as well as features in the New York Times and elsewhere.