Wednesday, September 23, 2020

The Color of Light: Zoom in on the Backstory of Matisse’s Last Great Work

Report by Lonnie Burstein Hewitt

O.P. Hadlock as Matisse and Cecily Keppel as the young nun in the San Diego premiere of “The Color of Light” in January 2018. (Photo by Marti Kranzberg)

When you think of Henri Matisse, what usually comes to mind is one of his paintings, maybe the Red Studio, or one of his late-life cutouts, like the Blue Nudes. But Matisse considered his greatest work to be his last one—the chapel at Vence, in the south of France, that he designed, complete with stained glass windows, murals and altarpiece, just before he died. 

The story behind the chapel, and the aged artist’s relationship with the young nun who inspired it, is the theme of “The Color of Light,” which you can see as a one-night-only Zoomed reading this Friday night, September 25. 

The play, written by Jesse Kornbluth, a New York-based author/journalist/screenwriter, originally premiered at the Tenth Avenue Art Center in downtown San Diego and went on to a New York production in 2019. It’s a winter-and-spring love story that results in a spiritual awakening for the ailing, wheelchair-bound artist and an artistic awakening for the student nurse, confidante and reluctant model, who is dedicated to her religious calling. Matisse, a lifelong atheist, creates what has been called “a jewel box of the spirit” because of his feelings for Monique, aka Sister Jacques-Marie, who becomes his collaborator. 

The Schoolhouse Theater, which staged last year’s production in Westchester County, NY, and is hoping to move it off-Broadway, is now presenting the reading with their original cast, featuring Tim Jerome (an acclaimed Broadway veteran and Tony award nominee) as Matisse and Dominique Salerno (a multi-award-winner for her NYC Fringe hit “The Box Show”) as Sister Jacques-Marie. Having seen and enjoyed the San Diego premiere of “The Color of Light” almost three years ago, I’m looking forward to seeing its latest incarnation. 

Don’t miss your chance to Zoom into this unusual art-and-spirit-infused relationship on Friday, September 25, at 4:30 p.m. Pacific Coast Time. Donations are requested.


Lonnie Burstein Hewitt is an award-winning author/lyricist/playwright who has written about arts and lifestyle for the La Jolla Light and other local media for over a dozen years. You can reach her at

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