“Life Without Instruction is based on a true story and a real trial. Artemesia Gentileschi’s father, the late-Renaissance painter Orazio Gentileschi, takes the unusual step of having his daughter trained in the art of painting under the instruction of his friend, Agostino Tassi. Tassi rapes Artemesia, and is taken to trial by both Artemesia and Orazio. As usual, the person really on trial in this rape case is the woman, who is publicly humiliated and forced to endure the torture of thumb screws.
Yet through this ordeal Artemesia not only emerges as a strong and independent woman, she comes into her own as a talented painter. Finally defying the manipulations of the men who had taken it upon themselves to orchestrate her life for her, Artemesia defiantly says to one of them—her father—“I’m not your little girl, anymore. I’m something else. Something truly unspeakable. An artist!” Sally Clark describes Life Without Instruction as “a revenge play.” (From the Talonbooks Website)
ARTEMISIA GENTILESCHI, Italian painter of the Caravaggio school, daughter of ORAZIO, age 15.
ORAZIO GENTILESCHI, father of ARTEMISIA, painter, follower of Caravaggio, age 40.
AGOSTINO TASSI, close friend of ORAZIO, age 30.
TUTIA, chaperone to ARTEMISIA, age 25.
1991, Theatre Plus, Toronto
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This play can be performed by 8 actors: 3 women and 5 men.
The Biblical scenes are played as follows: ARTEMISIA as JUDITH, TASSI as HOLOFERNES, ORAZIO as RATZO.
There are no changes in costume between the Italian scenes and the Biblical scenes. The costumes for the play should be in the style of Caravaggio paintings: Italian, early 17th century.
The first act of the play takes place in Rome in 1610. The second act takes place six months later.