Leonard Nimoy, who played Dr. Spock on the T.V. series "Star Trek," spoke to 50 Harvard students Sunday in Kirkland House about the creation of "Vincent," the story of Vincent Van Gogh's last ten years, written, directed and acted by Nimoy.
Nimoy provided reduced-price tickets to students so they could see "Vincent," which played in Boston recently, before the seminar Sunday.
The two-day program of theater and seminar is the first event of this year sponsored by "Side by Side" council for the performing arts. The one-year-old organization brings top level performers to Harvard and offers casting help in professional films, Danielle Alexandra '79-4, president of "Side by Side," said Sunday.
In "Vincent," Nimoy plays the role of Van Gogh's older brother Theo and reads Van Gogh's letters. At the seminar Nimoy said the role of Theo intrigued him because it gave him a unique chance to examine a charcter from the outside, using the character's letters.
Because Nimoy wrote, directed and acted the show, he had trouble concentrating on one role at a time. "As I'm acting I'll think 'I should rewrite this' and wish I could make a note," Nimoy said.
After contracting for the rights to Phillip Stephens' play "Van Gogh" four years ago, Nimoy wrote "Vincent," researching it by travelling extensively through France to the cities, homes, prison and mental hospital where Van Gogh painted his vivid works.
"The colors were not there," Nimoy said. "They were in his head."
Nimoy asserts in "Vincent" that Van Gogh's problems stemmed from epilepsy, not madness. Nimoy said Sunday people commonly believe Van Gogh was mad because "madness is romantic. Epilepsy is dull."
Since Van Gogh heard voices during his epileptic fits, Nimoy added, he might have cut off his ear to avoid hearing the voices.
In the show, a fight between the artist Paul Gauguin and Van Gogh prompts Van Gogh to slice off his ear, not sorrow over a unsuccessful love affair, another popular myth.
Students at the seminar said they particulary enjoyed the slide show of Van Gogh's works in "Vincent." Nimoy continually changes "Vincent," he said, and to improve its mobility, he has considered substituting the video show with an actual art exhibit.