The statues remained still, of course. But the performers who portrayed the "A Sunday on the Island of La Grande Jatte" characters at Credit Island Park, Davenport, on Sunday afternoon told vibrant fictional tales of the statues they represented.
River Action, in cooperation with the Davenport Parks and Recreation Department, celebrated the art installation with “Sunday in the Park Alive!”
The readers’ theater performance involved each actor, reading and interpreting lines from a script, playing the character of one of the 11 statues. The play, which is about a group of people enjoying“Suburban Island,” as Credit Island was known at the turn of the century, is an interpretation of the famous painting by Georges Seurat about Parisians enjoying the Grande Jatte, an island in the Seine River near Paris.
Kathy Wine, executive director of River Action, said the presentation is part of River Action’s River Stages series. “There are lots of ways we can celebrate the history of the river,” she said.
The plays’ author, Chuck Oestreich of Rock Island, was pleased to see new faces in the crowd (the play first was performed last year). “They love these statues,” he said. “This installation is a real magnet.”
Yancy Bolden of Rock Island is Oestreich’s neighbor and friend. “The setting its great,” said Bolden, who rides his bike by the statues “quite a bit.”
The statues were installed in 1998 after they were created by Ted McElhiney and Thom Gleich. McElhiney, who was on hand Sunday to watch the play, said he was “very impressed that they’re as well kept as they are.”
River Action commissioned the statues and Gleich carved them based on McElhiney’s drawings, which are based on Seurat's painting, and are painted in a method similar to Seurat's pointillism, using small dots of color to create the images.
Among the players were Maggie Johnston of Davenport who played a shy high-school student – “Life is so dismal and dreary,” her character said. Mark Hendricks of Moline played the uppercrust I. A. Friedman. Hendricks wore a top hat for his role – “It just wouldn’t do for I. A. Friedman to be dressed like that roustabout (another character) over there,” he said.
This is the second time the play has been performed. The crowd of 60 sat, mostly in lawn chairs, with a few holding umbrellas – similar to one held by a statue – to keep off the sun. During the performance, pelicans and other birds took wing above the Mississippi River to create a kind of living canvas as a backdrop.