Strokes of Genius: Lee Krasner, Elaine de Kooning and Helen Frankenthaler

By Aile Shebar

Strokes of Genius is a three-character, biographical drama about the abstract expressionist painters, Lee Krasner, Helen Frankenthaler and Elaine de Kooning, before they were famous and were still struggling for their work to be recognized in a male-dominated art world. Told through their own words, it explores their courage, perseverance, and creative process, as they prepare for the ground-breaking artist-curated exhibition known as the 9th Street Show in 1951 Greenwich Village.

Written and directed by Prasad Paul Duffy, a non-binary playwright and theater maker, who recently spoke about the origins of the play. “I wrote this memory play about Lee, Elaine, and Helen, because their innovative, ground-breaking and unconventional art and personal lives inspired me to tackle the telling of their stories in a similar style. Even though it was the 1950’s, they fought to be treated as equals to the male artists and escape the shadow of their more famous partners, Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning and Clement Greenberg. In fact, I cut the male characters from the earlier drafts of the play, focusing on just the womens’ point of view and abstracting their relationships as they tell their story from beyond the grave. In dream-like, stream of consciousness monologues, they each share their inspirational stories, reliving key moments and relationships in their long, extraordinary lives.”

Prasad goes on to explain, “The reason I believe that Strokes of Genius is relevant and important today is that it is a love letter to the downtown New York art scene of the 1950’s and celebrates the dedication and perseverance in pursuit of an artistic dream. The 9th Street Show took place in Greenwich Village, seventy years ago, just a few blocks from Theater for the New City and depicts a pivotal moment in history when the center of Modern Art shifted from Paris to New York. Even though they would become Abstract Art icons, at this point Lee, Elaine and Helen still struggled, and were wracked with self-doubt, as they pushed forward with their art, painting daily with passion and purpose. Their spirit is a lot like New York City making its come back after the pandemic.”

The world premiere of Strokes of Genius will be performed as part of the Dream Up Festival at Theater for the New City, 155 1st Ave. in the East Village from Tuesday September 13th to Sunday September 18th 2022. Tickets are $18 and can be purchased at For further information please contact

Prasad Paul Duffy is a graduate of NYU Drama School, and in 1985 wrote and directed St. Mark’s Place, an immersive play about homeless people. In 2019 Prasad wrote and directed the rock musical, Revolutionary, a futuristic drama about rebel youth fighting totalitarianism at the Theater for the New City.

Summer Art Show a Hit!
On Friday August 19th, Dana Costantino Creative Productions produced an art opening by artist AnnCharlotte Tavolacci and curated by Marissa Gouldsbury of Vas Gallery and Design. The event was held in downtown Manhattan at Village Works on 3rd Street. The crowd mixed and mingled amongst the bright and colorful art of AnnCharlotte while tunes from Fiona Apple, The Black Crowes and Fleetwood Mac pumped through the speakers. Over wine and smiles, new friendships were formed and an artist gained new fans. Cheers!

Photos courtesy of Dana Costantino.

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