top of page



The Schoolhouse Theater is reading “The Color of Light,” by celebrated journalist and author Jesse Kornbluth. This reunion reading of the triumphant Schoolhouse production features the original cast, led by Tony Nominee Tim Jerome ("Me and My Girl") as Henri Matisse. “The Color of Light” will be read on ZOOM on Friday, September 25 at 7:30 pm EST.  To secure a "ticket," please donate to The Schoolhouse Theater at  


Henri Matisse was recovering from an operation for cancer.
“Night nurse needed,” his job posting read. “Must be young…and pretty.”

He hired a 20-year-old student nurse.

Four years later, she was a nun, and the lifelong atheist would design a chapel --- “the crowning achievement of my career” --- in her honor.


This first play by Jesse Kornbluth, a celebrated journalist, author and screenwriter, The Color of Light is an unlikely love story that traces the bond that formed in 1942 when Matisse hired a nursing student with a gift for compassion. It is a religious debate between an aging artist who sees only the colors of the world and a young Catholic woman who sees the light of God in all things. And then it is the story of their struggle to create a monumental work of art before he dies. 

Tony Award-nominee Tim Jerome stars as Henri Matisse under the direction of Bram Lewis. Dominique Salerno portrays Monique Bourgeois/Sister Jacques-Marie. The cast also includes Ginger Grace, Carole Monferdini, Jack Utrata and Ovi Vargas.

Backstory of a spiritual romance: In 1942, Matisse was 72, divorced, living in Nice and bed-ridden after a serious infection followed an operation for cancer. His only companion was his chilly Russian assistant. Needing a night nurse, he hired Monique Bourgeois, a 21-year-old nursing student. In the weeks they were together, Matisse came to love her like a daughter, taught her art and convinced her to pose for several paintings. But when Monique revealed that she was going to enter the convent, Matisse was enraged. The two parted on bad terms.

Matisse moved to Vence. Astonishingly, Monique was also living there—as Sister Jacques-Marie. Despite her vows, she and Matisse resumed their friendship. When the young nun showed Matisse her sketch for a window to brighten the dark, leaky garage that her religious community was forced to use as a chapel, Matisse responded with a better idea: a plan for a new chapel that he would design and pay for, a chapel filled with light and color. It would not contain art, he said—it would be art. 

Her Mother Superior opposed the project, but Matisse worked around her, and spent five years creating every detail of the chapel: windows, altar, furnishings and liturgical items. The Chapelle du Rosaire was dedicated in 1951. It is now admired by Catholics and by the world at large as a breathtaking work of art; it is widely known as “the Matisse chapel.” (You can “visit” the chapel here.)

What makes this platonic love story so relevant today? 


Jesse Kornbluth explains: “In our world, old age means a winding down, assisted living, and death in an antiseptic hospital room. But Matisse’s Chapelle du Rosaire celebrates the exact opposite. It’s a late-life success story, with a creative flowering, a great love, and a good death at home. That story, told as a play, might deliver a transcendent theatrical experience. I dare to hope I’ve done that.”

For additional information, contact

Madeline Acton Rae,



bottom of page