Act One

Barcelona. December, 1899. An authoritative art professor teaches a robotic lesson in drawing technique. Pablo Ruíz Blasco, aged 18, ignores the lesson and is expelled. He informs his father, Jose Ruíz Blasco, that he is moving to Paris and taking his Mother’s name, “Picasso.” Jose Ruiz is vehemently opposed to the idea of Pablo’s leaving home but his son’s mind us made up, and off he goes.

Pablo looks with wide-eyed wonder at the busy Parisian marketplace. He meets a lovely young woman, Fernande Olivier and, simultaneously, a prostitute. He chooses Fernande and she gives him a tour of the city. We meet several characters that function later in our story including Luc Du Lac, a well known, but mediocre artist who overhears Pablo insult his work. Du Lac hatches a plan to ruin Pablo.

Now settled, Pablo sketches daily in a park. All his subjects offer advice on how they would like to look. Jealous of Pablo’s growing popularity, Du Lac disguises himself as a “friend” and insists on arranging an exhibition for him. Thrilled, Pablo accepts. On his way home, he runs into Fernande. He invites her to his studio to sit for a sketch. Fernande believes she has finally found a man who will lead her to a better life than the one she has with her abusive lover, Sebastien.

A few days later, Du Lac is in Pablo’s studio reviewing canvases for Pablo’s upcoming exhibition while Pablo sketches Fernande. Unbeknownst to Pablo, we learn that the “gallery” in which Pablo’s exhibition will take place is actually a junk shop. Du Lac dislikes everything he sees and, certain others will agree, goes forward with the exhibition. Fernande is supportive and Pablo feigns confidence. When she is gone, though, we see how truly discouraged he is but, undaunted, he vows to never let anyone dictate the sound of his artistic voice.

To Du Lac’s delight, the junk shop show is a failure. Near to closing, Max Jacob and two friends stroll by the front window. Sending his friends ahead, Max goes inside. He experiences a revelation at the sight of Pablo’s work and dedicates his life to promote both the art and its artist. Max’s reverie is interrupted by who he thinks is a common worker taking down the paintings. Learning that this “worker” is, in fact, Pablo, Max invites him to dine with him and two friends, Andre Salmón & Guillaume Appolonaire, that evening.

By midnight, the men are bonded and blitzed. Max rhapsodizes about his own indispensability in Pablo’s life. Max's dedication is tested when, blackmailed by Du Lac, Pablo’s landlord threatens him with eviction and arrest for non-payment of rent. Max handles the crisis with his usual grace and, in short order, creates a ruse, which sends the price of one of Pablo’s paintings skyward, enabling Pablo to move into a larger studio. Sebastian continues to abuse Fernande, driving her closer to the edge.

Max arranges for Pablo to move into the Bateau Lavoir, a rooming house in Monmarte, which caters to impoverished artisans of all sorts. Coincidentally, Fernande is one of his neighbors. Pablo learns that Fernande is romantically unavailable, but Pablo, nevertheless, falls in love with her. As he wildly sketches, Max warns of the dangers of his unhealthy obsession. Pablo’s paintings reappear, adding to the tension. Then, as arranged by Du Lac, the police arrive to arrest Pablo for non-payment of rent. Fernande sees what is happening, but is powerless to assist.

In memory, Pablo’s father arrives. Then, Max faints and there is stage-wide chaos. Du Lac hears of the calamity he has created and is confident that he need not worry about Pablo again. The curtain falls as Pablo is dragged off to jail and certain deportation.

Act Two
Pablo’s studio has become the social hub of the Bateau Lavoir. His fellow tenants eat his food, drink his wine and lavishly procrastinate about their next projects. Max and Fernande are present and get to know each other better. Through all the activity, Pablo paints undistracted. Du Lac witnesses the proceedings with disdain from across the room. He reveals his next plan to control Pablo: having him in his employ. Finally, the knowledge that Fernande is in the room rouses Pablo from his concentration and he unceremoniously evicts everyone from the studio. Fernande reveals that she has been a victim of physical abuse at the hands of Sebastien. Pablo confesses his love for Fernande and asks her to move in with him.

Pablo’s life with Fernande is romantic but, having not sold a painting in a long while, soon leads to destitution. As a last resort, Pablo is reduced to trying to use one of his own paintings as fire kindling to keep himself and Fernande warm. Fernande stops him and reinforces her commitment to stand by him, no matter how bad things get. Pablo goes to Du Lac’s office where he is offered a job doing cartoons. Pablo declines and storms out of the office where he is, again, verbally assaulted by his own sketches. He rallies against the forces of nature to ask why he was given gifts if they are going to go unnoticed.

After a conspicuous absence, Max goes to Pablo’s studio and finds Fernande alone. He confides to her that, of late, he has felt unneeded and discarded. Lovingly, she assures him of his inestimable worth and that, on many levels, Pablo needs both their love and support. Pablo arrives and Fernande gives him a letter. It turns out to be an invitation to a party at the salon of Gertrude Stein. Max, Pablo and Fernande attend that same night.

Upon entering the salon, Pablo is whisked away by Gertrude to meet new gallery-owner Ambroise Vollard who is bewildered by Pablo’s work but, at Gertrude’s insistence, gives Pablo an exhibition at his Galerie Vollard. Max sets out to mingle and collect gossip while Fernande is left alone. She attracts the attention of Andrew Green, a rich, American bachelor who endeavors to charm her.

Max appears at Pablo’s side and outlines the many despicable truths behind Du Lac. Pablo is stunned and furious. Moments later, he sees Fernande with Andrew Green. Rage and confusion, brought on by all he has learned, rob him of reason and, with the addition of his maniacal jealousy, Pablo lashes out at Fernande. Humiliated, she runs out of the salon with Pablo in heated pursuit.

The fury escalates and, incensed by Pablo’s demeaning accusations, Fernande reveals that, in order to keep the two of them in meager necessities, she has had to compromise her virtue from time-to-time. Pablo hits her. Refusing to be abused again, she leaves. Pablo is consumed with remorse and regret about striking Fernande. Max, Guillaume and Andre then come upon the scene to lighten matters and escort Pablo to the most important exhibition of his life.

The exhibition at The Galerie Vollard draws an immense crowd. Amid the festivities Pablo interrogates the Almighty to see if the effect work will be lasting or merely a trend. Back to the fun. All of Pablo’s paintings sell at lavish prices to everyone…except Gertrude.

In memory, he returns to his father in search of his ever-elusive approval. The figures from the park reappear and now, due to Pablo being in sudden vogue, are conveniently proud to be “Picassos.” Pablo learns of the value of success…and of its hypocrisy.

Pablo’s father finally accepts his son by finally acknowledging his self-chosen name. Fernande appears. Pablo apologizes for his mistreatment of her and asks her to come with him. She declines, believing that Pablo belongs “to where he is going,” not to her. He says good-bye to all who have supported and believed in him and then, finally gives Max the painting of his own he has been long-requesting. Pablo boldly walks in the direction of the century he is destined to conquer as…