ICT Presents John Logan's RED, Now thru 9/15
When abstract expressionist and celebrated bad boy of the art world Mark Rothko lands a commission to create a series of large murals, he hires an assistant - and what takes place between them is a visceral experience that spills off the stage and will forever change the way you see the color red. International City Theatre presents Red, the fiery and fiercely funny Tony, Drama Desk and Drama League Award winner for Best Play by John Logan. Directed by caryn desai [sic] and starring Tony Abatemarco as Rothko and Patrick Stafford as his young assistant, Ken, Red, opens this weekend at International City Theatre in the Long Beach Performing Arts Center.
Set in the late 1950s, Red focuses on the period in Rothko's life when he was working on a number of large murals that were to hang in The Four Seasons, a luxury restaurant in New York's new Seagram Building. As the play opens, Rothko and Ken have been working feverishly in Rothko's New York studio. When Ken gains the confidence to challenge the master, Rothko faces the agonizing possibility that his crowning achievement could also become his undoing. As they mix the paint, stretch the canvas and prime the surface, Rothko must reconcile not only the mix of art and commerce he's creating, but also his relationship with the new generation of artists who threaten his very legacy. Paint collides with canvas live on stage in a master class on the methods and purpose of art and the dynamic relationship between an artist and his creations.
Playwright John Logan, best known for screenplays including Sweeney Todd, for which he received a Golden Globe Award; The Aviator and Gladiator, which brought him Oscar, Golden Globe and WGA nominations; The Last Samurai; Any Given Sunday; Hugo, for which he received his third Oscar nomination; and the latest James Bond film, Skyfall, became inspired where he came across the Seagram murals in London's Tate Modern, where they currently hang.
"I knew very little about Mark Rothko, very little about Abstract Expressionism, but something about the size, the intensity, the seriousness of those paintings just slapped me across the face," Logan said in an interview. "I went to the wall and read a little description about how he painted them originally for the Seagram Building and then decided to keep them and give the money back. And I thought, 'Well, this is an interesting story.' "
Logan spent a year immersing himself in the art world and doing research about Rothko, his peers and his predecessors. He created the fictional role of Ken to dramatize Rothko's anxiety about competing with younger artists, most notably Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns and Andy Warhol.
"I wanted to write a play about teachers and students, mentors and protégés, fathers and sons," he explained. "The things that Ken does in the play are what [Rothko's] assistants did... but the relationship he has with Ken is not like the relationships he had with his actual assistants, which were very utilitarian."
Mark Rothko was a Russian-American painter born in 1903. Though he was classified as an abstract expressionist, he rejected this and all labels. Rothko resisted explaining his work, once saying, "Silence is so accurate," fearing that words would only paralyze the viewer's mind and imagination. Rothko's most recognizable work depicts "fuzzy rectangular clouds of color," which some find deeply moving despite their lack of imagery or recognizable subject matter, while others claim their lack of substance. Rothko once said, "If you are only moved by color relationships [in my paintings], you are missing the point. I am interested in expressing the big emotions - tragedy, ecstasy, doom." Rothko's Four Seasons commission was worth $35,000 (more than $270,000 in today's currency) - an unprecedented sum at the time for an artist of his generation. The artist later donated nine of the Seagram murals to the Tate. Others are owned by the National Gallery of Art and a museum in Japan. The same day that his paintings arrived at the Tate, Rothko committed suicide.
Set design for Red is by JR Bruce; lighting design is by Donna Ruzika; costume design is by Kim DeShazo; sound design is by Dave Mickey; props are by Pattyand Gordon Briles; production stage manager is Henry Fernandez; and casting is by Michael Donovan Casting.
Tony Abatemarco is an award-winning actor, director, writer, producer, and teacher based in Los Angeles. A graduate of Juilliard Drama, he has won top L.A. honors for his lead performances in The Mystery of Irma Vep (Tiffany Theatre - Ovation, LA Weekly and Robbie awards), Bach at Leipzig (South Coast Rep - Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle nomination), La Bete (Stages at the John Anson Ford Amphitheatre - Ovation nomination), Camara Lenta (Stages - LA Weekly and LADCC nominations), and his original Four Fathers (LA Weekly and Drama-Logue awards). He recently starred as Salieri in the acclaimEd Pittsburgh Public Theatre production of Amadeus, and as Polonius in Hamlet at A Noise Within. He currently serves as co-artistic director of the Skylight Theatre Company and is a member of the Antaeus Company where he appeared last year in You Can't Take It With You. In 2012, he also appeared in Shakespeare LA's As You Like It. Internationally, he starred in Plato's Symposium at the ICA in London and in The Waiting of Electra at the International Socrates Festival in Delphi, Greece. He performed his original short story, Cologne, at the Rattlestick Off Broadway and in Los Angeles, Santa Fe and Miami, and he directed a revival at the Skylight Theatre in L.A. Tony was recently seen in Richard Loncrain's feature film, My One and Only, and will soon be seen in Beverly Hills Ninja 2. The L Word, E.R. and Frasier are among his two dozen TV guest spots.
Patrick Stafford studied acting at The Neighborhood Playhouse and received his BFA in Theater from the Boston Conservatory. On the New York City stage, he appeared in The Hand That Feeds You and in Eric Bogosian's Humpty Dumpty. In Los Angeles, he was seen as Alan Strang in the Production Company's Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle and LA Weekly award-winning production of Equus. One year later, he returned to The Production Company to play Mozart in Amadeusand was nominated for Best Lead Performance by the Los Angeles Drama Critic's Circle. Patrick also appeared in the New American Theatre's production of As If. He has guest starred on many popular television shows including Modern Family, Criminal Minds, C.S.I., Supernatural and N.C.I.S., and has a recurring role as Emory on Glee.
Red runs Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays @ 8 p.m. and Sundays @ 2 p.m., Aug. 23 through Sept. 15. Two preview performances take place on Wednesday, Aug. 21 and Thursday, Aug. 22 @ 8 p.m. Tickets are $38 on Thursdays and $45 on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, except opening night which is $50 and includes a reception with the actors following the performance. Preview tickets are $29. International City Theatre is located in the Long Beach Performing Arts Center at300 E. Ocean Blvd. in Long Beach, CA 90802. For reservations and information, call the ICT Box Office at 562-436-4610 or www.InternationalCityTheatre.com.