As judged by the Tony Awards the two best new plays on Broadway last year were the musical Book of Mormon and the drama Red, written by John Logan. Red pulled down six Tonys, including Best Play. This year Red is being produced all over the country. Besides being a fine script, its cast of two has irresistible appeal to theatres facing a slew of financial challenges.
Red is about the relationship between the abstract expressionist Mark Rothko and his new studio assistant. It’s also about how artists draw inspiration from and rebel against their predecessors. John Logan has written a tremendous play that deserves all the accolades it received.
I’ve paid particular attention to Red because I am writing a play about Cezanne. I just returned from a research trip to Aix en Provence, Cezanne’s home town.
Red is currently running at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago. I just came across an interview in the Chicago Sun-Times with Robert Falls, the Goodman’s Artistic Director and the director of Red there. Falls draws parallels between the challenges an artist faces as his career ascends and an artistic director’s responsibilities. Here is part of the interview:
QUESTION: Is there anything in Red or in Rothko’s character that resonates with your own life as an artist?
ROBERT FALLS: “Oh yes. (Laughs.) I identify strongly with what Rothko says. He goes on and on about the seriousness of art and the disposability of pop culture and the importance of work that is serious. All of which I believe strongly. At the same time, I recognize that Rothko, as a mature artist, which I think I am, was feeling the pressure that goes with being in that position. The pressure to remain at the top of the profession, to remain cutting-edge, to continue to grow and develop, to not stagnate. There’s also a natural dynamic, which is healthy, to have a younger generation of new artists coming up, and it’s a challenge for the mature artist to embrace the new, to nurture and develop it, and not fear it. Rothko had to face that and that’s something that I have to confront every day. Along with the commercial issues that this play raises. The Goodman is a non-profit theater, but there is still a commercial balance one has to maintain. On one hand, I am very much responsible for setting the artistic tone of the theater, but I also have to demonstrate a fiscal responsibility and face the pressure, which is always there, to sell tickets.”
Among the 23 theaters producing Red this season is the Seattle Rep, February 24 – March 18. With a terrific director, Richard E.T. White, and cast, Denis Arndt and Connor Toms, it promises to be an excellent production. I’m eager to see it and encourage you to put it on your calendar.
(Got a comment? They’re welcome, so comment below!)