Seagram Mural Defaced in London


Seagram Mural “Black on Maroon” defaced in London.

What a shocking and sad event today in London. What are people thinking? It’s the same as the defacing of the Pietà, or any other work of art. Was there something specific about Rothko’s work that makes it a target? I’m not sure, but it is difficult to see that this particular piece, one of the series that inspired so many (not the least of which was John Logan and RED) and was arguably the high point of this artist’s work, should be the target of senseless vandalism. Designed to elicit a contemplation of a deep inner tension, it provokes a senseless act of violence. The news report mentioned that the eye witness saw the vandal sit for some time contemplating the piece, awaiting a quiet moment to open his pen and scar the canvas. Was he thinking about the painting, the artist, or what it meant to him? Did it stir him, agitate him? Was it some perverted urge to place himself alongside the artist in some grasp for fame? Fifteen seconds of fame? Like the first question in John’s play, what did he see? Was it a protest against the high dollars the recent worked garnered at auction? In the end, I suppose asking why is a red-herring really. It doesn’t matter, nor will it change the fact that this remarkable work has been defaced. I hope he is brought to justice soon.

Here’s the link to the news story:
Seagram Mural Defaced

And the follow up:

I Didn’t Destroy the Picture

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RED: Closing Performances and Post Mortem


It’s been over a month since RED closed at Arena Stage after 108 performances. Enough time (too much?) has passed to reflect on the experience. In short, extraordinary.

The staff at Arena Stage surprised us with a cake decorated to look like the final painting of the play,  to celebrate the 100th performance. It was waiting for us backstage as we came off from the curtain call,  with candles aglow and champagne cooled.

Arena celebrates RED 100th Performance ©2012 Edward Gero

Before we went in to the final weekend, Patrick and I returned to the Philips Collection to pay one last visit to the paintings and the artist that we have come to know over the past 8 months. We spent a few moments in the room, then strolled through the rest of the collection with a quiet fullness.

Patrick Andrews and I visit the Rothko Room one last time. ©2012 Edward Gero

The final performances went off as the rest. There was no nostalgic sense of closure. We gave them the show we had come to love and enjoy.  Patrick and I continued to discover nuances up to the final performance. The set seemed to be ready to close, however. On the final Saturday evening, the frame that Patrick put together in scene four splintered and broke apart during his attack speech to Rothko. But, he continued through the speech, collecting up the pieces and moving the scene forward as if it was all part of the staging. That afternoon as we raised the blank canvas before the painting sequence, we hauled it up so quickly that it jumped off the hangers. So, we simply continued the scene as we adjusted the canvas. All in a day’s work.

We closed the show with a sense of accomplishment. The audience was incredibly supportive. They seemed to concur that  we had completed something very special.

After a quiet celebration with wine and cheese in the spectacular Arena kitchen with staff, crew, family and friends, we said our goodbyes with the hope of working together again.  It’s a regular ritual of  the theater to do so when closing. But this time it had a stronger sense of gravity than I can remember. Patrick would leave the next morning at 4 AM for Chicago and rehearsals for “The Iceman Cometh” back at the Goodman. I would leave DC for New Jersey in the morning to read a new play, “The Eve of Ides” by Chicago playwright and actor, David Blixt.  That made for a clean physical and psychological break from RED. My days were filled with appointments and classes and dinners with family and friends.  The time has flown by and it seems now like a faded dream.

But what a dream. I cannot fully understand the impact this project has had on me. I suppose that understanding will grow over time. But I do understand how fortunate I am to have had such an immersive experience. Research, rehearsals, performances: spending almost 18 months with this artist, this play, these colleagues, is the kind of experience an actor hopes will come along someday. Now that it’s over, it is hard to imagine anything like this will happen again.  As a patron asked me in the lobby after seeing the show, “Do you think this is the pinnacle of your career?” I could only answer, “Yes… and I hope not!”

There are so many people to thank. To Bob Falls, who entrusted me to take on this piece and for his spirit of collaboration and humor. To John Logan, for his support, encouragement and good cheer. To Patrick Andrews, my partner and now good friend, for his tenacity, sensitivity and courage. To the designers, Todd Rosenthal, Richard Woodbury, Keith Parham and Birgit Wise, for their taste, skill, and remarkable rendering of the cohesive world they built to live in. To the staff of The Goodman Theater, Roche Schulfer, Denise Schneider, Julie Massey, Erin Madden, and the entire press, PR and production team for the boundless enthusiasm and joy of work.

To Old “Spicy” Joe Drummond, stage manager extraordinaire and his crack team, especially Stephen Kolack, JoHanna Hall, Jenee Garretson, James Norman, Sherry Simpson. You all made a visitor to Chicago feel so welcome. I look forward to returning to you all, soon.

Thanks also to the staff and crew of Arena Stage for making the homecoming of RED so exciting. To Molly Smith and Edgar Dobie, thank you for bringing the show to Washington. To the entire crew for making the transition from Chicago to DC seamless and fun.

     

Thank you also to the Visual Arts community of DC for their incredible support of the play and access to the art itself, especially Klaus Ottman, Harry Cooper and Ruth Fine.  The gave me insights into the work I could never have learned on my own.

Thanks, too, to my colleagues and students of George Mason University. To Ken Elston, my friend, colleague and chair, for his support and friendship, and who afforded me the time for this adventure. To my students who walked with me every step of the way, from preparation and digging into the play with me in the classroom before, diligence in the “distance learning” experiment while in Chicago, and for coming to see the finished product when playing in Washington.

Finally, I thank you, the reader of this blog.  At this date, The Making of RED has received over 12,000 hits since its inception. I remain astonished by the reception for my writing experiment about this project and will be forever grateful for your company.  Thank you for taking the time to travel with me.

To those fortunate enough to explore this play going forward, I wish you well. I trust you will come to know the profound satisfaction of this play, this artist, this art. It is my wish also, that this blog will serve you in your journey.

Happy Trails.

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Happy 126th Birthday Mies van der Rohe!


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RED: Celebrating 100 Performances!


Tonight, March 6, marks the 100th performance of the production and the beginning of the extension and final week of the run.  Amazing. Only a few seats are left for the final week and audiences response is as strong as ever. Patrick and I are so grateful for this extraordinary experience.  We still discover, it is still energized as we enter the stretch run to the finish. Thank you to everyone at The Arena for this remarkable opportunity.

The PR department virtually painted the Arena Stage RED to celebrate performance number 100

The PR department virtually painted the Arena Stage RED to celebrate performance number 100

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RED: Box Office History at Arena Stage


Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater: Press Release

Critically Acclaimed Drama RED Breaks Arena Stage Record to Become Best-Selling Non-Musical in Company’s History

Edward Gero as Mark Rothko and Patrick Andrews as Ken in the 2011 Goodman Theatre production of Red. Directed by Robert Falls. Photo by Liz Lauren.

Edward Gero as Mark Rothko and Patrick Andrews as Ken in the 2011 Goodman Theatre production of Red. Directed by Robert Falls. Photo by Liz Lauren.

(Washington, D.C.) As of Saturday, February 18, 2012 John Logan’s Tony Award-winning drama Red, under the direction of Goodman Theatre Artistic Director Robert Falls, becomes the highest-grossing non-musical in Arena Stage’s 61-year history. The production, which is produced in association with Goodman Theatre, features four-time Helen Hayes Award winner and D.C.-based actor Edward Gero as abstract expressionist painter Mark Rothko and noted Chicago actor Patrick Andrews as Rothko’s fictional assistant Ken.

Red continues through March 11, 2012 in the Kreeger Theater. Tickets are still available at arenastage.org or by calling 202-488-3300.

“It’s wonderful when a production hits the zeitgeist of the moment, and Red is it for our audiences,” says Arena Stage Artistic Director Molly Smith. “Perhaps it’s because we are a museum town, but even more so I believe it’s the uncompromising quality of Robert Falls’ production with two outstanding actors in Edward Gero and Patrick Andrews.”

What critics are saying:

  • “Immensely enjoyable … Eloquently reminds us of a joy we rarely get to see: the artist consumed by the everyday physical demands of his work.” – Washington Post
  • “Red does exactly what Rothko made each painting do—it pulsates. And the play’s impact reverberates long after the curtain calls.” – Baltimore Sun
  • “Mesmerizing.” – Washingtonian
  • “Gero’s portrayal of Rothko is soulful and deeply felt … a stunning display of emotions … paints an utterly credible picture of the complicated, volatile Rothko.” – Washington Examiner
  • “Thrilling … a sublimely detailed and acted production … Mr. Gero and Mr. Andrews work magic with the dark poetry of Mr. Logan’s play.” – DC Theatre Scene
  • “The ‘Must-See’ of the season!” – Maryland Theatre Guide

A visceral, “superbly taut” (Chicago Tribune) battle of wills, Red drops you squarely inside the world of painter Mark Rothko and sets your heart pounding. At the height of his career, Rothko struggles with a series of grand-scale paintings for New York’s elite Four Seasons restaurant. When his new assistant challenges his artistic integrity, Rothko must confront his own demons or be crushed by the ever-changing art world he helped create.

Red started making headlines during its run in Chicago last fall when Mayor Rahm Emanuel declared opening night “Paint the Town Red Day,” and popular demand for the show led to the Goodman adding a weeklong extension of performances. The success of the Chicago run also generated demand in D.C., contributing to Red becoming the first-ever Arena Stage production to add performances before previews began. As the newest highest-grossing non-musical in Arena’s history, Red surpasses another production from a Chicago theater stalwart—Mary Zimmerman’s production of The Arabian Nights, which claimed the spot last season during its run in the larger Fichandler Stage space.

Company bios and images available upon request. Please e-mail press@arenastage.org.

Follow Arena Stage on Twitter @arenastage or twitter.com/arenastage and mention Red with #ASRed. Visit Arena Stage on Facebook at www.facebook.com/arenastage.

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RED: Opening, Run and Routine at The Arena Stage


THE OPENING

The opening at Arena went wonderfully.  There was a lovely after show party in the Arena lobby with family, friends and supporters.  Molly Smith was very gracious, warm and supportive of our effort when she spoke to the assembled crowd.  Roche Shulfer, Executive Director of the Goodman was there as well. It was terrific to see him as ambassador from Chicago at the opening. He spoke too, reminding all of us of the important place the Arena Stage has been historically to the regional theater movement and it’s significant contribution it continues to make to the American theater. It was a very special occasion. The reviews have been terrific.

THE RUN

Now, the run is well underway at Arena Stage, and it has been, and I expect will continue to be, enormously gratifying. The intimacy that we discovered in Kreeger space has become the hallmark of this leg of the run.  It is a different feel than The Albert at The Goodman, but that’s not a bad thing at all. The intimacy of the Kreeger gives the production a distinct flavor that we couldn’t have achieved in Chicago.  Audiences are equally responsive as they were in Chicago, but here we feel them inside the studio. The acoustic dynamics of the room gives us a greater vocal dynamic range, allowing for a bit more subtlety in the playing and encourages us to keep it real, keep it connected, push less, live more.  Interestingly,  there are a few new laughs that, to me, feel particularly Washingtonian.  There is a moment at the end of the play when Rothko is describing the clientele at the Four Seasons restaurant sizing him up as he enters, their heads turning as likes. “Should I acquire you?” they seem think in their looks, and the audience reacts in a knowing half laugh/groan.  A response of recognition of themselves, perhaps, or of the type of power-monger that seems more East Coast than Mid West.  Maybe it’s just me. But that is a new laugh.

There has been a terrific series of panels after each Sundays matinee, including one with The National Gallery of Art curator, Harry Cooper, and Special Projects Curator of the NGA and author of the catalog raisonne for Rothko’s work on paper, Ruth Fine. That was a lively and informative chat about the history and story of the artist.  So was another panel with a large group assembled from The International Psychotherapy Institute, The New York Freudian Society, Baltimore Society for Psychoanalytic Studies and others.   The discussion was led by Jill Sharff, psychoanalyst, and the conversation was a fascinating exploration of the character of the biographical man and how that informed the character of Logan’s creation for the stage. There will be more panels throughout the run.

What remains the same from the Chicago run is the way audiences respond to John’s text, Robert Falls’ production, and our performances.  They are moved, provoked, astonished, loving the language, the ideas, the relationship that lives onstage, the power of the art and the power of the theater.  Someone said it is a perfect storm of an incredibly intelligent text served well by a beautifully fierce and sensitive production. For me personally, it is gratifying beyond words to share this experience with some many patrons that I have known for years, with students, friends and colleagues, fellow actors and directors. That is a deep joy for me. Having worked in DC for almost 30 years now, I have come to know through work and teaching so many and am so proud to perform it here, and so pleased at their response to the work.

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THE ROUTINE

One of the most consistent questions I hear after the show is, “You must be exhausted doing this. How can you do this every night?”  Actually I am exhilarated after the playing, but, both in Chicago and DC I have established a routine leading up to each performance.  My days are organized around that. I usually get to the theater no later that three hours before show time.  Even though I live fairly close to the theater, I like to be in “the temple” when it’s quiet and empty. That has always been my habit of mine, but in this case, much earlier than normal. I love being in the theater just to sit and be there.  It’s reflective and focusing for me. But for RED, I usually take a nap before the evening performance and definitely between shows on the two show days on the weekend.  I listen to music.  For every character I choose a piece that is feels appropriate to me for the inner character. For Rothko, I chose the Chopin Nocturnes, delicate solo piano pieces that are solitary, thoughtful, reflective and yearning.  Occasionally, I listen to the Bach unaccompanied cello pieces. Solitary and plaintive.  I also listen to Franco Battiato’s “Shadow, Light,” an Italian contemporary pop composer.  The album’s title track is a hymn, spiritual and minimalist, like the paintings. The album also has a Mass.  All the works calm me, focus me and keep me in touch with an inner world that connects me to the deepest of what I think Rothko is attempting to communicate.  I turn on the music, hunker down and drift off into rest.

90 minutes before show time includes a hot shower, shaving the head and dressing all before the required half hour call.  Patrick gets in around half hour. We chat, catch up on the day’s events before he gets ready. He also listens to music. Usually it’s the “Chet Baker Sings” album.  Perfect for the character of Ken.  Actually, of late I have been listening to some jazz myself: Coltrane and Miles and Oscar Peterson. The 50’s was an explosion of art.  The jazz world was progressing into be-bop and cool, moving away from the big band sound of the 40’s. A kind of parallel to what the Abstract Expressionist were up to. It was a rich fertile time for all the arts.

Before half hour, I got into the habit in Chicago of going out on stage and checking all the numerous props. I like to touch them, shift them a bit, making sure everything is in the right place. It all began as a simple check of the cables for the industrial lights onstage, to make sure they wouldn’t tangle as I move them in the first scene. I would also check the cigarette pack and zippo lighter on the adirondack chair, making sure the are placed to resemble the famous photo of Rothko sitting in the chair, and to be certain they are arranged so that in the opening black out when I move into the chair, I can easily get the lighter into my hand silently, and in the right orientation for the opening clicks of the lighter heard in the black out. It is dark out there, after all.

I arrive for my first entrance backstage at five minutes before curtain and pace a bit, sit a bit, think a lot. I focus on the quality of the chatter and energy in the audience. Are they lively, quiet? What kind of house will they be? Where will they take us tonight. Then, at the final moment in stand-by, as I wait for the curtain announcement to finish and listen for the opening sound cue, I have developed a habit of stretching and releasing my fingers; opening and closing them quickly. It began as a way to warm up my nervous cold hands at first, but I suppose, like many athletes who dress exactly the same before every game, or jump over the first base line taking the field, this has developed into a bit of a  superstition. Actually, it’s a ritual, a routine, that comforts and energizes, like a horse in the gate waiting until the cue light turns green for GO, and I burst through the ‘gate’ into the Rothko Studio of RED.

After each show, I hit the shower to get the red paint off the skin, but not completely out of the nail beds, and join Patrick for a nightcap in the lobby bar.  There I meet friends who have come to see the show and chat about there reactions.  I also get to introduce Patrick to them.  These folks represent a cross section the audiences and artists and teachers of the Washington Theater community. I get to show them off to him and he to them. It’s  one of the happiest rewards of the Arena run.

Now, we are about halfway through the run, and we are both feeling the clubhouse turn into the final stretch approaching. We are enjoying the ride, buy we can’t help but feel that the end of this incredible experience is in sight. What is wonderful, though, is that we are still making the play fresh and alive each performance, chewing every grain, finding new things and enjoying the exchange of energy and words and activity and throughout, relishing each moment together. It’s a blessing.

Next: Closing and Post-Mortum

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RED: Becoming Rothko: A Q&A with Edward Gero


[This interview was done and  in an email for Arena Stage subscriber's prior to the rehearsals of the Arena leg of the run.]

Arena Stage sat down with actor Edward Gero, who plays Mark Rothko in the Tony Award winner, Red, to discuss this visceral production, artistic integrity vs. profitability and, of course, painting.

Edward Gero in RedArena Stage: You’re getting ready to go back into the rehearsal room for Red after completing the run at Goodman Theatre in Chicago. What are you looking forward to exploring for the Arena part of this co-production?

Edward Gero: By the end of the run in Chicago, Patrick (Andrews) and I came to recognize a synergy with each other and the audience specific to each performance. The evening came to life in the moment of the playing which was impacted by the energy from the audience. Were they more sensitive to the irony or taken back by the harshness of the exchanges? We would begin each evening wondering “what is it going to be tonight?”. I look forward to exploring what Arena audiences will bring to the evening and how they will influence each performance.

Arena Stage: Did you know anything about Rothko before Red? What kind of research did you do for the role?

Edward: I knew a bit about Rothko beforehand, but I admit, not much. I spent a year researching, reading biographies, meeting his former students, talking to artists, curators, spending time with his paintings in person at The Phillips Collection and the National Gallery. I even taught a performance class at George Mason and had my students work on the play for an entire semester, researching, designing, rehearsing and performing scenes. I chronicled the process on a blog, which I have never done before, and encourage readers to explore it – The Making of Red at http://geroasrothko.wordpress.com

Arena Stage: Rothko was known as a tortured artist and you’re so easy-going. How did you find that explosive temperament?

Edward: I’m glad you think I’m so easy-going but underneath… Actually, I recognize a deep frustration in Rothko that comes from wanting to be understood and feeling thwarted, either by a sense of defeat that comes from feeling alone or isolated in his artistic process. I think we get angry when we want others to feel our hurt underneath. We want the world to feel our pain so we inflict it, project it, on others. I think too that we express anger about the things we reject in ourselves, or when we have expectations that aren’t met. I certainly recognize those times in my life and connect that to Rothko’s struggle.  Rothko had enormous expectations of the world and his viewers, and felt enormous obstacles through his life that thwarted him. There is plenty of seismic fuel in him for a volcanic temperament.

Arena Stage: What’s your favorite thing about performing Red?

Edward: Favorite thing is the trust that has developed with Patrick. We have come to a place where we instinctively know where we will move physically, emotionally. We respond to each other’s rhythms moment to moment. The play is a pas-de-deux and I am grateful to have Patrick (a trained ballet dancer by the way) as my partner. Patrick is a wonderfully physical actor, who throws himself into the doing of a role with great aplomb and, at the same time, connects emotionally. His gifts belie his young age. It’s great fun inhabiting and attacking this play with him.

Arena Stage: Red centers on Rothko’s struggle between artistic integrity and profitability. Have you experienced that struggle yourself as an actor?

Edward: Fundamentally theater is a collaborative art, theater practitioners are trained to be teamplayers. However, it’s only natural for individuals, actors and directors, to have different impulses or points of view about what or how a moment or a scene should go. It’s a tricky thing to know what battle to pick when it comes to asserting one’s artistic integrity. Is it “selling out” to concede something for the good of the production or company that you feel strongly about? It’s been my experience to defer to the director’s vision on the “what” of the story and to stand for the individual notions of the “how.”  I think the tension of that struggle between the individual artistic impulse and the responsibility to the collective impulse is more frequent in theater than one between personal integrity and profitability. I will, however, be happy to get back to you on that issue when the three picture deal offer or that HBO series comes around.

Arena Stage: What’s next for you after Red at Arena?

Edward: At the moment, I think I will be selling pencils on the street corner. Actually, I have a break coming up. This has been a busy 12 month period that started last winter at Arena with The Chosen, then going on to Amadeus in the spring, Red  in Chicago, back to D.C. for the third go-round as Scrooge, then back to Red. So I am looking forward to some time off to spend with my wife, Marijke, and do some catching up.

Arena Stage: What does red mean to you?

Edward: Red is heat and passion and love and life and danger and speed and destruction and earth and stone and…

Arena Stage: What is the most (and least) fun about painting?

EG: The least fun is the preparation, the clean-up, getting the paint out of the nail beds, the ears, the hair. The most fun is the sheer abandon and freedom that comes in the physical act of getting that thin stain-like liquid from brush to canvas. Like acting, it’s about the letting go of all the intellectual prep and just diving in and letting the moment happen and seeing what results. Painting, acting, dancing, making music… it’s all the same. Sheer joy.

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