RED: Opening Day and Night in Chicago and Beyond

The magnitude, on every level of experience and meaning, of the task in which you have involved me, exceeds all my preconceptions. And it is teaching me to extend myself beyond what I thought was possible for me.

     For this I thank you.

-Mark Rothko

Opening Day finally arrived. It was a long haul through tech and at the final preview press had attended. So the pressure of that experience was over. We had a great show that Sunday evening and a day off in between. Tuesday the 27th was for gala celebrations. In fact, the opening of RED coincided with the Gala for the Theater.  It began with “Paint the Town RED Day,” proclaimed by the mayor: a media event to kick of the show and the season. The theater lobby was the site to press your hand print in red paint onto a blank canvas and sign your name. The canvas will hang in the lobby for the run of the show. Many supporters, artists, friends and family came down to “get caught red-handed.” John Logan, Bob Falls, Patrick Andrews and myself were joined by my wife, Marijke, actors Howard Witt, Steve Pickering. Critic emeritus Roger Ebert and  Brian Dennehy managed to press their hand into the canvas prior to the event. We even had the Chicago White Sox mascot on hand.  It made for a fun-filled and exciting morning.

Later on in the day, the pre-show Gala cocktail hour and dinner was held at the Chicago Art Institute Modern Wing: the perfect and elegant setting for the RED. And, of course, RED was the color of the night.  I came by to escort my wife and meet some of the Chicago Theater and Art supporters to thank them for the opportunity to play Rothko and for their generous support of The Goodman. It’s important to thank those who make our work possible. Without them, it couldn’t be done.

I excused myself early to get ready for the evening’s performance, leaving Marijke in the capable hands of our son, Christian, who came down to the Institute from work in time for changing of the guard.

When I arrived at the theater, my dressing room was filled with cards and gifts wishing me well.  It was  very moving to read such warm wishes from friends and colleagues. Openings are ritualistic.  We give over the play to the public and move from the exploration phase guided by the director, to a continuing exploration with each other as actors and the audience. This night’s performance would be for the patrons really. A warm and supportive house, to be sure, but the performance, although solid, was not as freewheeling as it had been the previous days. Perhaps the burden of “opening night,” and all the self imposed expectations of being the “it” night. Of course that’s never what it is. It is simply another in a string of performances that will change and vary and grow from night to night.  And that prospect is very exciting.

Nevertheless, the audience loved the production. Patrick and I felt grateful to them and grateful to get on to the celebration with our collaborators, family, friends and well-wishers.  The after show party was held at Petterino’s, adjacent to the theater. It is the Sardi’s of Chicago, complete with characitures of celebrities who have played Chicago. Good food, wine and celebration.  John Logan pulled me aside and said, although he was very proud of the first production in London and New York, he was equally proud of us and to hear his play spoken and played by the first American company. He couldn’t have been more gracious.

Here is a selection of photos in a montage of the day and night.

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Coming back to the play after the opening was an incredible experience. There was a sense of ownership in the evening that hadn’t been there before.  What I am discovering now, is the depth and breadth of this script that I could only have learned by playing in front of an audience.  They tell us, each night, how they feel about these characters. Some find the biting language and sarcasm funny, others don’t. That gives an immediacy to the playing that I have never experienced before. Because of its complexity, and that of the characters, one really can’t do all of it on any given evening. One can offer a rendition. Like Lear, like Beethovan’s 9th, you simply can’t get all of it.  But the freedom to create the play in the moment, with the energy that comes from Patrick and the audience, makes for a spontaneity and freedom that I have never felt before. It’s extraordinary. I stand off stage and wonder, what will tonight be like. It’s amazing.

You know it’s not the critics, in the end it’s our family we care about.

-Mark Rothko

Oh, yes, and the critics. They have weighed in. And gratefully they have been positive. they love the play. It’s interesting to read how varied they are about the performances. “Comparisons are odious,” says the Proverb. Shakespeare’s version “Comparions are odorous” more apt.  And comparisons came, inevitably. My Rothko is not Alfred Molina’s, nor should it be. The choices I made came from an amalgam of research, rehearsals, notes from Bob, insights from John Logan, and the performance of Patrick’s.  The news is that they are positive, laden with quotes to generate excitement and sales. In fact, business has been terrific and the theater announced the morning after opening that the show would extend to October 30! The audiences are loving it. And we are loving doing it.

I close with the final video that pulls together a visual record of the process of rehearsal, tech and performance, all in a few moments.

Thanks for reading and for your comments. See you at the Goodman and, before long, at The Arena Stage in Washington.

Up next: The Run.


About EG

Edward Gero, an American actor, most noted for his stage work, is a four-time Helen Hayes Award recipient and sixteen-time Helen Hayes Nominee. He just completed a run at Arena Stage as Ben Hubbard in "The Little Foxes." He has appeared as Mark Rothko in "RED" at Goodman Theater in Chicago and Arena Stage, and as Gloucester in "King Lear" with Stacy Keach at Goodman and the Shakespeare Theatre, both directed by Robert Falls. Other regional credits include Nixon in "Nixon's Nixon," Salieri in "Amadeus" at Roundhouse Theater, Sweeney in "Sweeney Todd" at Signature Theatre, Donny in "American Buffalo" at Studio Theatre, and for the last six years, Scrooge in "A Christmas Carol" at Washington's historic Ford's Theatre. In 31 seasons In Washington, he has played 75 Shakespearean roles at STC including Hotspur in "Henry IV" (Helen Hayes Award), Bolingbroke in "Richard II" (Helen Hayes Award) and Macduff in "Macbeth"(Helen Hayes Award). Film and television credits include House of Cards, Turn: Washington's Spies, Die Hard II, Striking Distance, and narrations for The Discovery Channel and PBS. He is an Associate Professor of Theater and Head of the Performance Area for the School of Theater at George Mason University, and instructor for the Academy for Classical Acting at George Washington University Mr. Gero was featured on the cover of The Washington Post Magazine and profiled in the January 2011 American Theater Magazine.
Gallery | This entry was posted in Art, Performance, Press, Process, Rehearsal, rothko, Theater and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to RED: Opening Day and Night in Chicago and Beyond

  1. Chris Dolman says:

    Dear Edward,

    I’m directing a production of RED at Cape May Stage. Came across your blog and have really enjoyed looking at your process. Was curious about the speech Logan wanted to cut. Was it the speech about the Medici library in Scene 4. Thanks for letting me know. Break a leg with your run.


    Chris Dolman

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