November 22, 2012

Drama paints life of Mark Rothko

MONTREAL — Prepare for a “brush” stroke of genius.

Beginning Sunday, the Segal Centre presents “Red,” the six-time Tony Award-winning drama that tells of two years in the life of New York abstract-expressionist artist Mark Rothko.

Set in 1958, Rothko has hired a young assistant to help him with his latest commissioned work, a series of murals to be painted for another icon, New York City’s Seagram’s Building on Park Avenue, specifically for the Four Seasons Restaurant.

“The play follows the relationship with his assistant as well as enters into the descriptions of his work, the meaning behind these paintings and how Rothko wanted these works to be looked at and viewed,” said actor Randy Hughson, who plays the lead role.

Hughson said that much of the sentiment deals with Rothko’s “frustrations” with the art world.

“The play has inherent tension to it,” Hughson said. “Rothko struggled between art and commerce. And he railed at the bourgeoisie.”

In fact, Wikipedia even offers some insight into Rothko’s creative process while painting the murals. According to the website, at the time of the commission, Rothko was quoted as saying that he secretly resolved to create “something that will ruin the appetite of every son-of-a-bitch who ever eats in that room.”

Hughson said that today Rothko would probably be “astounded that his works would sell for $40 (million) or $50 million.”

Hughson said the work is not all deep-rooted intensity.

“There’s levity and lightness to it as well,” he said. “But a lot of the play deals with Rothko’s frustration with the outside world, which gets communicated through teaching his philosophy and psychology to his young assistant.”

Rothko eventually committed suicide a few years after the play is set.

“So we see this character living and thriving in his environment as well as his fear and frustration outside of the studio,” Hughson said.

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