The Segal Centre for Performing Arts is proud to present the Montreal premiere of RED by John Logan, a captivating look into the life of iconic Abstract-Expressionist painter Mark Rothko. Directed by Canadian stage legend Martha Henry, this six-time Tony Award-winning play will be presented in the Segal Theatre until December 16th.
A Searing Portrait
RED draws the audience into the studio of Abstract-Expressionist painter Mark Rothko in 1958, when the celebrated American artist was at the peak of his fame. Rothko has been commissioned to create a series of large-scale murals for Manhattan’s newly-conceived Seagram Building, one of the biggest commissions in the history of modern art. Challenged by his young assistant Ken, Rothko questions his importance as an artist and whether this project is an affront to his artistic integrity. What follows is a gripping emotional and intellectual debate between prodigé and mentor, as the role of art in society changes and new generations of artists begin to eclipse the old. Written by Academy-Award nominated screenwriter and playwright John Logan (Gladiator, The Aviator), RED examines the nature of creation while painting an enthralling and vivid portrait of one of the great artists of the twentieth century.
The Art of Creation
The Segal Centre production of RED goes beyond telling the story of Mark Rothko to explore the nature of creation itself, as the audience is invited to join in a visceral theatrical experience under the direction of the first lady of Canadian theatre, Martha Henry. A Companion of the Order of Canada and Governor General’s Award-winning actor, director and member of the Stratford Festival since 1962, Ms. Henry was last seen on the Segal Theatre stage in Rose (2005).
“John Logan’s play shows us the artist’s troubled mind, one that takes no prisoners. When his assistant arrives, a young, would-be painter, Rothko attacks his training with all the zeal of a punitive father,” says director Martha Henry. “We are lucky to have two of the most impressive performers in the country here at the Segal Centre to create this savage, dependent relationship.”
Eight-time Dora Mavor Moore award-winner Randy Hughson will take on the role of the eccentric and enigmatic Rothko, starring alongside the charismatic Jesse Aaron Dwyre as his new assistant Ken.
The bold visions of Eo Sharp (set and costume design) and 2012 Siminovitch Prize winner Robert Thomson (lighting design) will transform the Segal Theatre into Rothko’s New York studio, complete with live large-scale canvas painting on stage every night. Tasked with bringing Rothko’s large-scale Seagram Murals to life are longtime Segal Centre scenic painters Jeremy Gordaneer and Nadia Lombardo. Composer Keith Thomas completes the piece with a haunting classical soundtrack.
Mark Rothko and the Seagram Murals
RED premiered to rave reviews and overwhelming audience demand at London’s Donmar Warehouse in 2009, with Alfred Molina as Rothko and Eddie Redmayne as Ken. -
Considered a pioneer of the Abstract Expressionist movement, along with Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning and Franz Kline, Mark Rothko rose to fame in early 1950s United States thanks to his signature “multiform” paintings. Rothko’s monumental works, in which rectangles of glowing colour and light seem to float off the canvas, were widely collected and sold throughout the world. In 1958, he was offered one of the highest commissions ever in the history of modern art: to create a set of murals for the new Four Seasons Restaurant in New York City’s Seagram Building. One of the greatest promoters of “pure art”, Rothko believed in the transformative power of art and its ability to reflect the deepest of human concerns and emotions.
“Marcus Rothkowitz was an enigmatic, highly intelligent, educated (he spoke English, Russian, Hebrew and Yiddish), and extremely opinionated Russian Jew who emigrated to Portland Oregon with his family when he was 10 years old,” adds Ms. Henry. “Although he is classified with the “abstract expressionists”, Rothko had a vision that was singular in the extreme and no one, before or since, has (arguably) equaled the plunge into the subconscious that his paintings provoke.”
The masterpieces at the heart of the play now hang at the Tate Modern Museum in London. Rothko’s Seagram Murals recently made news headlines when one of the multimillion pound canvases, “Black on Maroon” was defaced in an act of vandalism, two months after the museum opened a new Rothko Room as part of its permanent collection.
The Bronfman Connection
The Seagram Murals were commissioned by the Canadian liquor company Seagram Co. Ltd., then owned by Montreal businessman and philanthropist Samuel Bronfman. Bronfman, and his daughter, the acclaimed architect Phyllis Lambert, were both instrumental to the creation of the Segal Centre building (then the Saidye Bronfman Centre) in 1967: the Bronfman family, its original investors and founding family, and Lambert, its architect!
The Bronfman’s contribution to the heritage of the Segal Centre and Montreal’s cultural landscape continues to shine today, as the Segal Centre building will soon celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2017, still remaining one of the most remarkable achievements of modernist architecture in Montreal.
A Soaring Success
RED premiered to rave reviews and overwhelming audience demand at London’s Donmar Warehouse in 2009, with Alfred Molina as Rothko and Eddie Redmayne as Ken. Lauded as “a brilliant new play” (The Daily Mail), and “a powerful portrait of the artist Mark Rothko” (Mail on Sunday), the play subsequently moved to Broadway in 2010 and was awarded six Tony Awards, ensuring its reputation as one of the most exciting new works to hit Broadway in years.