Light, sound, color: Red reminds us why art matters

By Mark Saunders

Martin and Michael

Players Workshop is producing Red, the Tony-award-winning play by John Logan. The production stars Michael Gottlieb as Mark Rothko and Martin Grapengeter as Ken, Rothko’s fictional assistant. Kate Rowland directs. Here are their answers to a few questions about the play:

Mark Saunders: What attracted Players Workshop to select the play Red?

Martin Grapengeter (MGR): I read the script after it won the Tony Award. I was moved by the language of the play and knew it was a play I would enjoy doing.

Kate Rowland: I know that Michael and Martin have wanted to do this project together, and I was honored when they asked me to be their director.

MS: Why do you think the play will resonate with San Miguel audiences?

Michael Gottlieb (MGO): The play should be inspirational to artists and just darn exciting to everyone else. The play argues “art matters” in the world and can indeed change things.

MGR: San Miguel has a special relationship to art. I believe San Miguel is the most painted and photographed spot in Mexico, at least I heard that somewhere. The discussions in the play are inspiring to me in the same way this town inspires me.

KR: I agree. This play is perfect for San Miguel audiences on several levels.

MS: What was it like directing the play, Kate?

KR: This experience has been a director’s dream, utter heaven. As a trained actress myself, [I find] the three of us have the same understanding of the process of developing both through character and through the line of the dramatic action. It is a joy to work at this high an artistic level together. I’d like to mention there are two additional unlisted characters in this play: music and light.

MS: Michael, as Rothko, what drives or possesses your character in the play?

MGO: There is a certain ambition to be known as a great artist alongside Rembrandt, Caravaggio and Turner. The Abstract Expressionists chose this form after the horror of WWII. They believed words and recognizable forms no longer communicated the depth of the human condition. Rothko’s work can be dismissed as simple blocks of color any first-grader could do, but given the proper time and environment, the pictures begin to move and speak in ways that are quite profound to the viewer.

MS: Martin, what did you find most interesting about playing Ken?

MGR: Ken starts as more of a pupil, and by the end of the play I feel he really is beginning to understand who he is going to be as an artist and as a human being.

MS: What’s your favorite moment in the play?

KR: I have so many favorites! There is a brilliant exchange between the two characters on the color red that never fails to delight. And there is an explosive painting scene that is a wonder to behold.

MGR: There’s a scene where both men prime a canvas, and it is a very thrilling moment.

MGO: Good question. Don’t know. Will have to wait and see with an audience.

Fri-Sat, Aug 8-9, 730pm
Mon-Sat, Aug 11-16, 7:30pm
Sun, Aug 10 & 17, 5pm
Teatro Santa Ana
La Biblioteca
Reloj 50A
150 pesos. All seats reserved.

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