Maryland Entertainment Group stages Tony-winning play 'Red'
Delve into the world of 1950s-era Abstract Expressionist painter Mark Rothko and his multifaceted relationship with his apprentice Ken as Maryland Entertainment Group presents “Red,” based on the interactions of the two.
The 2010 Tony Award winner for Best Play opens at 8 tonight and continues with shows Friday, May 19, and Saturday May, 20, as well as 2 p.m. matinees Saturday and Sunday, May 21, at Hagerstown Community College’s Black Box Theatre.
MEG co-founder Sam Little plays Rothko in the two-person production.
“The show is examining a very specific part of (Rothko’s) career, toward the end of his career where he’s trying to decide on the value of his work, whether or not he still has integrity on his work. This show really examines the relationship that he has with his assistant, his apprentice,” Little said.
Little said he sees a host of contradictions in the role of Rothko.
“I see myself in him in quite a few ways and then I also, I contradict him in a lot of ways,” he said. “Sometimes I see myself as a (Jackson) Pollock-type character, which is kind of the opposite in this Rothko-Pollock scheme that kind of goes with this play.
“But I find myself like him by ... for one, I paint, actually, as well, so when he’s talking about technique or talking about a certain style of paint or the way the paint expresses something on the canvas, I can relate to those sorts of things,” he said.
Seth Thompson plays Ken, Rothko’s anxious apprentice.
“The play pretty much opens as a job interview. Ken is coming in to be Mark Rothko’s assistant, which is pretty big for Ken, and this is pretty big for his career. He gets to learn from this master painter who he looks up to and he reveres. He’s looking forward to the opportunity and he’s very worried, he’s very excited, but at the same time, he’s very nervous at the beginning at the play,” Thompson said.
Thompson, a musician, said he can relate to the burgeoning artist he portrays.
“Getting into a room with someone who’s classically trained and you’re gonna sit there and play drums with this guitarist and you’re not really supposed to be in that room with them and you know you’re not supposed to be with them, there (are) a lot of nerves in that room,” he said. “A lot of excitement too, because you know you can learn from him. He’s gonna help you as you go, he’s not going to put you down all the time. So yeah, I can see a little bit of me in Ken.”
Guest director for the production is Reiner Prochaska from the Frederick, Md.-based Maryland Ensemble Theatre. Proschaska said he is excited to work with MEG for this show.
“It’s a great script, very talented actors, and I think it’s going to be a great production that people will enjoy,” he said.
Thompson, who is starring in his fifth production with MEG, said he believes artists of all types will enjoy the show.
“I believe if you have any interest in the arts, in any form because this show talks to each art form, it’s not just about painting, in my opinion as a musician, as an actor, I can get a lot out of this. I am not a painter by any means, but I play a painter. If you have any interest in the arts, come see this show because you’re gonna get something out of it,” he said.
Prochaska said “Red” has an even broader appeal.
“I do believe that all of us in our lives and our careers, hope to accomplish things that will make a difference in people’s lives and that we come to those crossroads where we question whether we’re still doing that or if we still find meaning in what we do or whether it still holds the same quality. So I think in that sense in can very powerfully appeal to a much wider audience beyond just artists,” he said.
Thompson said that the show is as much about relationships as about art.
“At its heart, it’s really about relationships, both metaphorically, and in a very real sense,” he said. “What’s pretty remarkable about this script (is) there’s only two characters, but you see a ton of different relationships throughout the show. You see a father/son relationship, you see a teacher/student, you see a mentor ... it just goes on and on, it’s a very interesting story and the way it grows.”
The show is recommended for ages and 17 and older, because of strong language and adult themes. But Little said the show is still outstanding.
“I really just try to go for quality plays, and the quality of this play, it actually won a Tony in 2010, so I look for certain things like that, that kind of quality, that great storytelling, those great characters. So, even though we can talk about it being slightly edgy, but really it’s not. It’s a true, very honest story,” he said. “But a quality one. I definitely would encourage anyone of 17 years and up to come and check it out because I think that they would get a lot out of it. And if there are those parents who are a little bit braver, I think they could bring younger audiences as well.”