by. john logan
director. john gerry
date. november 17 - 25, 2017
venue. mcmanus stage - the grand theatre
Master abstract expressionist Mark Rothko has just landed the biggest commission in the history of modern art, a series of murals for New York’s famed Four Seasons Restaurant. In the two fascinating years that follow, Rothko works feverishly with his young assistant, Ken, in his studio on the Bowery. But when Ken gains the confidence to challenge him, Rothko faces the agonizing possibility that his crowning achievement could also become his undoing. Raw and provocative, RED is a searing portrait of an artist's ambition and vulnerability as he tries to create a definitive work for an extraordinary setting.
Winner of the 2010 Tony Award for Best Play.
In February 1961, my family (Mansell, Elizabeth, and sister Lou) went to New York City. The reasons for the trip are murky, but my sister and I were taken out of school for the purpose of the vacation. In this day and age this doesn't seem odd...but back then it was really quite something to go traveling outside of the 'normal' vacation times. But off we went.
Now you can imagine the absolute gob-smacked-eye-bugging-slack-jawed look that came over my 7-year-old face as we drove into Manhattan by way of a taxi from the airport (I was already bouncing off the walls from experiencing my first airplane ride...pretty much pee- your-trousers territory). We stayed at the Algonquin Hotel because, according to MC, it had a 'pedigree' (and was somehow connected to the magazine that he got in the mail weekly that had a lot of writing in it but also a lot of cool cartoons. 'The New Yorker').
The trip comprised all the usual outings that one would expect a family trip to NYC to encompass...Empire State Building, Museum of Natural History (DINOSAURS!), carriage ride through Central Park (all I remember was that it was cold...a horses ass....a blanket) and the pièce de réistance, and my whole reason for 'agreeing' to go on this trip, a pilgrimage to FAO Schwarz on 5th Ave...floor after floor of toys! I nearly passed out when I saw the doorman dressed as a tin soldier....but quickly recovered as I saw the life-size Steiff stuffed giraffe inside the front door.
Every Gerry family vacations included a visit to an art gallery...private or public...it didn't matter; it was obligatory and a given. Pop was an artist so it was expected...boring...but expected. Liz and Lou went off to see a show...a matinee ('Bye Bye Birdie') that I wanted nothing to do with. I hated sitting still even for my sister's dance recitals... seeing 'theatre' would have killed me. (The irony is certainly not lost on me.) So MC and I ventured off to a place called MoMA ("Does it have dinosaurs!?"). It wasn't to my surprise that it turned out to be an art gallery....so I resigned myself to listen to my dad 'tell' me what I was looking at. At this particular gallery what I was looking at was 'a bunch of large squares of colour' ...and dad was, as usual, explaining what they were and why they were important.
I would like to say it was a seminal moment but just as it had happened on other occasions...at the National Gallery in Ottawa ( A.Y. Jackson) or the 20/20 Gallery in London, Ont...(Greg Curnoe)...dad simply said, "Oh, here is the gentleman who painted them". He introduced himself, then me....a brief discussion on where we were from...a congratulations on the artist's vision...a handshake.... a few words exchanged....'thank you'...'my pleasure'...and then separation.
'Me and Rothko', is not a title of a book that would sell well or a story that holds interest or intrigue...it is but a moment in the life of a young boy who adored his father and would follow him anywhere.
John F. Gerry