With our last month of high school, Jordan Knitzer and I have embarked upon performing contemporary playwright John Logan's 2009 Tony Award winning work Red. It is a two-man show addressing the life of American abstract expressionist painter Mark Rothko. Red addresses the apex of Rothko’s career during 1958-1959, as marked by the Seagram as marked by the
Seagram commission for The Four Seasons Restaurant, described in the play as “the flashiest mural job since the Sistine Chapel.” Jordan and I were motivated to perform Red principally because of our extensive backgrounds in theater and musical theater, and we are enormously pleased to be able to explore a rich new play demonstrating the vitality of modern theater in a brief ninety minutes.
During this the first week of our project, we have already enjoyed the opportunities to deeply explore our characters--their motivations, accents, personalities, and physicalities--begin to memorize the material, and make use of other resources including books like Friedrich Nietzsche’s The Birth of Tragedy, Christopher Rothko’s Mark Rothko From the Inside Out, and a film of the original 2010 Broadway production at Lincoln Center’s Theater on Film and Tape Archive. We also had the opportunity to visit two Mark Rothko paintings, including his yellow and blue No. 10, and his black, green, magenta and orange No. 3. Being in the presence of these paintings truly brought them to life, in a way that pictures of them or descriptions of them fail to capture. I recommend visiting in person the paintings to anyone who wants to appreciate them. If you do visit, know that Rothko wanted people to get as close as 18 inches away from them!
Jordan and I have consistently worked to incorporate our knowledge and experience from other Riverdale experiences, like Integrated Liberal Studies and drama classes. They’ve informed our acting choices, and the way we’ve approached research materials. The central challenge of the independent project, however, is the independence, which renders it imperative to manage our time and develop a serious and meaningful dramatic arc to the play all on our own. Scheduling difficulties and the technical intricacies of a production have, of course, been difficulties. We have also encountered unexpected difficulties, like the Guggenheim’s Rothkos being in storage, and the MET’s modern art wing being shut down for a gala; but on the whole everything is going swimmingly.
The nature and legitimacy of Rothko’s art has surprised both of us, but me especially. I have been humbled by his intellectual seriousness, and the emotional payload of his paintings. It has opened the world of modern art to me, and forced me to reflect upon modern art as a whole. Modern art may well be going in a new direction -- that of synthesis of different artistic disciplines. Modern ballet productions incorporate extensive computer graphics; drama productions more and more intimately involve their audiences; and Broadway plays like The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime and obviously Red mix and match artistic and intellectual fields, spilling over the boundaries and demarcations of convention. We feel that making these discoveries have been incredibly worthwhile and, as far as we can tell, an experience not directly offered in the classroom.
So, in this spirit of discovery, we’d like to thank the newspaper for this opportunity to share our project, as well as thanking everyone who has helped us, including Profe Keller, Dr. Nicholson-Flynn, Ms. Eastman, Deans Carver and Crocker, Ms. Schetter, Mr. Simon, and our classmate Lukas Grattan for his technical expertise. We would also thank our friends and family for their positive support and interest in the project. Jordan and I look forward to the challenges that await us, and we encourage you, dear reader, and anyone else in the community to turn out and see Red on Thursday, June 2nd at 3:45 in the Jeslo Harris Theater.