Explosive arguments, an unmanageable ego and lots and lots of red paint.
The MTC Warehouse launched their season with Red, which takes the audience inside the New York studio of abstract painter Mark Rothko
(Oliver Becker). The action unfolds as he and his assistant Ken
(Jameson Matthew Parker) work on the largest commission of Rothko's
To prepare for his role as an art studio assistant, Parker had to learn to prep the materials the actors would use on stage every night. SCENE asked him to tell us about it.
Part of the beauty of Red is that you not only get a glimpse into Rothko's life and what he was going through during this turbulent commission, but the play also paints a picture, forgive the expression, of how an artist runs his studio.
Actor Jameson Matthew Parker (courtesy MTC)
What technical constraints were placed upon the passion of one of the fathers of Abstract Expressionism
; the day-to-day details of bringing these now famous murals to fruition?
Every artist has his or her own practices within their studio, and many - like Rothko - were very guarded about how they prepared their materials.
Rothko in particular liked to labour over each colour he added to a piece, using pigment and his own recipe to create his medium, just like the old masters of the Renaissance would have.
During rehearsals we had a couple of artists come in and teach us how to stretch and size a canvas just like Rothko or one of his assistants would have. I only had about an hour with artist Xane St. Phillip to learn how Rothko liked his canvases stretched, but over the course of our time in the rehearsal hall, I had many attempts and failures at getting it right and have tried to make the process second nature to me.
Director Michael Shamata has afforded us the opportunity to really work within the studio and actually create something tangible onstage while the story moves forward. As an actor, it is very rewarding to get to stretch and prime the canvas each night -to actually do something real and without the aide of stage tricks - while Oliver mixes the colour of the sizing glue.
It's also a fantastic experience to work with the actual tools and materials of the time period as we, for the most part, stretch and prime the canvas with exactly what they would have used in the studio at 222 Bowery in 1958-59.Red runs at MTC's Tom Hendry Warehouse until November 17.