Red is the name of a play about abstract expressionist painter, Mark Rothko written by John Logan. This two man play has been done in London, New York and elsewhere. I saw it last weekend enticed by an email that offered "pay what you will" tickets the next night at the near-by Cotuit Center for the Arts. I have been there several times and, except for two recent plays in their black box theatre, have been disappointed to one degree or another. But those two good experiences lifted my level of adventurousness. The two were Singe's Riders of the Sea, well directed and with authentic sounding accents that greatly surprised me. The other was a one-man show about Richard Burbage who was Shakespeare's most important actor at his Globe theatre, expertly acted by a very good actor, an Equity member with NYC credits. I am a theatre snob in many ways and was ready to be disappointed by Red. I was not.
The actor playing Rothko was not only very fine, he was so committed to the role he had shaved the front part of his hair to giving himself the receding hairstyle Rothko had -- and he was physically similar to Rothko. His co-actor, who played a young assistant, was well rehearsed and fluent in this very talky play. He had been in two one-acts of mine that were read early in March. The play script was brilliant and the staging and stage directing was the best I've seen here on Cape Cod, especially the centrally placed scene in which both Rothko and the assistant paint a large canvas with red primer in a beautifully choreographed duet of sweeping brushstrokes. I was thrilled by the play and it's production and immediately told others to go see it. So, I'm sure, did others in that early (2nd) performance for it's been a sell out since.
Rothko's paintings, in his mature style, were great rectangular areas of color - or, at the end of his life, of black. His favorite color was obviously red. I have seen several of them in museums and found them arresting, very powerful; they have depth and they have an aliveness that is difficult to describe. They finally became numinous objects, attempting a spirituality that Rothko was seeking. Finally the de Menil family of Houston built a chapel in which to display several of the black paintings which, unfortunately, Rothko did not live to see.
Wednesday another email told me that a documentary about him would be shown that evening so I went to see it too. I liked seeing many of the painting and hearing his daughter (especially, talk about his life and his presumed suicide -- his son questioned that determination).
Having nothing to do with Rothko -- but it's metaphor is Shakespeare's "all the world's a stage" -- the poem I want to share today is by John Updike.
And another regrettable thing about death
is the creasing of your own brand of magic,
which took a whole life to develop and market--
the quips, the witticisms, the slant
adjusted to a few, those loved ones nearest
the lip of the stage, their soft faces blanched
in the footlight glow, their laughter close to tears,
their warm pooled breath in and out with your heartbeat.
The jokes over the phone. The memories packed
in the rapid-access file. The whole act.
Who will do it again? That's it: no one,
imitators and descendants aren't the same.
The mid-70s are a surprise! Part of me remains in the 50s -- age, I mean, not decade of 20th century. It's a joy ride, new experiences land in my lap and I've become a better quilter, poet, writer than I expected. It's a rich life for a person never rich financially. Hey, this is what the mid-70s are like!