The New York Times calls RED “intense” and “exciting.” The Chicago Tribune says it’s “stunning,” “compelling,” and “brilliant.”
The production of RED by The Human Race, Dayton’s own professional theatre company, will add at least one more adjective to the descriptions – “intimate.” As highly-regarded as the big-stage productions have been, bringing famed artist Mark Rothko’s studio to life in the 219-seat Loft Theatre will make it an even more meaningful and personal event for theatergoers.
“What do you see?” asks Rothko in the opening line, and that line is the running theme of the play – what artists see, how they see it, how they hope viewers of their work will see it. RED manages both to be a look deep into the meaning of art and creation, and a scintillating study of Rothko, his relationship with his (fictional) assistant, Ken, and his conflicted views on commercialism.
What the audience will see involves a lot of painting, including preparation of a Rothko-sized canvas.
“It’s a glorious play,” says Human Race Resident Artist Michael Kenwood Lippert, who plays Rothko. “Rothko’s such an interesting character…he wanted people to use as much care looking at his art as he used in creating it.”
“It blew me away,” says Will Allan, who plays Ken. “Rothko’s larger than life, but Ken gives him another insight, while Ken gets invaluable lessons from Rothko.”
Lippert is a very familiar figure through the Miami Valley, both from his performances with The Human Race, which go back to the company’s original production, Count Dracula, in 1986 and include such hits asOrphans, The Elephant Man, The Speed of Darkness and The Drawer Boy, and from his many years working in area schools for Muse Machine. He was a 2011 Governor’s Award for the Arts winner.
Allan is a local product, a 2005 graduate of Oakwood High School who now works out of Chicago, where he has been in two Jeff Award-winning Best Plays in the past three years (The History Boys and The Goat, or Who is Sylvia?). He recently became an Artistic Associate at Timeline, which the Wall Street Journal calls the Best Theatre Company in America, and was one of the Chicago Tribune’s 2011 Hot New Faces in Chicago Theatre.
“Michael and Will together are just combustible,” says director and Human Race Resident Artist Richard E. Hess, Chair of Drama at the Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music, “It’s fantastic.” Hess knows fantastic – the most recent of his many contributions at The Loft were Doubt, A Parable and I Am My Own Wife.
“On its surface, RED is a play about Mark Rothko, and it’s immense enjoyment to see a man like that come to life.” Says Hess. “Below that is the story of a man struggling deeply with immortality, with what one leaves behind. It’s gut-wrenching to watch an artist paved with such humanity.”
RED will include a collaboration with the Dayton Art Institute. During the run, the DAI will have a loaned Rothko work on display, and the institute’s gift shop is offering a 10% discount in January to buyers who show a RED ticket or stub.
Heather Jackson is Stage Manager for RED. Mark Halpin designed the set, Lacee Rae Hart the costumes, Resident Artist John Rensel the lighting and Rich Dionne the sound, with Heather Powell is the Properties Master.
RED will have a Preview Night at The Loft Theatre January 19, with official Opening Night January 20 and performances through February 5. Tickets are available via www.humanracetheatre.org , by calling Ticket center Stage at (937) 228-3630, or at the Schuster Center Box Office. Student tickets are half price for all performances, and 25 seats at each end of The Loft are being sold for just $25 as part of The Human Race’s 25th Anniversary Season.
(from Human Race Theatre)