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MANILA, Philippines - Bart Guingona, hailed one of the finest stage actors and directors in the country, is all set to embark on “Red,” a two-character play which will take him through the life and times of abstract painter Mark Rothko.
A contemporary of Willem de Kooning and Jackson Pollock, Rothko mesmerized with large paintings and murals of soft rectangular shapes, blurring and melting together in a variety of striking color combinations. These shapes are now known as the Rothko Color Fields.
Life of art
[See the other paintings in the Seagram murals in www.tate.org.uk]
Not many know that aside from being a famous abstract painter, Mark Rothko was a frustrated lover of theater. He painted stage sets in high school then applied for a scholarship at the American Laboratory Theater in New York City which went nowhere.
Little did Rothko know that although he may not have fulfilled his theatrical ambitions, he would soon be the subject of a theater production.
Thirty-nine years after Rothko’s suicide in 1970 at the age of 66, David Logan (who penned the screenplays of “The Aviator,” “The Gladiator,” and the new James Bond film, “Skyfall”) wrote “Red.”
The play shows Rothko in 1958, the year he began accepting commissioned work. He was invited by New York art scene leader Philip Johnson to paint 4 murals for the newly-opened Four Seasons restaurant in the Seagram building in New York.
Rothko ended up creating 3 sets of murals which would never be installed in the restaurant. He himself described the murals as “brooding, forbidding, tragic” and thus unfitting for a commercial setting.
The painter returned the payment he received for the murals. The first set of painting were then sold individually, the second was abandoned and the 3rd was donated to the Tate Gallery in London.
The murals, now called the Seagram murals, still feature the Rothko Color Fields but in shades of red.
Artist plays artist
“Red” will make its Asian premiere on February 22 with Bart Guingona in the lead role.
Guingona, who has made a name for himself playing intellectually-charged, domineering characters, says he was blown away after reading the play.
In an article by Inquirer.net, he describes Rothko as “pedantic, derisive, obsessive, and pissed off pretty much of the time. I love the guy. He’s a genius a-hole.”
Playing another artist was a delight for Guingona who, in the same article says, “I can easily relate to the obsessions, the frustrations, the anguish and anger.”
The actor even gained 7 pounds to play the painter whom he says was “an overweight slob, to put it nicely, whose vanity was for his art, not his appearance.”
Actor-director Joaquin Valdes plays Ken, Rothko’s fictional apprentice who is the only other character in Logan’s play. The young character is instrumental in weaving the play’s theme of new generations supplanting the old.
“Red” promises to be a treat not only for fans of Rothko but for admirers of icons who not only created art, but whose very lives became art. - Rappler.com
(“Red” will run on February 22, 23 and March 1, 2 at 7:30pm at the School of Design and Art, College of St. Benilde, Manila. Tickets are available at Ticketworld, 891-9999. You can also check www.facebook.com/TheNecessaryTheatre.)
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