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Flip the Script Friday: John Logan, Red

Now that I’m ABD, maybe my thoughts on theatre will have a little more value. Or maybe not. Either way, it seemed like a good time to bring back nobody’s favorite feature, Flip the Script Friday. I was planning to finish one of the (many) unfinished posts, but I ended up pulling Red by John Logan off the shelf, and as it turns out, like most plays, it just feels right for this day, this week, this whole situation.

Image result for red john logan poster

The Basics

Red premiered at Donmar Warehouse in London on 3 December 2009.

Characters

  • Mark Rothko – The painter, in his fifties. Originally portrayed by Alfred Molina.
  • Ken – Also a painter, Rothko’s assistant, in his twenties. Originally portrayed by Eddie Redmayne (no pun intended).

Setting/Plot

1958-1959, Rothko’s studio in the Bowery, NYC. Aspiring painter Ken becomes the assistant to painter Mark Rothko, who has been commissioned to provide artwork for a new Four Seasons restaurant. Rothko challenges Ken to reconceptualize what art is, and Ken serves it right back to him in a showdown of words.

My Thoughts

Initially, I wasn’t impressed. It just seemed like one long monologue by Rothko with a few interjections by Ken. The later scenes really evolve into a sort of questioning pattern that makes you understand more of just who Rothko is, what makes him Rothko, and similar ideas about other artists of his time. Pretty much everything about Ken is arbitrary, just as Rothko seems to think Ken is, until he outwits the artist in his own game. For a play that is all about one color, even in the title, there are certainly many shades of it.

Major Themes

Opposite Day

It’s all about opposites in this play. Old/young, black/white (or in this case, black/red), abstract/realistic, expressionism/pop culture, high art/low art, art for the sake of art/culinary “overmantle” art. I found my allegiance constantly switching between the two characters. Rothko stands for a generation affected by two World Wars; for Ken, WWII was a part of his childhood, plus, he has more to worry about in his own life, which leads to another opposite: inside/outside. Rothko is the master of his own domain; in his studio, he can control the light, the sound, and the color; in the outside world, he can’t, which is why, in an almost absurdist sense, he can’t handle the outside world. Unlike Endgame, both characters do leave the studio, but when Rothko returns after seeing his work in the restaurant, he decides that he cannot handle it and goes to almost drastic measures before acknowledging that Ken belongs in the outside world, and the studio space which he values so much is too precious to him, and is enough of a world for him to not need what lies beyond its walls.

Fifty Shades of Red

Obviously, red, being the title of this play and a staple of the real Rothko’s work, is present in a big way, but it becomes a point of contention towards the beginning that unleashes Rothko’s crazy to its fullest extent. As Rothko muses on the primed canvas, searching for a color, Ken makes the mistake of suggesting “red,” and all hell breaks loose. Rothko goes on a rampage, dissecting the word and the concept of red until it loses all its meaning, and then regains it. The fuming Rothko sees in scarlet, crimson, maroon – anything but the passive, pedestrian “red.” He and Ken then battle over what red actually means, from apples to the Russian flag to stop signs to Satan. Wrestling with this concept of color, as seen through two very different sets of eyes, sends me thinking about that great monologue in The Devil Wears Prada, where Meryl Streep as Miranda Priestly horns in on Anne Hathaway about the importance of having a specific shade of blue.

Related imageImage result for meryl streep blue sweaterImage result for meryl streep blue sweater

In a way, Rothko is Miranda Priestly, in a kind of screwed-up, chain-smoking, postwar painter kind of way.

How I’d Flip It

Paint the set blue! Just kidding. There are so many possibilities for set and lighting choices. It could be as simple as an empty room, or some sort of wall mosaic of canvases. Either way, I’d make the entrance/exit look very stark, especially when entrances and exits are made, with some flash of light or something. I can’t think too much about this play for too long, because I’m getting a headache. Maybe I’m just hungry.

Image result for meryl streep that's all

 

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Soothing Summer: Cutting Paper

I couldn’t sleep last night, so apparently I spent two hours editing one of my prelims. I have yet to reopen the file, but I’m hoping I didn’t do too much damage.

Yesterday, I got a care package in the mail from my mom. I love her, but she always sends the most random things. This time around, she sent me one thing that I actually needed – a T-shirt that I ruined in the wash that she treated with something really strong to get the stain out. In addition, she sent a huge bag of Twizzlers (but the one flavor I don’t like), some coupons, and some coins wrapped up in containers. She also inexplicably wrapped everything in little bits of glossy newspaper. So, this morning, as I was drinking my coffee and listening to Jimmy Kimmel’s interviews last night with JoJo and Jordan from The Bachelorette, I had to search for something constructive to do. Finding nothing, I found one of the inexplicably crumpled pieces of paper, a pair of scissors, and just started cutting random patterns in it. I ended up with both a lovely if somewhat asymmetrical star and a new distraction, or at least a way to soothe myself.

Here are some awesome paper cuttings I found while slacking:

paper-cutting-monogram

It might look like a painting, but it’s actually a very intricately cut birth announcement by paper artist Emma Boyes. See more at All Things Paper.

papercraft art from one sheet of paper peter callesen 17 20 Sculptures Cut from a Single Piece of Paper

Artist Peter Callesen does these amazing models, from a skeleton to a pagoda to this bridal gown, from just one piece of paper. See more at Twisted Sifter.

idea for child project

How about one of the world’s great landmarks like the Coliseum, or this nifty paper castle from PhotoWebs?

paper-cutting-ideas

This intricate 3D piece comes from LifeChilli.

scher_motherdaughter1.jpg

A scene like this mother and baby is called scherenschnitte. There’s even a video tutorial here at the website of Dot and Mae.

free vector christmas tree paper cutting different style

This one comes from Alt Free Downloads, and it looks like something I could actually do.

And hey, being a paper artist is a more legitimate occupation than 75% of the show’s contestants, so there’s that.

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A Portrait Of The Man As A Young Artist

Among the things that generally happen when I am home is the Great Purging of Childhood Belongings.

When my sister graduated college, she never moved back home, staying in DC to this day. As she made a more permanent home, more of her things went with her. When I graduated college, I moved back home for varying periods of time, during which my parents and I both came to the realization that a twenty-something has more stuff (clothes, books, whatever) than can fit in a childhood bedroom. Since she wasn’t going to be using the space in her room anytime soon, my parents asked her to move some more of her stuff to DC; not everything, just enough clothes to give me an extra drawer and a few knick-knacks so I could have some bookshelves in her closet.

But this deal wasn’t just one-sided; I had to get rid of things too.  The kids’ books were out, and the textbooks were in. The stuffed animals either got sent to live with us or donated. Any childhood clothing saved for posterity was gone. The last big purge occurred before I moved to Houston. I thought that I would miss all my stuff from babyhood through childhood and teenage-hood, but now I largely can’t even remember what I threw out.

The minute I got home last week, there were more childhood things of mine that my almost-but-not-quite-cured pack rat mother had for me to go through and get rid of.

This time, it was my childhood artwork. Let me take a look back now and see what exactly my elementary school art projects say about me.