For his latest daring Miami stage experiment, GableStage at the Biltmore's producing artistic director Joseph Adler presents Red, John Logan's six-time Tony Award-winning play about Russian-American abstract artist Mark Rothko.
Set in 1958, the drama centers on the sometimes antagonistic interaction between Rothko and his assistant Ken as they create what was at the time the highest-paid commissioned artwork ever: a series of murals for New York's Four Seasons restaurant.
While a New York-based play about a New York-based artist seems at first an unlikely choice for a Miami audience, Adler explains that his selection makes sense beyond his own selfish desire to produce the play.
"I've been after this play from the time it first opened in London [in 2009], even before it came to New York," he says. "But another reason I chose this play and the slot that it's in is that it's going to open four weeks before Art Basel, and the final weekend overlaps Art Basel. So I think this is certainly a period of time here in South Florida where people are focused on the visual arts."
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The story takes place in Rothko's studio, where the artist orders his young assistant to mix pigments, make frames, and paint canvasses. Meanwhile, the brazen young apprentice takes every opportunity to question his master's theories on art --- and his choice to take on such a commercial project.
"It deals with the relationship between a lion of the art world and a young artist in his early twenties, and the classic battle between the old and the new," Adler says. "Rothko was at a stage where he had just received the largest commission in the history of art, which looks puny compared to what's going on today. I mean, Rothko had a piece that sold for $70 million years ago, one painting! So the $35,000 he was paid for the murals seems little in comparison, but that was a lot of money at the time.
"But on the other hand, he felt like he, the abstract expressionist, was being threatened by the pop artists, by the young coming along," Adler continues. "So that's really what the play is about: the threat that exists between the young and the old guard. The young who are yapping at their heels."
Red opens 8 p.m., Saturday, November 5, and runs at 8 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays and at 2 and 7 p.m. Sundays through December 4. Tickets cost $37.50 to $50. Visit theGableStage website or call 305-445-1119.