Theatre Alive’s 2023 staged reading series continues with Red — the award-winning play by John Logan about American abstract expressionist painter Mark Rothko.
Red runs at Mahon Hall on Sunday, May 7 at 7 p.m.
Ray Colleran takes the role of Rothko, and Hayden Rabson plays his young apprentice Ken.
Rabson’s mom Cindy Akers Rabson, who is a professional voice-over animation director, is directing the play, with support from Chris Humphreys of Theatre Alive.
Cindy said Humphreys had approached the Rabson family about doing the play last year. Cindy’s husband Jan — who was a professional actor and especially known as a voice artist based in Los Angeles — was to play the part of Rothko. However, Jan died suddenly from massive cardiac arrest while he and Cindy were on a cross-Canada train trip last October.
Humphreys asked the family if they still wanted to carry on, and Hayden — who was a Gulf Islands School of Performing Arts student — said yes, but only if his high-school English teacher Ray Colleran would play the part of Rothko.
“Ray was a big and important part of Hayden’s teen years as a role model and as a mentor,” explained Cindy.
Colleran has been seen in a number of community and Gulf Islands Secondary School theatre productions over the years.
Hayden’s brother Adler will be running sound and lights for the show, while Humphreys is the producer this time out. The event will be dedicated to the memory of Jan Rabson.
The play takes place in Rothko’s studio in the late 1950s. He has been commissioned to do a piece for a new Four Seasons restaurant and faces personal conflict because of the project.
“So it’s about that process for him and coming to terms with what he was doing,” explained Cindy. “And his assistant, who’s a budding young artist, comes in to assist him through the process and ends up being there for two years. It covers their relationship, the mentorship, and understanding what separates the different artists, and basically Rothko educating him in quite a colourful way — because he was quite a character.”
While as a staged reading the set and props are minimal, Theatre Alive will use a large “mock Rothko” painting, created by Salt Spring artist Josephine Fletcher.
“She’s also given us drop cloths filled and splattered with paint because she’s a very, very prolific painter, and brushes and all of that,” said Cindy, adding that everyone is grateful for Fletcher’s generosity and assistance.
“It’s a true Salt Spring collaboration,” she said.
Red premiered at the Donmar Warehouse in London in 2009, and ran on Broadway in 2010 with the same director, Michael Grandage, and two actors: Alfred Molina playing Rothko and Eddie Redmayne as Ken. It won six Tony awards in 2010, including for best play, as well as other industry awards. Playwright Logan is also known for film scripts such as Hugo, Coriolanus, Rango, Sweeney Todd, The Aviator, Gladiator, The Last Samurai, Any Given Sunday and RKO 281.
Tickets for Red ($25 for adults, $5 for youth) are on sale at Salt Spring Books and the door. Cash only.