At the Bankhead Theater this October, Livermore Valley Performing Arts Center will present the taut and compelling Tony Award-winning play “Red” by John Logan, which captures a pivotal period in the tumultuous career of abstract expressionist painter Mark Rothko. The first show fully produced by LVPAC, “Red” will be directed by Misty Megia in an intimate stage-on-stage setting with both the set and audience positioned directly on the stage. This will be the first time the unique stage configuration has ever been offered at the Bankhead Theater.
“Red” will run for five performances, opening Thursday, Oct. 18 at 7:30 p.m. Additional shows are scheduled for Friday, Oct. 19 at 8 p.m.; Saturday, Oct. 20 at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.; and Sunday, Oct. 21 at 3 p.m.
The Bankhead Theater is at 2400 First St., Livermore. Cost is $40 for regular admission, $20 for students and active military personnel. Call 925-373-6800 for tickets or visit lvpac.org.
At the peak of his career in the late 1950s, Rothko had won an extremely lucrative commission, the largest of his career, to create a set of large murals for the new Four Seasons restaurant in New York. Even as he throws himself into the creation of the work, he broods over the arc of his career and weighs the commission’s impact on his artistic legacy. The play takes place during a key transition point in the evolution of mid-century modern art as Rothko’s abstract expressionist style was beginning to give way to pop art. In the studio, Rothko verbally spars with his young assistant Ken, whose emerging confidence in his own skills and sense of the changing times inspires him to challenge the master even as he learns from him.
“Red” made its debut in London in 2009, featuring actors Alfred Molina (Rothko) and Eddie Redmayne (Ken), and transferred to Broadway for a limited run. “Red” won the Tony Award for Best Play and Redmayne won for Featured Actor in 2010.
The Bankhead Theater has welcomed a wide range of performing arts with music of all genres, dance, magic, comedy and more since it opened in 2007. Small-scale touring plays have been presented, but more complex plays and musicals are difficult to mount for a single performance. Looking to add more theatrical productions, LVPAC’s Executive Director Scott Kenison found that a small “stage-on-stage” approach could be as cost effective as a touring show. For “Red,” the set and audience will be positioned between the fire curtain and the rear wall.
“The raw, industrial sense of the space will help create an appropriate visual backdrop for Rothko’s New York Bowery studio,” said Kenison. “And the intimate, stage-on-stage setting will enhance the emotional connection between the audience and the work’s dramatic action.”
Kenison initially discussed staging the project with other local organizations, however many are busy during their fall season. Bringing the project inside also provided other benefits, as Kenison believes it is the nature of people involved in the creative arts to seek and be inspired by opportunities to broaden their horizons and use their skills.
“LVPAC has established a reputation for presenting great artists and for supporting local groups through our resident company program and educational outreach,” he said. “Now with ‘Red’ we can build on that, leveraging the creative energy, production skills, and administrative strengths we already have in place to produce, as well as present, great works.”
The project is underwritten in part by the LVPAC Producer’s Fund, which was established to support projects or guest artists that expand and stretch the organization’s artistic efforts. Project-specific sponsorships for “Red” are also available. For more information, contact Denise Bridges at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Red” offers a natural connection between LVPAC’s involvement in both the performing arts and the visual arts, at the Bankhead Theater and at the Bothwell Arts Center. An exhibit titled “The Art of Drama” will be on display in the Bankhead Gallery during the run of “Red.” Curated by the Bothwell Arts Center, the exhibit will feature works that express the concept of drama as seen through the eyes of a variety of local artists.
During the 2018-2019 fall season, in addition to “Red,” the Bankhead Theater will also welcome the return of L.A. Theatre Works with their new production of “Steel Magnolias” by Robert Harling on Oct. 13, and the Reduced Shakespeare Company’s “Ultimate Christmas Show (abridged)” on Dec. 23.