The South Carolina Repertory Co. has never been afraid to introduce its audiences to intelligent, thought-provoking material. This season's opening production is no exception as the company presents "Red," the story of the 20th century abstract impressionist Mark Rothko.
Written by American playwright John Logan, the two-character, Tony Award-winning play stars David Sitler as Rothko and Matt Mundy as the artist's fictional assistant Ken. This is Sitler's first appearance at SCRC after years of professional acting. Mundy returns for his fourth performance at the regional theater.
The one-act play also marks the return of director Chip Egan and his wife, Diane, as stage manager and property designer. Egan, who also has acted throughout his career, directed "Time Stands Still," which opened SCRC's season one year ago. "Red," which kicks off the company's 21st season, will run for 15 performances Oct. 25 through Nov. 11.
"Red," named for the dominant color in Rothko's creations, premiered in London in December 2009 and moved to Broadway for a limited run in March 2010.
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It was nominated for seven Tony Awards, winning six, including best play, best featured actor in a play for Eddie Redmayne, who played Ken, and best director for Michael Grandage.
"The play is so well crafted," Egan said. "I really like the craftsmanship and it's a delight for a director to work on a play that a writer crafted so carefully."
The story takes place in the artist's New York City studio in 1958. Rothko, a Russian-American painter (who changed his name from Marcus Rothkowitz) was hired by the Seagram Co. to paint a series of murals for the Four Seasons restaurant in New York City. The commission was $35,000, the largest in the history of modern art at the time. The play examines the conflicting emotions of an artist creating something because it's popular, or creating something because it serves his soul.
"As information unfolds during the course of the play the stakes keep growing for the character," Egan said. "The audience gets absorbed, and then it moves to a crisis and a climactic moment. It's very Aristotelian in its structure."
In order to set the scene, there will be 14 canvases spread across the stage, one used to create a painting. Sitler's research of Rothko involved hours at the New York City Library and on the Internet. He also had to learn the movement of a painter.
"Chip (director) also is a scenic painter and designer and he showed us the way to do it," Sitler said.
Sitler has worked on Broadway, in national tours and regionally throughout the U.S. His credits include three supporting roles in Broadway's 2008-09 National tour of "Frost/Nixon," which starred Stacy Keach. He also has appeared in film and television, including a supporting role on "Law & Order SVU."
Throughout his career, Sitler also has held what he describes as a "day job," playing superheroes for Marvel comic books. He continues to travel internationally, educating and empowering students on topics such as child abuse, bullying, drugs and staying healthy and fit. Sitler lives in Jersey City, N.J., with his wife, Carolyn Popp, who also is an actor working in Winston-Salem, N.C.
Mundy performed in SCRC's productions of "Guttenberg! The Musical," "The Last Five Years" and "Foxfire," all during the 2008-09 season. His credits also include WB Concerts' European tour of "Grease," and the Web series "Anywhere Astoria." The New York City-based actor has done several voiceovers for commercials.