Thursdays through Saturdays, September 19 – October 12,
Matinee Sunday, October 6, 2 p.m.
When Hardy Koenig had to audition for the role of Mark Rothko in Theatre B’s upcoming production of Red, he admits that it was a “grueling process” because of his relationship to its director.
Sitting next to him, the director laughs and says “oh, really?” It might have something to do with the fact that the director, Lori Koenig, is also his wife.
“Well, I’m glad it was,” she quips.
For the Koenigs, who have spent much of their professional careers in theatre taking turns working on productions, the opportunity to work together on a play is rare. But both were thrilled at the opportunity to work on Red, which details a period in the life of painter Mark Rothko while in the throes of a project for deep-pocketed commercial clients.
“I’ve done so many plays there were just ok,” Hardy said, “but this is a real piece of work, and I think that will bear out and the audience will see that. It’s a gem.”
The play begins with Ken, Rothko’s new assistant (played by Theatre B ensemble member Blaine Edwards), showing up for his first day of work. Their characters are the only two in the play and the entire play is set in Rothko’s studio. The spare casting and set leaves plenty of room for dialogue and as the play progresses, Ken begins to challenge Rothko’s previously held notions and deeper questions of aesthetics begin to emerge.
For both Koenigs, the deep inquiry embedded in the play was a key part of its allure.
“A wonderful thing about this play is how similar the process with which Rothko works is to the way that we worked as artists in graduate school,” Lori said, “especially when we were trying to create pieces from scratch, or do adaptations of things. And the question Mark Rothko asks of his assistant all the time is ‘what do you see?’ There’s that questioning, always. What is art? Who can do art? Who gets to see art?”
“Every night in rehearsal, we discover something new, and I’m sure we will through the run, too,” Hardy said.
Because of the subject matter and impact of Red, both Koenigs said artists of all disciplines, and for those who love the inquiries art makes, form the natural audience for the play. Hardy admits that it’s pretty heavy fare and “not for everyone.”
“But that’s the great thing about art,” he added, “not everyone needs to feel the same. But, there is definitely something real here.”
Now that Red prepares for its run at Theatre B, what have the Koenigs taken away from it as a couple? Both admit that it has renewed their mutual respect in each other as artists, and both have a renewed love of the theatre and their roles as artists.
“This play re-taught me why I felt passionate about this in the first place,” Lori said. “(Hardy) has a monologue about how Jackson Pollack was such a force because he loved art so much. I’m feeling that myself. This is why I’ve spent my whole life doing this.”
Images; from top: Mark Rothko (Hardy Koenig) asks Ken (Blaine Edwards) ‘what do you see?’; Hardy and Lori Koenig at a recent rehearsal for ‘Red’ with Edwards looking on. Photos by the author.