Behind the Scenes: How Red was won

  • Photo credit: Red Generation Photography
    Tim Simeone (Ken the assistant) and Kevin McClatchy (Mark Rothko) in “Red.”
From the February 7, 2013 edition

The coincidence behind how artworks by and about Mark Rothko came to two different Columbus organizations this winter seems like one written for the stage.

Next Wednesday begins the CATCO production of “Red,” a Tony Award-winning play about artist Mark Rothko’s commission to paint murals for the exclusive Four Seasons and his studio assistant’s questioning of whether this was something Rothko should be doing, given the seemingly selling-out nature of such a project.

“I saw ‘Red’ in New York and I was really taken with it,” said CATCO producing director Steven Anderson. “I don’t claim visual art immediately as my first or even second interest. ‘Red’ totally helped me understand who Rothko was, what he was trying to do. I was anxious to share that with our theater folk.”

Anderson compiles the basic backbone of the theater group’s season a few years ahead of time. A year ago, he added “Red” to the 2013 lineup.

Then Nannette Maciejunes, executive director of the Columbus Museum of Art, called. She gently asked Anderson about how far in advance he planned the CATCO schedule and if she could maybe convince him to add something to it.

“At this point, I was completely clueless about what she was asking,” Anderson said, laughing. “I told her we were pretty set.”

Maciejunes then confided that the CMA was planning a Mark Rothko exhibition in 2013 and she hoped to bring a great play called “Red” to a stage nearby.

“Neither one of us could believe I had already planned it,” Anderson said. “Then she asked if I could move it so it coincided with the opening of the Rothko exhibit at the museum.”

When, he asked. February, she said.

Another gasp. It was already planned for that month.

“This absolutely was something that was supposed to happen,” Anderson said of the two complementary events coming together so perfectly and unintentionally. “We could have planned for decades for this to happen and it might not have. This was sort of like a lunar eclipse.”