RED: Closing Performances and Post Mortem

It’s been over a month since RED closed at Arena Stage after 108 performances. Enough time (too much?) has passed to reflect on the experience. In short, extraordinary.

The staff at Arena Stage surprised us with a cake decorated to look like the final painting of the play,  to celebrate the 100th performance. It was waiting for us backstage as we came off from the curtain call,  with candles aglow and champagne cooled.

Arena celebrates RED 100th Performance ©2012 Edward Gero

Before we went in to the final weekend, Patrick and I returned to the Philips Collection to pay one last visit to the paintings and the artist that we have come to know over the past 8 months. We spent a few moments in the room, then strolled through the rest of the collection with a quiet fullness.

Patrick Andrews and I visit the Rothko Room one last time. ©2012 Edward Gero

The final performances went off as the rest. There was no nostalgic sense of closure. We gave them the show we had come to love and enjoy.  Patrick and I continued to discover nuances up to the final performance. The set seemed to be ready to close, however. On the final Saturday evening, the frame that Patrick put together in scene four splintered and broke apart during his attack speech to Rothko. But, he continued through the speech, collecting up the pieces and moving the scene forward as if it was all part of the staging. That afternoon as we raised the blank canvas before the painting sequence, we hauled it up so quickly that it jumped off the hangers. So, we simply continued the scene as we adjusted the canvas. All in a day’s work.

We closed the show with a sense of accomplishment. The audience was incredibly supportive. They seemed to concur that  we had completed something very special.

After a quiet celebration with wine and cheese in the spectacular Arena kitchen with staff, crew, family and friends, we said our goodbyes with the hope of working together again.  It’s a regular ritual of  the theater to do so when closing. But this time it had a stronger sense of gravity than I can remember. Patrick would leave the next morning at 4 AM for Chicago and rehearsals for “The Iceman Cometh” back at the Goodman. I would leave DC for New Jersey in the morning to read a new play, “The Eve of Ides” by Chicago playwright and actor, David Blixt.  That made for a clean physical and psychological break from RED. My days were filled with appointments and classes and dinners with family and friends.  The time has flown by and it seems now like a faded dream.

But what a dream. I cannot fully understand the impact this project has had on me. I suppose that understanding will grow over time. But I do understand how fortunate I am to have had such an immersive experience. Research, rehearsals, performances: spending almost 18 months with this artist, this play, these colleagues, is the kind of experience an actor hopes will come along someday. Now that it’s over, it is hard to imagine anything like this will happen again.  As a patron asked me in the lobby after seeing the show, “Do you think this is the pinnacle of your career?” I could only answer, “Yes… and I hope not!”

There are so many people to thank. To Bob Falls, who entrusted me to take on this piece and for his spirit of collaboration and humor. To John Logan, for his support, encouragement and good cheer. To Patrick Andrews, my partner and now good friend, for his tenacity, sensitivity and courage. To the designers, Todd Rosenthal, Richard Woodbury, Keith Parham and Birgit Wise, for their taste, skill, and remarkable rendering of the cohesive world they built to live in. To the staff of The Goodman Theater, Roche Schulfer, Denise Schneider, Julie Massey, Erin Madden, and the entire press, PR and production team for the boundless enthusiasm and joy of work.

To Old “Spicy” Joe Drummond, stage manager extraordinaire and his crack team, especially Stephen Kolack, JoHanna Hall, Jenee Garretson, James Norman, Sherry Simpson. You all made a visitor to Chicago feel so welcome. I look forward to returning to you all, soon.

Thanks also to the staff and crew of Arena Stage for making the homecoming of RED so exciting. To Molly Smith and Edgar Dobie, thank you for bringing the show to Washington. To the entire crew for making the transition from Chicago to DC seamless and fun.


Thank you also to the Visual Arts community of DC for their incredible support of the play and access to the art itself, especially Klaus Ottman, Harry Cooper and Ruth Fine.  The gave me insights into the work I could never have learned on my own.

Thanks, too, to my colleagues and students of George Mason University. To Ken Elston, my friend, colleague and chair, for his support and friendship, and who afforded me the time for this adventure. To my students who walked with me every step of the way, from preparation and digging into the play with me in the classroom before, diligence in the “distance learning” experiment while in Chicago, and for coming to see the finished product when playing in Washington.

Finally, I thank you, the reader of this blog.  At this date, The Making of RED has received over 12,000 hits since its inception. I remain astonished by the reception for my writing experiment about this project and will be forever grateful for your company.  Thank you for taking the time to travel with me.

To those fortunate enough to explore this play going forward, I wish you well. I trust you will come to know the profound satisfaction of this play, this artist, this art. It is my wish also, that this blog will serve you in your journey.

Happy Trails.

About EG

Edward Gero, an American actor, most noted for his stage work, is a four-time Helen Hayes Award recipient and sixteen-time Helen Hayes Nominee. He just completed a run at Arena Stage as Ben Hubbard in "The Little Foxes." He has appeared as Mark Rothko in "RED" at Goodman Theater in Chicago and Arena Stage, and as Gloucester in "King Lear" with Stacy Keach at Goodman and the Shakespeare Theatre, both directed by Robert Falls. Other regional credits include Nixon in "Nixon's Nixon," Salieri in "Amadeus" at Roundhouse Theater, Sweeney in "Sweeney Todd" at Signature Theatre, Donny in "American Buffalo" at Studio Theatre, and for the last six years, Scrooge in "A Christmas Carol" at Washington's historic Ford's Theatre. In 31 seasons In Washington, he has played 75 Shakespearean roles at STC including Hotspur in "Henry IV" (Helen Hayes Award), Bolingbroke in "Richard II" (Helen Hayes Award) and Macduff in "Macbeth"(Helen Hayes Award). Film and television credits include House of Cards, Turn: Washington's Spies, Die Hard II, Striking Distance, and narrations for The Discovery Channel and PBS. He is an Associate Professor of Theater and Head of the Performance Area for the School of Theater at George Mason University, and instructor for the Academy for Classical Acting at George Washington University Mr. Gero was featured on the cover of The Washington Post Magazine and profiled in the January 2011 American Theater Magazine.
This entry was posted in Art, Performance, Press, Process, rothko, Theater and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to RED: Closing Performances and Post Mortem

  1. Red was wonderful, as was to be expected and we had gathered a gang to attend it. Your performances are reliably impressive and after a pointless evening at the Studio Theatre last week I was sleuthing to find out where you will appear next in DC, I had taken an English friend and had to grovel and make it up to her with a bottle of wine. Anyway – I assume you will make it public here. My husband and I have tremendously enjoyed a series of your plays ever since we first saw you in The Seafarer and then American Buffalo, then Nixon’s Nixon, Christmas Carol, Amadeus, Red. Studio provided a great window into American play writes we had not heard of but during this last year it seems to have gone a tad squishy.

  2. hermitsdoor says:

    Mr. Gero,
    We were in Cape Town, South Africa a few weeks ago. I checked out the local theatres seeking some local stage productions and found Red playing for two weeks at the Theatre by the Bay in James Bay, 20 minutes away. Also, we heard that Red is playing in Providence, RI soon. Good to see the show getting a wider audience. Hope your recent acting adventures have been challenging.

    • EG says:

      Thank you for your mail Oscar. What a wonderful thing to be in Cape Town. It is on my bucket list to be sure. I am currently working at Ford’s Theater in Washington, DC as Scrooge in Christmas Carol. Another grumpy old man. It a lot of fun and an important service, I believe, because for many it is their first experience in the theater and for others, the only time they come. We are also raising money for a local food bank for those less fortunate. It has many rewards. All the best for the holiday season. Hope you are yours are well.

      All the best,
      Edward Gero

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s