Red: More than just a color

Caitlin Husted

The color red can represent many different emotions such as love, passion, and anger. But for Millikin seniors Joseph Bezenek, B.A. theater major, and Ryan Hickey, B.F.A acting major, “Red” represents the play they poured their heart and souls into during the months of January and February.

“We put it up very quick, and now it’s gone,” Bezenek said. “Now it’s done.”

“Red” is a fictional story based on the true events of artist Mark Rothko. The play takes place in 1958-59 and focuses on Rothko and his assistant, Ken. Rothko had just been commissioned to paint a group of murals for the Four Seasons restaurant for $35,000, a hefty paycheck during that time for an artist. “Red” focuses on the relationship built between Rothko and his assistant and the art that is made during the process.

Written by John Logan, this play was first produced by the Donmar Warehouse in London in December 2009. During it’s time there, it was directed by Michael Grandage and performed by Alfred Molina as Rothko and Eddie Redmayne as his fictional assistant, Ken.

In March 2010, the show transferred to Broadway at the John Golden Theater for a limited engagement and closed on June 27.

The show received a total of seven nominations for Tony Awards in 2010 and took home six wins including: Best Play, Best Featured Actor in a Play for Redmayne, Best Direction of a Play for Michael Grandage, Best Scenic Design of a Play for Christopher Oram, Best Lighting Design of a Play for Neil Austin, and Best Sound Design of a Play for Adam Cork. It received the most wins out of any other production that season.

“Red” also won the 2010 Drama League Award for Distinguished Production of a Play and the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Play while Grandage and Austin were honored with Drama Desk Awards for their work.

Ryan Hickey came across the play after his freshman year of college when he was looking sifting through various plays.

“It excited me and got me thinking more than any other play I had ever read, and I thought, ‘Wow this is an amazing show,’” Hickey said.

After reading through the play, he showed the play to Associate Professor Alex Miller in hopes that he would read through the play, thinking it would be a great project to work on together. After years of pestering from Hickey, Miller approached Hickey and decided to move forward with it.

With the part of Rothko and Ken decided, Hickey had to choose someone to act as director, a role that fell into Joseph Bezenek’s hands.

“I read the play for the first time at Lockharts, when I was waiting to get a haircut,” Bezenek said. “And I [thought], ‘This is going to be beautiful.’”

While Bezenek accepted the position in November, it wasn’t until the week before classes started in January that they began to rehearse.

With a full week of rehearsals lasting from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., there were many memorable experiences for all involved. For Bezenek, it was the lack of heat in Pipe Dreams, where they were rehearsing.

“The first days we were rehearsing we didn’t have heat,” Bezenek said, “Alex was in an Eskimo hat, a big coat and gloves. We were in [Pipe Dreams], and it was 40 degrees almost the entire first week.”

After the first week of rehearsals, Miller, Hickey and Bezenek took a week off to acclimate themselves to the new semester. They then returned for sporadic rehearsals in between trips and auditions. In total, they only spent somewhere between 14 to 16 days in rehearsal with each other before opening weekend.

The team did four shows over Friday, Feb. 12 to Sunday, Feb. 14, with all the proceeds going to Shakespeare Corrected, a program Miller is in charge of which allows inmates in Decatur Correctional Center to perform in different Shakespeare plays.

“I think in total we are pushing the $2,000 mark for how much the show raised for Shakespeare Corrected, which was really cool,” Hickey said.

While the production raised money for a good cause, it also affected Hickey and Bezenek in a deeper, emotional way.

When reflecting back on the final night of the performance Bezenek said, “I sat in the moment of tragedy and beauty at the same time. I sat there at the end of the show and the moment had never been more real.”

At the end of the show, Ruthko tells his Ken that he’s fired and to go out into the world and make his own art because Ken doesn’t need him anymore.

“It was so real because it’s Alex Miller, he was my first acting professor, and now I’m directing him and sitting here and I felt like I was in Ken’s place,” Bezenek said. “When [Ruthko] says ‘You’re fired,’ it was just too real because we’re leaving Alex and leaving this place, and we have to go out there and make our own art, and I just sat there, alone, and bawled.”

Hickey had similar sentiments on what this experience meant to him. However, when asked what he wanted students to know he said, “There are so many experiences and opportunities here at Millikin that aren’t apparently evident.

“This is the kind of environment that if you want something to happen and you’re determined, it will happen….If you put your heart behind something, at this kind of school, you will make it happen.”

As both of these seniors approach their final days at Millikin University, they look back on their memories during college and are able to smile, knowing they were able to put their hearts into a project that was more to them than just a play; it was a way of showing them that they are ready to go out and make their own art in their own world.