Two men, one stage and a world of relationships. // Double Interview with RED actors, Preston Maybank and Mark ChristinePosted by Micha on Jun 19, 2012 in Spotlight | 1 comment
Preston Maybank and Mark Christine are LA based actors. They came to Aspen to play the roles of the painter, Rothko, and his assistant, Ken, in Aspen Fringe Festival’s play, RED. A time of new experiences: Neither had played their roles before and neither had worked with the other actor before. In past weeks’ rehearsals, they had the chance to discover their own stage characters and spent a lot of time with their new colleague. At opening night week, it’s time to check in with both of the actors and compare their views of the play – and of each other!
What is the play, RED, to you?
That’s a tough question. The play works on many levels. But at it’s heart, I think John Logan (the playwright) is reminding us of the vital importance of pursuing meaningful work.
Upon first read, RED seems to be a play about art, art theory, and the life and work of Mark Rothko.
In working on the play, we’ve come to the important realization that the play is really about a complex relationship between two men. Mark Rothko and his (fictionalized) assistant, Ken, have a relationship that can be described as: teacher/pupil, father/son, boss/employee, mentor/mentee, and much more. Rothko seemingly has all the answers, but as the play goes on, we start to see more of Ken’s point of view and his strength. While Rothko is the teacher and guide for much of their relationship, Ken ultimately manages to affect and inspire Rothko as well.
How would Rothko describe the character of Ken and vice versa?
Their relationship certainly evolves. At the beginning of the play, Rothko is quite condescending and dismissive of Ken but over the course of the evening, he grows to respect Ken and value his opinions. They develop a strong bond – almost a father/son relationship.
At the beginning of the play Rothko is a whirlwind of passion and fury. He is an overwhelming presence full of knowledge, hunger, drive, and unshakeable opinions. He claims he isn’t interested in being my teacher, but he clearly likes having an audience and has no problem talking endlessly about a variety of topics. I think if I say much more we’ll get into “spoiler alert” territory, so I’ll leave it at that!
Which parts of your own stage character’s personality are close to your own? Which parts are different?
Obviously we’re both artists. There’s something very universal about the artistic spirit, whether the person is into theatre, painting, dance, sculpture, music, or any other art form. One of the main conflicts in the play arises from Ken straddling two worlds. His mentor, Rothko, is full blown Abstract Expressionist but his peers are creating and driving the Pop Art movement. Ken understands both of these styles of art and is still finding his voice and where his own style will lead. How do we respect and honor the traditions, methodology, and practices that are the bedrock of our training, but use them in a new way to keep art (and in my life, theatre) moving forward? How do we advance the form so as to be relevant today? How do we honor our own artistic impulse and spirit but also acknowledge that the audience is vital to the experience? All of these questions come up in some form in the play and are absolutely relatable for me.
What is special about your collaboration with Mark?
What is special about your collaboration with Preston?
In addition to being a terrific actor, Mark has a great attitude and is game for everything. He approaches the work with a sense of adventure. These are excellent qualities for an actor.
It’s always a treat to work with actors who have been doing this longer and know more than me. I, of course, have my own way of approaching the work, but I’m constantly learning and adding new tools to my skill set. Preston and I, from day one, were on the same page about what the play is, what work needed to be done, and how to go about it, and it has been wonderful to get to learn from him as he attacks the work. He is at 100% all the time and it’s inspiring to see him dig in and let it rip. He has (as you’ll see if you don’t know it already) a LOT to say in this play… I’m talking 2-3 page monologues all over the place… and his ability to make the play NOT feel preachy, didactic, or melodramatic is astounding to me. He is so specific with text, physical action, and dramatic action that it forces me to match that level of detail. The moments of real connection between the two characters are easy for me to play because he’s giving me so much to which I can just listen and respond.
What does Mark laugh about?
What does Preston laugh about?
We’re going to step out on the town tomorrow. I’m sure I’ll be able to answer that question more completely after that.
Himself and the overall process. Even though the play has some intense moments and is a real challenge to work on, we manage to have a lot of fun in the rehearsal process. There are lots of comic moments in the show and Preston is great at finding those… but we probably laugh most at ourselves. If one of us makes a bad choice or does something dreadful, we have no problem calling ourselves out and laughing about it. And, as is reflective of any good rehearsal process, these moments happen frequently!
Imagine you have an empty magic canvas. Whatever you write or paint on it appears on the walls of a million US households. What would your message or picture be?
Cherish those you love and those who value you. Don’t waste a second on those who would deride your aspirations. Pursue your dreams whole-heartedly and try to live without regret.
I think we, as a culture, spend a lot of time thinking in terms of absolutes and extremes. True listening and understanding are in rare supply. I suppose my message would be an attempt to remind people that black and white don’t exist, only shades of grey. I know that sounds hippie-dippie and cliché, but I believe if people really stopped and listened, more effective and efficient progress might be made.
What is your most treasured theatre memory?
I have so many but I’d have to say today’s rehearsal. Anytime I’m able to work in the theatre, I’m grateful . And I’m doubly so in this situation because David Ledingham and Don Mackay are growing a new theatre which is a delicate business and to my mind a vital one . There is a kind of grace in the work – even when it is not easy or going particularly well. What is most important is being engaged in the process at every turn. I hope I’ll get many more chances to do it and maybe, decades down the line, I’ll be able to look back at all the great experiences – then maybe one memory will outshine the others.
I can’t say that I have a specific memory that stands out above the rest. I suppose the most treasured aspect of my theatrical life is that I am, and have been, fortunate enough to work with relative consistency. Given the up and down nature of this business that is a real luxury and I try not to ever take having work for granted. On a related note, I love getting to explore new places and my theatrical life, thus far, has given me wonderful opportunities to check out communities I hadn’t been exposed to before!
Have you been to Aspen before? What is your favorite place in the area so far?
My sister, Alexis, was married here in 2009. It was a marvelous wedding and we did a lot of skiing – downhill and cross country. This summer, I’ve taken some wonderful walks in the woods. As much fun as the town of Aspen is – to me, there is nothing as the mountains that surround it.
First time! I’m in love with the whole area – it’s absolutely gorgeous. My trips hiking up the mountain have been my favorites thus far. During the early part of the process I would hike part way up the mountain and do text work up there in nature. I apologize to anyone who happened to hike by me while I was saying things to myself, but it was a beautiful place to work on the script!
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The play, RED, will be performed FRI & SAT, June 22 / 23, at the District Theatre in Aspen. Get more information here!