Seeing Red with Prof. Vann

15 Feb

Red at Arena Stage

UHPer TJ Billard recently saw the play Red with Prof. Vann and the rest of the class at Arena Stage.  Check out his writeup below — it looks like it was a good time!


What do you think of when you think about Rothko? Red squares, probably. Maybe modern art museums. Or maybe you have no idea who Rothko is. There was certainly some of each among the students of Dr. Cheryl Vann’s Beyond Shakespeare Arts &Humanities course before visiting the Arena Stage’s February 3 production of Red.

With the support of the University Honors Program, Dr. Vann and her students travelled down to Waterfront to watch the show, which tells the story of famous artist Mark Rothko and his fictional assistant, Ken, who challenges Rothko’s philosophies on art and the commercialism of creating an exhibit for the first Four Seasons restaurant.

Most powerfully, the play deals with the idea of what “good” art is and how new generations learn from, but kill off their artistic fathers in order to create their own space in and own message for the world.

Reviews of the play’s quality ran the full gamut among the students of Dr. Vann’s class, with some finding the play unentertaining or others finding it repetitive, and others finding it brilliant or inspiring. What remained constant, however, was acknowledgment of the show’s effectiveness is changing the way the audience not only looks at the work of Rothko, but at art in general. The performance sparked hours long discussion on interesting and important topics in art, as well as abstract principles like truth and perception. The outing Dr. Vann’s class took to see Red exemplifies the great opportunities afforded to us as students in a city which is full of rich culture and abundant sources of art and history. Moreover, this experience exemplifies the great benefits to be derived from being a member of the honors program. The learning we do in the classroom is important. The learning we do outside the classroom is memorable. The two combined are invaluable.


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