Well, as the new artistic director of Actors Theatre of Louisville, he already has big plans. He'll direct not only the wildly popular Girlfriend (which had its world premiere at the Rep with Les at the helm) there, but also the classic epic Long Day's Journey into Night.
On top of that, he and playwright Sarah Ruhl reunite for the world premiere of her new play, Dear Elizabeth, based on the letters poets Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell wrote to each other. Dear Elizabeth plays at Yale Rep, where their production of Three Sisters landed after its run here at Berkeley Rep.
Rock on, Les!
Well, we announced five of seven plays, that is. But, they are awesome!
Written by David Henry Hwang
Directed by Leigh Silverman
Main Season | Roda Theatre
August 24–October 7, 2012
West Coast premiere
Adapted from Homer
By Lisa Peterson and Denis O’Hare
Translation by Robert Fagles
Directed by Lisa Peterson
Limited Season | Thrust Stage
October 12–November 11, 2012
Read an interview with Denis O'Hare
THE WHITE SNAKE
Written and directed by Mary Zimmerman
A co-production with Oregon Shakespeare Festival
Main Season | Roda Theatre
November 9–December 23, 2012
TROUBLEMAKER, OR THE FREAKIN KICK-A ADVENTURES OF BRADLEY BOATRIGHT
Written by Dan LeFranc
Limited Season | Thrust Stage
January 4–February 3, 2013
Get a glimpse at Dan LeFranc's process
Stay tuned: we'll announce more soon!
Wonder no more! Mixing rousing classical music with a bit of Chet Baker, the playlist is as follows:
• Mozart: Adagio and Fugue in C Minor for Strings, K. 546
• Mozart: String Quartet in D Major, K. 499 (Hoffmeister) – Allegretto
• Schubert: Piano Trio No. 1 in B Flat, Op. 99 D. 898_ II. Andante un poco mosso
• Bach: French Suite No 1 in D Minor
• Mozart: Don Giovanni, K. 527 Vedrai, carino
• Mozart: Don Giovanni, K. 527 Di molte faci il lume
• Mozart: Don Giovanni, K. 527 Sola, sola in buio loco
• Mozart: Symphony No. 41 in C Major, K. 551, Jupiter I. Allegro vivace
• Chet Baker: Cheryl Blues (Chet Baker in Milan)
• Schubert: Symphony No. 8 in B Minor
• Schubert: Symphony No. 8 in B Minor, D. 759, Unfinished II. Andante con moto, Part I
Two men (other than Justin Beiber) pull at my heart strings: Jackson Pollock and Dexter Morgan. Once I got kicked out of the MoMA for standing too close to the Pollock they had on display, and I’ve seen every episode of the first two seasons (my fave) of Dexter five times. It wasn’t until our production of Red got underway that I realized just why Jackson and Dexter were the men of my dreams: splatter. Whether it is blood or paint or paint that looks like blood, I love me some splatter, making the Red costumage my favorite of the season.
By Lynn Eve Komaromi, director of development
There’s a special thrill knowing that you played a hand in Cupid’s quest to bring two lovers together. I take pride in the fact that I seated two single guests together at our gala years ago which budded into a relationship that lives on today. Or that the photographer I hired for another gala would have never met the chef in the kitchen that night, leading to nuptials just a couple of years later. Love blossoms at Berkeley Rep.
So imagine the joy I’m feeling now that Berkeley Rep set the stage for Cupid’s quiver and arrow…this time for my nephew! It was 2009, and we were preparing for the world premiere of American Idiot. My nephew Ryan, a huge theatre fan who was known to make weekend trips to New York solely to take in a show, called me up to see if he could purchase a block of tickets for his friends. No problem -- 10 tickets would be held at will-call that Labor Day weekend.
Only Les Waters goes to New Haven an Obie-winning director and comes back a male model.
Allow me to extrapolate. Our story begins in the August of 2010, my first day at Berkeley Rep, and my first encounter with a staff member, who just happened to be the Les Waters. Knowing nothing about Les at the time, other than his working relationship with Sarah Ruhl, I will never forget the day we met. What he said in conversation may contain a few too many four-letter words to write here — though if you follow my personal blog, the quote can be found. From that day forward, I knew Les would be my favorite member of the Reptile family.
I soon learned that Les and I have common loves for expensive sweaters, orange snack foods, vintage clothing, vulgarity, and this industry that we refer to as “playing pretend.” Therefore, we have spent most of our time at work talking about man sweaters he can’t afford, and man sweaters I dream of my fictitious future husband wearing. Perhaps our best clothing conversation occurred in the fall, the day after his return from restaging Sarah Ruhl's Three Sisters at Yale Rep.
One night in New Haven, Les was at dinner with his wife Annie and Sarah Ruhl, when a gentleman approached their table asking if Les was a professor at Yale.
He replied in his charming accent, “No.”
The man thought that was unfortunate because Les had “just the look he was looking for.”
After further conversation where Les revealed he was directing a show at Yale, he was, within minutes, booked for his first modeling gig.
The next day, he went to Gant clothing — a shi shi Connecticut-based clothier that was once the official clothier of Yale. Think Ralph Lauren meets Tommy Hilfiger, but four times the price. Les spent the day posing moodily in beautiful sweaters, and took home a stash of merch at the end of the day.
When he returned to Berkeley, he immediately told me the story in his witty dry accent as he revealed the outrageously expensive additions to his wardrobe.
Fast forward to February, and Les’ return to the Reptiles to direct Red after beginning his new life in Louisville. After a production meeting he pulls me aside, busts out his iPad, and reveals that his model shot has gone viral. There he is, the Les Waters, moody as ever, with a caption reading “the shirt that dressed Yale.”
“Wow. Your children must think you’re so cool now!”
Les disagreed, but within 24 hours, his daughter Maddie had blogged the photo. But, that, my dear readers, is part of Les’ charm that captivates the camera: he has no idea just how cool people, including his teenage daughter, think he is.
So, dearest Les, here is to your future as a male model, your life ahead of you in Louisville, and many more wonderfully overpriced sweaters that will undoubtedly find their way into your life.
And Happy Opening!
We're jazzed to be opening Les Waters' production of Red tonight. What's really exciting to us here is that the show isn't just for art lovers. Sure, it's a play about Mark Rothko and his new apprentice as the famed artist begins work on the Seagram mural commission, but it's so much more than an art-history lesson. At its core, this is a sizzling play about the relationships between mentors and their students. You can hear playwright John Logan and director Les Waters talk about these themes and more in our video introduction to the play. And if you haven't reserved your seats for the show yet, we'd recommend doing that soon -- this show is one red hot ticket! (We're a really punny staff...)
To celebrate these tropes in Red, and to keep our commitment to being a green leader in our field, we'll be supporting East Bay artists and teachers by donating any art supplies you bring to Berkeley Rep to the East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse. It's a great organization that can repurpose and resell all kinds of new and used supplies; you can check out its website.
Red previews have only just begun, and already people are buzzing about the paintings onstage. What will happen to those canvases? What will happen to the fabric the actors are stretching and priming?
The canvases are the handiwork of the scenic art shop. Preview audience members have suggested that we auction off the canvases (signed by the actors) at the end of the run, which would be really fun. But -- bummer -- we’re required by contract to destroy the Rothko-like work after the show closes.
But the fabric is another story. The prop shop preps a week’s worth every Monday, and by the end of the run -- 53 performances -- we’ll have used 190 yards of 144-inch fabric. But don’t worry, it’s not ending up in a landfill. We’ll be donating it to local artists. And leftover paint will go to the Museum of Children’s Art in Oakland.
Want to get involved and donate art supplies to local artists and teachers? Bring those items to the show! We have a bin in the lobby all set up for the East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse.
You can read more about how the scenic art and prop shops tackled the challenge of creating Rothko-like canvases in our Red program -- and we'll be giving you more behind-the-scenes peeks in future posts.
On the occasion of Red's first performance tonight, our Literary Associate Julie McCormick offers some thoughts on viewing Rothko's work:
One thing that postmodernism taught us (along with the fact that it’s possible to wear lobster claw shoes and meat dresses in public) is that the conditions in which we encounter something — whether it is a person, an idea, or a work of art — are as important to our understanding of the subject as the subject itself. Watching a film in a darkened theater is a drastically different experience than watching the same movie on your i-whatever or on the treadmill at the gym. A play performed in 2,000-seat proscenium with a well-curated program on your lap can evoke an entirely different response from the same play performed in a black box theatre, or as a site-specific work in some edgy warehouse. The same goes for a painting. How do you first approach it? Is it crowded, salon style, on a wall with dozens of other pieces of every shape, size, and genre? Or does it command an entire wall, like the Mona Lisa? What else can you see? Other paintings, sculptures, a view of the outdoors?
Rothko was excruciatingly specific in how his work was to be displayed, giving galleries headaches and detailed instructions on how high off the ground his paintings needed to go and how much space there had to be in between his canvases and those belonging to other artists. This is at least in part because Rothko viewed his works less as paintings and more as experiences. If a viewer was preoccupied with the painting as a painting, they would miss the deeper spiritual essence the artist sought to convey.
Some concerns, such as the amount of light in a gallery, are practical as well as aesthetic. Works on paper like watercolors, pen-and-ink sketches, and prints are usually placed in dimly lit rooms to protect the sensitive paper and ink. Art museums often have large collections of these fragile works that they rotate periodically so that no one piece gets too much exposure. (A little known fact: these print collections are often available to the public via appointment.) Paints are made of a variety of organic and inorganic substances that decay over time. Many of the pigments that painters use are extremely volatile, changing and fading over time. Van Gogh’s famous Bedroom in Arles, for example, with its iconic blue walls, was actually most likely a lilac color at the time it was painted. True to his agenda of elevating content over form, Rothko was not particularly concerned with the physical integrity of his canvases. He knocked together low-quality wood in rickety frames, haphazardly stapled on canvas, and smeared them with a noxious witches’ brew of glue, egg yolks, pigments, and other mysterious ingredients. Much to the consternation of art conservationists, many of his paintings have already started to decay and must be kept in dark storage. What to do with paintings that have altered over time is a question that won’t be answered anytime soon, but some have come up with intriguing alternatives.
If you really want to look at a Rothko, ignore the poster hanging over the cooler at work or the thumbnail on Google. Head over to SFMOMA and go up to the second floor. Rothko’s No. 14 will be waiting for you, a vivid red rectangle stacked on top of a deep blue, hovering over a dark plum field. Look at it from across the room, then move closer and let its edges overwhelm you. Blur your eyes, focus on the brush stokes visible at the edge, let the shapes start to vibrate and buzz. Take some time out of your busy life to just observe and experience. More difficult than it seems, but well worth the effort.
Here’s more about viewing a Rothko.
By Brandon Weinbrenner
2 actors. 3 stage managers. 1 director. 1 dramaturg. Me. Small, simple, fascinating. Red.
As the Bret C. Harte directing fellow, I have been given the opportunity to be the assistant director on our newest production, Red. While I can't say that I am actually directing the show, I get to do something more valuable to me at this stage of my fellowship. I get to observe. Watching director Les Waters sink his teeth into John Logan's script is liking watching quiet, brooding genius at work. Oftentimes Les says nothing at all, but watches, fully open and fully committed to the process. The actors discuss their takes on the play's complex themes and countless art theories while Les listens and provides carefully selected feedback. His directing process seems so effortless that my observation of him inspires me to "Keep it simple, stupid."
So often I feel like we can overcomplicate theatre by worrying about political correctness, appealing to a select demographic, or over-philosophizing the subject matter. At the core of good theatre is sheer entertainment. It's the question of what entertains us as viewers that shapes a unique piece of theatre. Red is about the relationship between Mark Rothko and his assistant, Ken. Together they discuss art, ethics, and basic humanity. We watch them work and paint, fight and yell, and ultimately define themselves. It's such a simple structure that it's easy to let the script speak for itself and allow the actors to run rampant. I have to say, I truly believe that Les is the perfect director to keep Red as simple and effective as its meant to be.
I feel so lucky to have this fellowship. I not only get to observe a fantastic staff run a giant theatre, but also get to apply what I'm learning to mentoring the teens at the School of Theatre. As the teens put on their own one-acts, I have to ask myself how I would approach directing their material before I can give worthwhile advice to the young directors. This is when you realize how much you've learned. I have more than a year left in my fellowship and as I get to assistant direct more shows, attend more staff meetings, help put on additional events, and basically deepen my experience in the Bay Area's theatre scene, I hope that I grab on to every kernel of knowledge out there for me to discover. By the end of this, I want to be able to lead a production to as great success as I think Les is ultimately leading Berkeley Rep's latest production, Red.