July 5-6, 7 p.m., and July 7, 4 p.m., The Cellar at the Carter Payne, 320 S. Weber St., facebook.com/counterweighttheatrelab
As the lights come up onstage, actor Steve Emily stares out over the audience, eyes narrowed in concentration. The first line he speaks is to actor Joe O’Rear, who stands nervously in the doorway: “What do you see?” It’s an appropriate way to open a play presented by Counterweight Theatre Lab, which never shies away from making its audience think. The works they present consistently delve into deep human truths or traumas, often asking questions that stick with the viewer long after the curtain falls. Red, a play about famed abstract expressionist painter Mark Rothko (you know, the one with the fuzzy colored rectangles), does the same. It beautifully weaves together philosophy, humor, history and tragedy, but you can’t credit the script alone for its success.
With only two actors bearing the weight of long monologues and conversations on creativity and art world zeitgeists, Red isn’t the kind of play you might sit down and read for funsies. But Emily as Rothko and O’Rear as his assistant, Ken, put so much emotion and physicality into their lines, the play doesn’t come across as weighty or self-important — except when it wants to. Rothko was, after all, a weighty and self-important man.
At its best, Red turns the audience into a third character. We become the murals Rothko is painting to decorate a new Four Seasons restaurant — a commission that brings him two years of grief. He stares critically at us, discusses our vulnerability and our meaning. We feel all at once valued and lacking in his eyes. But we aren’t only the paintings. At times, we’re also Ken. Ken and Rothko’s interactions could be any interaction between a young creative and the mouthpiece of the generation that came before him. We see Rothko’s irrelevance creeping into the studio, even as he tries to shut it out, and we feel Ken’s frustration with this artist he admires.
This makes the second act so satisfying. Ken isn’t always just Rothko’s dutiful assistant. He has his breaking points; at times he delivers lines so piercing I half expect the bass to drop and Lil Jon’s “Turn Down for What” to come out of the record player in the corner.
But, through all of the philosophy and tension, it’s funny, too. The moments of humor — expertly delivered by these two talented actors — make this play work.
Red functions best in an intimate setting like The Cellar at the Carter Payne. In this space, we hear every whisper, and suffer the tension when the characters shout. Sitting in one of those chairs, we really are paintings on the wall, hanging in the studio of a man whose creative energy was always too big to be contained in any box.
July 5, 6:30-9:30 p.m., Switchback Coffee Roasters, 330 N. Institute St., free, facebook.com/hearherepoetry
While we always love Hear Here Poetry’s queer open mics, which offer the mic to LGBTQ talent from across the Pikes Peak region and beyond, this should prove a special event. For one, it’s the first Queer Open Mic in a while, so some of our favorite poets and musicians will likely take the stage with new material. Plus, the night will feature a vegan potluck and a special performance by Josephine the Singer (also known as Heidi Beedle, an occasional Indy contributor), who will be dropping her debut Americana album The Mouse People.
Opening reception, July 5, 5-8 p.m., on display through July 31, Art 111 Gallery & Art Supply, 111 E. Bijou St., free, facebook.com/Art111ColoradoSprings
Artist Jamie Moon, who works with clay and soil, says: “My artwork represents the coming together of earth and man. It shows the bond between that which is permanent, and all that is temporary.” In Moon’s solo exhibition at Art 111, viewers should see this influence through her paintings, created with dirt, soil and clay from around the world. Using an acrylic binder to turn the colors of the earth into paint, she creates deeply spiritual pieces that should resonate with all.
Weekends starting at 9:30 a.m., through July 28, The Broadmoor hotel, 1 Lake Ave., free, broadmoorgalleries.com
Fans of live art demonstrations or plein air painting will want to wander the Broadmoor grounds this month, where every weekend a fresh cadre of artists from all over the country will be creating their works in the great outdoors. Working in all kinds of mediums and styles, these artists will be available to chat with viewers and demonstrate their work. See the Broadmoor Galleries website for a list of participating artists.