Forward Theater Company: Presents Tony Award-winning Red

Beginning January 16th at Overture Center

Madison, WI – Forward Theater Company continues its 2013-2014 season with Red, by John Logan, the 2010 Tony Award-winner for Best Play. The play is startling snapshot of the brilliant artist Mark Rothko at the height of his fame, a play hailed as “intense and exciting” by The New York Times. Red will be presented in the Playhouse at Overture Center, November 7 – 24.

In a New York studio on the Bowery, famed abstract expressionist painter Mark Rothko asks his young assistant the loaded question, “What do you see?” It’s 1958, and Rothko has just been offered the biggest commission in the history of modern art — a set of murals for Manhattan’s exclusive Four Seasons restaurant. When his new assistant challenges his artistic integrity, Rothko must confront his own demons or be crushed by the art world he helped create. Raw and provocative, Red is a searing portrait of an artist’s ambition and vulnerability as he tries to create a definitive work for an extraordinary setting.

“This show embodies a true ‘Forward Theater Company’ kind of play,” said Artistic Director Jennifer Uphoff Gray. “Red is bold, thought-provoking, American, smart. I love that it handles some issues we haven’t yet explored on the FTC stage. What’s more, I think the community of local artists working on this production is really remarkable. There are so many talented designers and production staff creating incredible art, for a play that is about art. And when you add this incredible design element to the notable cast we have for this play, the result onstage is just electric. I couldn’t be more excited for audiences to experience this production.”

Red is a two-person cast, featuring American Players Theatre star James DeVita as Rothko, and Nate Burger as Ken, the young assistant.

Community Outreach

VSA Wisconsin and Forward Theater joined forces this winter to challenge perceptions and raise awareness about art and the creative process. In partnership with Forward’s production of Red, VSA Wisconsin is presenting a corresponding exhibition, “What is Art? A Showcase of Expressive Responses” created by adults with disabilities. Audience members for Red will be able to view samples of some of the VSA Wisconsin projects in the Playhouse Theatre lobby and talk more about this collaboration before performances. Patrons will also be invited to add their responses to “What is Art?”

Forward Theater Company has also partnered with the Chazen Museum of Art to offer patrons a deeper understanding of Rothko and his work with a free lecture on February 1st, held at Chazen. Sarah K. Rich, an Associate Professor of Art History at Pennsylvania State University, will be giving a lecture entitled: “Rothko and Affect: How does it make us feel if a painting makes us feel?”

This lecture will give an introduction to the work of Mark Rothko and some of his Abstract Expressionist colleagues, with special attention to the ways in which art historians deal with paintings as things that may produce emotion within the viewer. The Chazen Museum of Art is home to an “Untitled” 1968 painting by Mark Rothko, which will be available for viewing by those attending the lecture.

Tickets are now on sale. They may be purchased online at, in person at Overture Center’s ticket office, or by calling (608) 258-4141.

Previews (first Thursdays):  $20 for the general public

Adults Thursdays/Sundays:  $38
Adults Fridays/Saturdays:  $40

Seniors (62+) Thursdays/Sundays:  $33
Seniors (62+) Fridays/Saturdays:  $35

Students Thursdays/Sundays:  $25
Students Fridays/Saturdays:  $27 

Student/Educator Night
The production will have one preview performance, Thursday January 16th at 7:30 pm. For this performance only, $10 tickets are available to high school and college students and educators. Simply ask for the student/educator discount at the box office when purchasing your tickets.

Student Rush 
Student Rush tickets will also be available to high school and college students for $15 apiece, one hour prior to each regular performance, at Overture Center’s ticket office. Students can buy up to two tickets, and must present a valid student ID. 

Pre-Show Talks
FTC will present FREE pre-show talks on the Rotunda Stage, one hour before the curtain time, prior to all Thursday and Sunday performances. (Thursdays 1/16, 1/23, and 1/30 at 6:30 pm, and Sundays 1/19, 1/26, & 2/2 at 1:00 pm.) These talks will give audiences some additional background on the play, the author, and the production elements that bring the play to life. No tickets or reservations are required.

Red is generously sponsored by CUNA Mutual Group, MGE Foundation, Johnson Bank, Michael Best & Friedrich LLP, Isthmus, Dane Arts, the John and Carolyn Peterson Charitable Foundation, Inc., and the Wisconisn Arts Board

The production is supported in part by a grant from the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Artist Biographies

Nate Burger (Ken) makes his Forward Theater and Madison area debut. In Wisconsin, he has appeared regularly at American Players over the last few years, where favorite credits include Richard III, The Critic, Taming of the Shrew, Les Liaisons Dangereuses, and as Troilus in Troilus & Cressida. In Chicago, selected credits include: The Liar, Do The Hustle (Writers’ Theatre); Wasteland, ‘Master Harold’…and the Boys (Timeline Theatre); A Christmas Carol (Goodman Theatre); and The Man Who Was Thursday (New Leaf Theatre). Thanks as always to mom, dad, Erin, Nora, Alicia Pursley, and Kara Ussery. Love to Steph. Nate is a proud graduate of Loyola University Chicago.

James DeVita (Rothko), a native of Long Island, NY, is very happy to be working with Forward Theater for the first time. Jim is an author and actor. Along with his novels, The Silenced and Blue, published by HarperCollins, he is also a widely published playwright, writing for both adults and young audiences. AWARDS: The Distinguished Play Award, AATE; The Intellectual Freedom Award, and the Kentucky Council of English/Language Arts. The American Alliance of Theater and Education honored his body of work with the Charlotte Chorpenning Award. EDUCATION: Jim worked five years as a first mate on the fishing boat JIB VII, out of Great South Bay, NY, studied theater at Suffolk County College and UW-Milwaukee, and attended MATC to become a licensed EMT. Jim is a member of The Dramatists Guild, Actor’s Equity Association, and is also a recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship for Fiction.

Laura Gordon (Director) A Milwaukee based actor and director, Laura is very pleased to return to Forward, where she played Margie in Good People last season and directed Going to St. Ives in 2011. Her directing credits include Venus in Fur, Speaking in Tongues, Almost Maine, Seascape, Laurel and Hardy, Gutenberg! the Musical! (Milwaukee Rep); Love’s Labour’s Lost, The Winter’s Tale (Utah Shakespeare Festival); In the Next Room or the vibrator play (Actors Theater of Louisville); Skin Tight, Memory House (Renaissance Theaterworks); Well (Milwaukee Chamber Theater); Richard III (Notre Dame Shakespeare). An Associate Artist with the Milwaukee Rep, her acting credits include The Diary of Anne Frank, Death of a Salesman, The Lady with All the Answers, Pride and Prejudice, Enchanted April, The Crucible, Doubt, The Clean House, The Beauty Queen of Leenane, Mary Stuart, Endgame and Copenhagen. She received a Lunt-Fontanne Fellowship in 2010. 

About Forward Theater Company

Founded in 2009, FTC creates a home base for Wisconsin theater professionals and audiences that expands the cultural and economic life of the greater Madison area.

For more information, please contact Communications Director Scott Haden, (608) 234-5001,