When Director Rob Mason-Brown looks for a play for the company Fred Skeleton Theatre it has to satisfy a few requirements. Rob explains that the company first looks for something that has been successful in New York, particularly Off-Broadway as the company revels in bringing this work to Kelowna.
The second feature, however, is actually the most important to this cutting edge company, “Weird and wonderful and strange... We have our niche and that is always the thing we look for.” Mason-Brown feels that the “line in the sand” of the company’s preference for the unusual was the compelling, disturbing play Christie In Love about 19th Century serial killer John Christie, performed as part of their last season. Fred Skeleton is also known for its big win at the Ozone Festival last year with the provocative play, Venus In Fur. Directed by Rob’s wife, Shannon, the play explores sexuality and the power struggle between men and women in relationships and won the team numerous awards as well as the opportunity to compete at the Theatre BC Festival last July.
Opening this week is the play Red, another Broadway hit, but this time the “strangeness” comes from an exploration of the artistic process. Much like plays like Frost-Nixon, it is a fictionalized version of the real life process artist Mark Rothko (played by Chris Froese) went through to create The Seagram Murals for The Four Seasons Restaurant in New York with a series of young apprentice artists, in the play all combined into one character named Ken (depicted by Jacob Holloway).
Red was actually suggested by Jacob Holloway who was using a speech from the play to audition for theatre school and suggested Rob read it. Rob was moved by the theme of the play which deals with Rothko’s struggle between commercial recognition-the Seagram Murals commission was huge for 1958 at $35,000- and his artistic drive to use his work to provoke thought. Audiences will see the two notable actors mixing paints, stretching canvasses and really painting the abstract art in the style Rothko is famous for.
Rob got his degree in theatre from Trinity St. David and did several professional shows as well as touring with a Theatre for Young Audiences company in Wales, following his family to Kelowna from England after a tough break up. His plan was to spend one year in Canada then return home, but he fell in love with the city and has been here 10 years. Rob, Shannon and the entire team at Fred Skeleton are known for the pride in their work and in Mason-Brown’s words, “continually try to up the bar with every new show.”
Fred Skeleton looks forward to competing in the O-Zone festival with Red and feels like they have another “slick two hander” for this year, but really enjoy the festival more for the connections it makes with other theatre companies in the area.
Red will run this week at Bumbershoot Theatre’s space on May 2 &3, later in May in Lake Country or you can catch it at The O-Zone Theatre Festival in Vernon at The Powerhouse Theatre on May 12. Information and tickets for the Kelowna & Lake Country shows are available at Picatic.com, while the link for tickets for any of the offerings at O-Zone are at http://theatrebc.org/tickets/