Thursday, January 14, 2016

Behind-the-Scenes: Saewert Meets Rothko

David Saewert, SCR Properties Carpenter

In Red, abstract expressionist Mark Rothko is working on the biggest art commission of his time. As his new assistant, Ken aids him, the two begin to debate over art and the cycle of new movements in the art world.

Throughout the play, Rothko and Ken make some progress on the art pieces. So, how do South Coast Repertory work on getting the stage and set ready for a play about an icon of modern art? Properties carpenter David Saewert took on the challenge, with only a matter of weeks to prepare.

What's your role in the Properties Department?

I primarily do "the building," which is a lot of woodworking, welding and, yes, painting. The prop shop functions in a way where we all step in and help out on any given project. I believe this is my third season at SCR as a properties carpenter, although my journey here at began in the scene shop back in 2006.

How did you approach your work on Red?
It is about understanding the process in which the original paintings were created. I did as much research as I could—watching YouTube videos and reading about the artist—to understand Rothko's process and mindset. In doing so, I learned very quickly that these were not simple shapes with minimal color just scrawled out on a canvas. The depth, detail and emotion that went into these works is something I don't think can be understood with just a cursory glance.

What are the challenges with this project?
The biggest challenge is the time factor. Since we just have a few weeks to get everything ready for the production,  I am working much like Rothko: in a very compressed amount of time

The Cerberus dog heads from Myth Adventures
What are a few favorite past productions at SCR?
Several shows that I worked on come to mind, and all for different reasons. I think the memories and experiences of working with Conservatory Director Hisa Takakuwa's team on the Theatre Conservatory Players shows is what really stands out for me. Whether it's creating metal Cerberus dogs heads for Myth Adventures, teaching the kids how to make their own props or even figuring out how to make mixing bowls and various dishes dance in Mary Poppins, these student shows never disappoint.

How do you spend some of your spare time?
I do volunteer some at the Pacific Marine Mammal Center. My hobbies, I suddenly realize, closely resemble my job functions: woodworking, welding and, yes, painting. Does Netflix count? Because, I'm a master at bingeing Netflix.

Any other shows this season that you’re looking forward to working on?
I'm always looking forward to "the next show" whatever it may be, but Red was the big one for me this season. Other than that, I think The Witches (Conservatory Junior Players) and Pinocchio (Theatre for Young Audiences) are going to be fun to work on!

Catch Saewert's work in the production of Red on the Segerstrom Stage, Jan. 22-Feb. 21, 2016.

Find out more about Red

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