W.A. Franke Honors will host a reading of Red, celebrating The Return of Rothko

April 18, 2024
three people smiling one holding a play Red brick wall background

American abstract painter Mark Rothko’s famous work, "Green on Blue," will return to its home in University of Arizona Art Museum’s permanent collection later this month after having previously been on loan at Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris, where it was featured in the largest exhibition of the artist’s work ever assembled. 

Rothko's green on blue painting

Mark Rothko, Green on Blue (Earth-Green and White), 1956, Oil on canvas, Gift of Edward Joseph Gallagher, Jr.

To celebrate the return of the Rothko, W.A. Franke Honors students Nic Owen and Mireya Borgen, along with award-winning professor Patrick Baliani, will be performing a reading of the play “Red” by John Logan, a dramatic account of Rothko’s life and work. Red features two characters: Rothko, who will be voiced by Professor Baliani, and Ken, Rothko’s new assistant, played by Owen. Borgen will read stage directions as narrator. The play is course material in two of Professor Baliani’s classes this term, HNRS 302: Modern Art and Mental Illness and Visual Art and Brain Studies.
“I hope that people will walk away with a greater appreciation for art, as well as a curiosity for the life behind the art,” said Borgen.  As the narrator, Borgen serves an important role in contextualizing the actions of Rothko and Ken throughout the reading.  
“Working with Professor Baliani on any project is a constant joy,” she continued, “Red has been no exception. He constantly inspires me to strive for an improved appreciation of art and literature and pushes me out of my comfort zone. I have learned, as any student of Professor Baliani has, to always be bold.” 
A Franke Honors senior, Borgen will be graduating this May with her B.A. in English and Political Science, and a minor in Spanish. During her undergrad, she has also been working on her accelerated Master’s in English Literature, which she will complete in the spring of 2025. Her Honors Thesis work centers on the economic autonomy of women from the early modern to contemporary period, with a focus on texts from Shakespeare, Virginia Woolf, and Taylor Swift.  
“There is, for me, nothing I aspire more to than to be able to continue my own research and writing, and also to have a hand in improving the writing and challenging the minds of students in the classroom,” she said. 
The past few semesters, Borgen has been working as a research assistant on the Samuel Pepys Project, now entitled Samuel Pepys’s Worlds. This digital humanities project has aimed to create a social network from the 1660 and 1665 diary entries from seventeenth-century British naval administrator, Samuel Pepys. Borgen has also preceptored Professor Baliani’s Calderwood Seminar, HNRS 208H-001: Race, Class, and Gender on the American Stage the past two fall semesters and hopes to teach alongside him again this coming fall.  
Both Borgen and Owen have taken several different courses with Professor Baliani over the last few years, and for Owen, this has included a collaboration with Tucson’s Rogue Theatre, giving speeches and writing and publishing play reviews. 
“Three years ago, Professor Baliani taught me how to write. Now, we're sharing a stage,” said Owen, a junior at the Franke Honors College studying Sociology with a minor in Art. “I have found this whole experience to be pretty enlightening for the both of us, but his consistency and dedication keeps teaching me that practice can always make things better.” 
Owen enjoys creating art through videography and poetry, and receives much inspiration from his love of the outdoors, as well as wisdom he has gained from his Franke Honors professors, Baliani and Claire McLane. After taking an Honors creative writing class with McLane, he discovered a passion for poetry. Currently, Owen is working on a poetic exploration of queerness and masculinity through the lens of the Sonoran Desert, and will be featuring a screening of his poetry-film, Make Straight in the Desert, soon. Owen includes political meaning in much of his work, using his voice, art and social media platforms to educate and amplify voices that often aren't often heard from. 
Pursuing many mediums but not having acted since middle school, Owen has found it both rewarding and challenging to work a different artistic muscle for the Return of Rothko. 
“I hope that viewers walk away from Red with the notion that being close-minded and stuck in your ways is unproductive and can make you lose sight of your truest goals,” explained Owen. “Like Rothko and Ken were able to expand one another's horizons, I hope that we can broaden the minds of our audience.” 
There will be two performances of the reading of Red—one in the Honors Village Courtyard on April 23 from 2:00 to 3:15 PM, and at the University of Arizona Museum of Art on Thursday, April 25 at 11:00 AM. Their reading at UAMA will feature Rothko’s work, “Green on Blue,” as a center backdrop. 

RSVP to attend the reading of Red in the Honors Village Amphitheatre