Freedom is just a word for nothing left to lose.
It seems unclear who first said this. The message can be interpreted in any number of ways. Like the sense of freedom itself, what it is and who enjoys it. The concept can change with each person and each person’s time of life. Take the life of painter Mark Rothko, most recently interpreted on stage by Washington-based actor of note Ed Gero. Freedom in the play RED, about Rothko and his young challenger assistant, might well be the creative artist’s stand to pursue a vision at the expense of almost everything else in his life. He is tempted by lucre - and his pride – but withdraws in favor of the greater need to be his own man, set his own terms. If the idea of having your splendidly wrought outsize paintings hang in a setting (the Four Seasons restaurant in NY’s Seagram building) compete with the food on plates (quail eggs in aspic in the play) then withdraw them and feel, well, free…
Possibly an old Irish saying but Kris Kristofferson sings it; others have claimed it. Rothko doesn’t actually mouth the words but it is his message to the young forward-looking “modern” fellow in his midst. Gero in person is wholly different, a down to earth family man who may well have tested his own sense of freedom by staying within conventional limits. The couple gave their son advantages while Gero took advantage of Washington as an expanding theatrical scene – without climbing the more obvious professional ladder by way of New York. He is a compelling presence, as he relaxes with a glass of vodka and coke in Tunnicliff’s tavern opposite Eastern Market late Sunday after the day’s two performances. There is plenty of ambition left in him since more or less giving up on, or being given up by, his longtime association with Shakespeare Theatre’s resident company. George Mason has him as teacher=in-residence, where, he confides, a whole new Stage and Screen Department (school?building?) is about to be established whenever Stacy Keach gets around to signing the contract. The latest teaching method is the teleconference: not new by any means but allowing for faculty to be split across the miles.
Gero’s Italian life mixes with his Irish brogue, his knowledge of the Dublin ‘accent’ versus elsewhere in the country. Say ‘whale oil we’ll be fucked’ to get a good account of an Irishman’s pervading pessimism. But Gero’s always reaching out. Washington hasn’t got its theatrical mojo together as well as Chicago. “Here we are in the Athens of the modern world where power and access are the chief calling cards but we have done so little to express it” or words to that effect. To be continued under a second goodly expression: We all wear three masks. The one you think you are, the one you are, and the one we have in common.