PlayMakers Repertory Company, the professional theater in residence at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, kicks off its new Mainstage Season Sept. 19-Oct. 7 with John Logan’s Tony Award-winning play “Red.”

As PlayMakers’ hit play “Opus” (2009) took audiences behind the music of a world famous string quartet, “Red” goes into the studio of Mark Rothko, pioneer of abstract expressionism, and into the mind of an artist wrestling with the eternal struggle between art and commerce. Seen through the eyes of his young, increasingly challenging assistant, Rothko agonizes over a lucrative project painting murals for the then-new Four Seasons Restaurant.

“Red” was nominated for seven Tony Awards in 2010, winning six including the top award for “Best Play.” It was also honored with the Drama League Award for Distinguished Production of a Play and the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Play, among other accolades.

Variety reported that “Logan sends American painter Mark Rothko into battle with his demons in this electrifying play of ideas, and the artist’s howls are pure music.”  The Washington Post described the play as having “spiritual intensity and an almost sexual energy… {showing}the artist consumed by the physical demands of his work.”

PlayMakers producing artistic director Joseph Haj said, “This play is a fantastic look at an artist at work in his studio, and a story that explores the teacher/student, mentor/mentee relationship. We’re thrilled to have Vivienne Benesch back with us this year to direct this much admired play.”

In the role of Rothko, PlayMakers’ production features Stephen Caffrey, an accomplished stage actor, who has appeared in theaters across the country, including several times at San Francisco’s American Conservatory Theatre. Caffrey has appeared in many TV series, including “Tour of Duty,” as a series regular, “CSI Miami,” “Columbo,” “Seinfeld” and “Murder She Wrote,” among others. His movies include “Cinema Verite” for HBO, “Longtime Companion” and the upcoming film “Lucky Stiff.”

Actor-director-producer Benesch will direct the PlayMakers production. She has worked extensively on and Off Broadway, in film and television, and at many of the country’s most eminent theaters. Benesch is artistic director of the Chautauqua Theater Company and Conservatory in New York. She has directed many productions for Chautauqua and is a frequent director at The Juilliard School. Benesch directed “In the Next Room (or the vibrator play)” at PlayMakers last season and is a lecturer this year in UNC’s department of dramatic art.

All performances of “Red” will be in the Paul Green Theatre at UNC’s Center for Dramatic Art on Country Club Road.

Show times will be 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, 2 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 29, and 2 p.m. Sundays. For a complete schedule, more information and to purchase tickets, call (919) 962-PLAY (7529) or visit www.playmakersrep.org. Tickets are $15 to $50.

In conjunction with “Red,” PlayMakers will host “The Vision Series-Directors in Conversation,” a behind-the-scenes preview with Vivienne Benesch at 6:30 p.m. on Sept. 12. Theatre-goers and others interested in the creative process are invited to the Paul Green Theatre to share coffee and hors d’oeuvres provided by series sponsor Jujube Restaurant, learn about the production and get a behind-the-scenes look at the design and vision for the show. Emily Kass, director of the Ackland Art Museum and an expert on mid-century art and the work of Mark Rothko, will also speak.

“The Vision Series” is free and open to the public. Reservations are encouraged, as space is limited. Call PlayMakers’ box office at 919.962.7529 to RSVP.

Other special events during “Red” will include:

  • Sept. 10, 7 p.m.: an “In the Wings” discussion with the creative team at the Durham County Library’s Main Library, 300 N. Roxboro St., downtown Durham;
  • Sept. 17, 6 p.m.: a program with the director and company members at McIntyre’s Books in Fearrington Village, Pittsboro;
  • Sept. 19-21, 7:30 p.m.: preview performances;
  • Sept. 22, 7:30 p.m.: the opening night performance, with a complimentary gala party afterward;
  • Sept. 29, 2 p.m.: open captioned performance;
  • Sept. 26 and 30: free post-show discussions with the creative team;
  • Oct. 2: an all-access performance for attendees with special needs, with sign language interpretation and audio description; and
  • Oct. 6 and 7: free post-show “Mindplay” discussions sponsored by the North Carolina Psychoanalytic Society.

Carolina Meadows and Counter Culture Coffee are co-producing sponsors for “Red.”

During its 2012-13 Mainstage Season, PlayMakers will also present a specially commissioned world premiere adaptation of Moliere’s “Imaginary Invalid” (Oct. 24-Nov. 11); the holiday classic “It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play” (Nov. 28-Dec. 16); plus Lorraine Hansberry’s “A Raisin in the Sun” and 2012 Tony Award-winner “Clybourne Park” (performed in rotating repertory Jan. 26-March 3). The season ends with the dazzling hit musical “Cabaret” (April 3-21). 

PlayMakers is based in UNC’s College of Arts and Sciences. The Drama League has named PlayMakers one of the “best regional theatre companies in America.”

Coverage note: Media are welcome to cover “The Vision Series” preview and director’s talk at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 12. Photography, videography, lights and flashes are not restricted. For assistance, call (919) 962-5359.

PlayMakers contact: For press information, interviews, photos or poster art, contact Connie Mahan, (919) 962-5359, cmahan@email.unc.edu .