Author Archives: forumblogger

Combining Bob and Chuck

Bobrauschenbergamerica Production Dramaturg Laura Esti Miller’s note on the unique playwrighting style of Charles L. Mee and how it matches Robert Rauschenberg’s visual art:

In bobrauschenbergamerica, playwright Charles L. Mee takes us on a road trip through a collaged landscape of found art and uniquely American experiences. Mee honors Robert Rauschenberg’s work and influence with a piece that spotlights elements of the master pop artist’s style – integrating aspects of painting and collage, creating sculpture with found elements, and breathing life into everyday objects.

Robert Rauschenberg next to his piece, SOR AQUA (VENETIAN)

In 1961, Rauschenberg was invited to deliver a piece for an exhibition at the Galerie Iris Clert, for which artists were asked to create portraits of owner Iris Clert. Before the exhibition, Rauschenberg sent a telegram to the gallery that read, “This is a portrait of Iris Clert if I say so.” Rauschenberg believed that art is what you make of it, and abstraction is exactly what you are looking at.

Mee refers to his own plays as assemblages and collages, so he is a natural, corresponding match for undertaking a work about Rauschenberg’s life and art. Mee delights in playwriting as a public form. He posts his scripts online and as part of “the (re)making project,” invites other playmakers to “pillage the plays” and create an “entirely new piece out of the ruins.”  He says on his website, “There is no such thing as an original play. …sometimes some of us write about our own innermost lives, believing that, then, we have written something truly original and unique. But, of course, the culture writes us first, and then we write our stories.”

Charles L. Mee

Though Mee speaks of his own plays here, this is an apt description of Rauschenberg’s work, as well. “[They are] jagged, filled with sharp edges, filled with things that take sudden turns, careen into each other, smash up, veer off in sickening turns. That feels good to me. It feels like my life. It feels like the world.”

Taking a cue from Mee, the following is a quote from his own script:

Art is made in the freedom of the imagination
with no rules
it’s the only human activity like that
where it can do no one any harm
so it is possible to be completely free
and see what it may be that people think and feel
when they are completely free
in a way, what it is to be human when a human being is free
and so art lets us practice freedom
and helps us know what it is to be free
and so what it is to be human

-Laura Esti Miller, Dramaturg


Life As Art: Annie Houston

As we jump into rehearsals for BOBRAUSCHENBERGAMERICA, we’ve asked the members of the cast and creative team to tell us a bit about themselves! The play centers around a backyard cook-out setting and we’ve been talking a lot about what it is to be an American, what is the American experience, and looking at how we live our lives as an artistic process.

Our first Life As Art profile is on the extraordinary Annie Houston!

(note: the “Art and Life” title is inspired by the great Robert Rauschenberg book, “Rauschenberg: Art and Life” by Mary Lynn Kotz. Check it out!)


Name: Annie Houston

Hometown:  Mandeville, Jamaica

Current town:  Washington, DC

Character: BOB’S MOM

What has been your “Quintessential American Experience”?  Seeing the Statue of Liberty at age 12 arriving on a boat from England

What has surprised you during the rehearsal process for BOB?  The stories of each member of the cast; the dancing numbers

INSPIRATION  Who inspires you?  Ellen Barkin, Helen Mirren, Yo Yo Ma, the beauty of Jamaica and Big Sur

Inspires your Character?  Dora Matson Rauschenberg, Ann Richards, Nell Bell

FAVORITES  Favorite Chicken Joke?  Chicken soup is good for you.  Unless you’re a chicken!

Favorite Childhood Memory?  Taking walks with my family over land that looked 7 miles down to the Caribbean

Favorite American Artist/Writer/Singer?  Georgia O’Keefe, Tennessee Williams, Nina Simone

5 Favorite States?  California, New Mexico, Colorado, Montana, Maine

5 Favorite BBQ Foods?  Roasted Corn, Mixed Grilled Veggies, Grilled Wild Salmon, Grilled Organic Chicken,  Potato Salad

Why do you think people should come see BOBRAUSCHENBERGAMERICA?  The play is a mirror into ourselves as a culture and we always need to look into the mirror; the play will turn people onto or deepen their understanding of Bob Rauschenberg, an amazing artist.

Open Thread: your responses to ONE FLEA SPARE

As we move into our final three (wow, already???) performances of One Flea Spare, we wanted to share some of the responses we’ve received about the story.

Gathered from twitter (some sent from our lobby twitter-box!) and facebook, we’ve been asking what moments, images, and words have stood out and stuck with you all, after seeing the show. If you’ve been able to catch a performance, let us know what things you are left with and what questions have been turning over in your brain since leaving the theatre! Leave your comments in this post or post them via twitter and include @forumtheatre or #OneFleaSpare.

@estone22 Mrs. Snelgrave’s hand, Morse cooly sitcking her leg out for Kabe… Have to see this again to answer all my questions!
@nevieb definitely morse checking with her hand for her “leaks” – didn’t even need to see the leak to experience her mortification
“and then he vomited up his stomach” is SOME kind of pillow talk
@sadcypress A bathroom break during the interval at One Flea Spare is a lot more self-conscious an act than anticipated. Just sayin. @forumtheatre
@futureworld84 I feel awkward and dirty. #onefleaspare
thegrimripa One Flea Spare is a wonderful show. Act one done so far and I am excited for act two. Great concept and sensual experience!

More Coverage of FLEA

Maura Judkis over at is continuing her backstage, “sneak peek” coverage of One Flea Spare with a new post on one of our favorite props used in the show.

“In a show filled with a lot of icky liquids — the perimeter of the stage is covered in “filth texture,” the actors are covered in dirt, and there’s also brief appearances of blood and spit — the bucket of fake urine is by far, the grossest-looking thing backstage at One Flea Spare.”

(WARNING: article contains both plot and ….urm, appetite spoilers)

THE FLEA by John Donne

Naomi Wallace derived the title of One Flea Spare from John Donne’s poem, The Flea:

Woman Catching Fleas. c.1630. Georges de la Tour.

by John Donne

MARK but this flea, and mark in this,
How little that which thou deniest me is ;
It suck’d me first, and now sucks thee,
And in this flea our two bloods mingled be.
Thou know’st that this cannot be said
A sin, nor shame, nor loss of maidenhead ;
Yet this enjoys before it woo,
And pamper’d swells with one blood made of two ;
And this, alas ! is more than we would do.

O stay, three lives in one flea spare,
Where we almost, yea, more than married are.
This flea is you and I, and this
Our marriage bed, and marriage temple is.
Though parents grudge, and you, we’re met,
And cloister’d in these living walls of jet.
Though use make you apt to kill me,
Let not to that self-murder added be,
And sacrilege, three sins in killing three.

Cruel and sudden, hast thou since
Purpled thy nail in blood of innocence?
Wherein could this flea guilty be,
Except in that drop which it suck’d from thee?
Yet thou triumph’st, and say’st that thou
Find’st not thyself nor me the weaker now.
‘Tis true ; then learn how false fears be ;
Just so much honour, when thou yield’st to me,
Will waste, as this flea’s death took life from thee.

Donne, John. Poems of John Donne. vol I.
E. K. Chambers, ed.
London: Lawrence & Bullen, 1896. 1-2.


Tony Kushner on Naomi Wallace

“Naomi Wallace commits the unpardonable sin of being partisan, and, the darkness and harshness of her work notwithstanding, outrageously optimistic. She seems to believe the world can change. She certainly writes as if she intends to set it on fire.”

—Tony Kushner


“I sat in a theater at the Humana Festival last year, after the closing monologue of ONE FLEA SPARE, unable to move. I had known Naomi Wallace’s work well, having directed an earlier play, and I knew she had tremendous talent and promised to great things. Nothing had prepared me–not my admiration for her plays and for her beautiful, harsh, moving, brilliantly political poetry–for the experience of watching this play, which is in my opinion one of the finest works of dramatic literature written here or in England in the last two decades. Utterly without sentiment but possessed of a very great human heart, ONE FLEA SPARE touches upon many things, class and gender and the pressures of a plague upon internal and external human constructs; and, as I read it, most devastatingly it addresses a tragedy of almost inexpressible dimensions: the consequences of the horrors of biology and Capital on the young. As the play draws to its shattering close I was filled with thoughts of the children of Sarajevo and Rwanda and the slums of America. `Almost’ inexpressible except in the hands of a true poet, and Naomi Wallace so magnificently proves herself to be. Her ability to articulate the inarticulable, grief and loss and suffering beyond endurance, is a source of hope; as is the resilience and passion of the marvelous characters she’s assembled. Everyone who loves the theater should read this play. It has made me INTENSELY envious and very full of joy.”
Tony Kushner

Flea OpenForum: Podcast Trading

We at Forum are BIG podcast listeners and were starting to find that we’d often reference a podcast we’d heard in rehearsal or when talking about a show. So, we decided that this can be a natural extension of OpenForum as we want to share our findings with you and hopefully get some suggestions for continued listening FROM you.

So, with One Flea Spare in our minds, we’ll kick things off with some lovely Plague-casting. In this podcast from The English Programme, Daniel Defoe discusses The Great Plague and its effects on 1665 London, where Flea takes place.

(Perfect for being cooped up at home with this snow storm)