Category Archives: Season 8

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.

Choosing a Season: A Diary (part 2)

Now that One Flea Spare has closed, the focus of the company has returned to what we’ll do next season. We continue with our series of posts on choosing a season that started with part 1. Again, Artistic Director, Michael Dove:

OK. So, first an apology for going a few months in-between these posts. I did the last one on December 7th, and here it is mid-March, and not only have we not announced our season (after hoping to do so a few weeks ago), but I haven’t even been checking in and reporting on the process. The Forum Transparency Police have given me a swift slap on the wrist and we are moving on.

What we have been doing over these past few weeks and months is reading. Reading. Reading. Then discussing. Then cutting down the “shortlist” and reading and discussing again. What started as a list of about 50 plays made its way down to 7-8.

Now, in certain years, we’ve had two solid choices and then some time where it didn’t look like we’d find a third only to have an 11th hour surprise that excited us all and made the season complete–both numerically and spiritually.

This year, we really love more than three. Some have returned to the list after not quite making it, for one reason or another, in seasons’ past. They include those “dream projects” that didn’t fit in previous line-ups, plays that have literally been developing over the years and keep getting better and better, and a few completely new ones that just came onto our radars and have us seriously jazzed about the prospects of producing them.

This past Sunday, we gathered to talk about the list and discuss what excited us most about each project. What themes seem to be surfacing, what the stories say about us, in this present moment, and what questions these plays pose to our audience. Many came with some fears, too: “Can we really afford that? Will this story speak to audiences in the way we think the playwright intended? Are we the right group to tell it?”

We then take all of these factors and see how they stack up against one another. It’s not quite alchemy, an I still don’t exactly understand how it all comes together, but it’s a beautiful and challenging experience.

So why haven’t we just come up with a season and told you all about it? Well, for many reasons. In essence, we’ve confirmed some choices, but we are throwing a few unconventional ideas into how we produce, next season, and that takes a bit more planning. Some possible collaborations to confirm, a few different scheduling ideas. So, at the risk of going on and on in this uber-cryptic manner, I’ll just say that we are playing with a few really exciting plans that go beyond our typical three-show/four week run way of producing and that takes a bit more time than usual. (tease! tease!)

Stay tuned….I promise you’ll hear from me sooner than later…..

–Michael

 

Choosing a Season: A Diary (part 1)

We are in between shows, at the moment, but this is the time of the year when we start looking ahead to next season and start planning what our lineup will be. This is the first of a series of “diary” entries about that process as we put together season 8. Part 1 is by Artistic Director Michael Dove:

So, here we are again. The most interesting/exciting/nerve-wracking part of running a theatre. I suppose, when it comes down to it, this is the primary task of the artistic director. Sure, there are loads more that go into the job, but the planning and executing of our seasons is what I spend the most time thinking about.

When I was asked to start this journal/diary, I think it was assumed that I’d have some procedure as to how we choose a season…some roadmap or plan that has been devised over the seven years we’ve been around. If I’ve learned anything, though, it’s that each year seems to come about somewhat differently, each time. It’d save a lot of stress and back-and-forth-ing if we had a clear plan going into each year, but I think that the way these seasons come about leaves a lot of room for surprise and inspiration. Somehow, they always happen. I probably nearly convince the company and board that they won’t, on a yearly basis, but somehow they do.

We do have a few guiding principals. 1) We have our mission, for starters. It, too, has evolved and changed as we’ve grown, but always feels truer and stronger in each iteration. We take it very seriously and feel that it gets closer and closer to the ideal version of what we want this theatre to be. I could probably write a whole post on the history of our mission (and how each new version has been reflected in each season), but the current version states that we are a theatre that:

produces adventurous, relevant, and challenging plays that provoke discussion and build community

So, that’s a start. I want our shows to challenge audiences in a meaningful way through adventurous writing. I want to do plays that take you on a journey through stories that make you think and feel long after the show has ended. Stories that talk about current social issues, political questions, and/or topics that have local, national, and global relevance. It’s what our idea of what theatre should do and what we make our focus when choosing, producing and hosting discussions about our season.

2) Next, we have made a commitment to choosing seasons that, as a whole, ask a compelling question. It’s a theme that I want audiences to be thinking about when seeing each show and when discussing them in context to one another. This current season, for instance, is a series of plays that are connected by a theme of HOME. As we settled into our new space in Silver Spring, we kept coming back to discussions about what it meant to be in a new location and a new community and the shows we chose reflected these talks we had as a company. We wanted to share stories that asked what it meant to be “part of a place.”

Sometimes, like this season, these themes come before the shows are picked. Sometimes, one play will speak to us in a certain way and it guides us in what other shows to put around it.

3) And then there’s the “don’t do crap” factor. I’m not even kidding. I never want us to do a show I don’t LOVE. Never produce theatre that makes it difficult to look at yourself in the morning. We might not always reach our goals and productions may not be as good as we had planned, but we will have tried and bled to make it happen because the play was good enough to warrant that. Sounds simple and it is. Don’t do crap.

There are a bunch of other things that go into how we start, for sure. Everything from wanting to do big shows that feature company members or artists who we love to how much can we squeeze out of the budget we have. I still have a ritual of reading The Empty Space by Peter Brook, each year, just because it’s good and keeps us honest.

So, that’s where we start. I’ll do the next post on where the plays come from and how we make our way through a shortlist that is short only in its relation to every play ever written.

–md