Category Archives: show notes

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


Notes from the artistic director

Here are the notes from our Artistic Director, Michael Dove, from the dark play or stories for boys program.

And remember—we only have 5 more performances of dark play, so if you haven’t done so already, get your tickets here.  Tonight’s show will be followed by an OpenForum discussion.

Notes from the artistic director

best2Welcome to the final production of Forum’s fifth season!

It’s hard to believe that it’s been five years. Forum’s first production, BECKETT: The Shorter Plays, opened on August 13, 2004; since then, we have produced 15 full shows, 3 late-night programs, and one DC area-wide theatre festival. We’ve performed in10 venues and earned our first Helen Hayes nomination. It has been an amazing ride.

As we prepare to move to our new home in Silver Spring, I wanted to take a moment to thank everyone who has made Forum possible to this point. To all the artists who have graced our stages, backstages, and rehearsal rooms; all the supporters who have contributed both time and financial gifts; the various venue owners and managers; our tireless board and hard-working company members; and the audience members who have allowed us to produce our brand of thought-provoking theatre: from the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU.

In Forum’s first five years, we have revived many classic plays and produced several shows by internationally renowned playwrights. But, just as important, we have strived to introduce DC audiences to new and exciting voices in contemporary theatre. It is with this mission in mind that we are proud and honored to have Carlos Murillo’s first DC production on our stage.

Since seeing dark play or stories for boys at the 2007 Humana Festival of New American Plays, I have become enamored with Murillo’s exciting use of lang-uage and imagery. He’s writing plays that explore our everyday experiences with a style that combines strong storytelling and adventurous theatricality.

Carlos’ plays often use modern technology and media as a backdrop for extremely personal and eternal human struggles. In dark play, half the story takes place in cyberspace, but the situations are no different from many Greek tragedies or plays by Shakespeare.  The e-mail exchanges and chat rooms may be fairly new territories for theatre, but the questions and emotions raised are the same ones we’ve struggled with for thousands of years. Love can be dangerous no matter what century you live in.

Thank you for joining us for this performance and for making these past five years such a success. We look forward to seeing you again in the fall in our new home at Round House Silver Spring. We open our residency with the two-part modern epic Angels in America by Tony Kushner.

If you enjoy Forum’s work, please sign up for our mailing list in the lobby, help us spread the word about dark play by telling a friend (or twenty), and consider supporting us by subscribing to our sixth season. And, if it is within your means, we would really appreciate any contribution you would be willing to give toward our ongoing mission to provide adventurous, thought-provoking productions that resonate beyond the four walls of the theatre.

Enjoy the show—and thank you for making Forum your theatre.


Notes from the Dramaturg

Here are the dramaturgy notes by Mary Resing for dark play or stories for boys:


“Dark play is a kind of game
Where certain players know the rules,
And other players don’t.”—Ms. Spiegel
, dark play or stories for boys

In the late 1960s, the noted performance theorist and stage director Richard Schechner became deeply interested in the boundary that separates performer and spectator. In Dionysus in 69, his revolutionary reworking of The Bacchae, Schechner carefully blurred this line. Night after night, the nearly naked actors would carry out a scripted seduction, seeking to persuade spectators to engage in semi-sexual encounters in front of their fellow audience members. In Dionysus in 69, these willing and often naive audience members became the entertainment. The actors became knowing voyeurs.

Immensely influential, Dionysus in 69 rewrote the rules of theatre. It also set Schechner on a journey that eventually led to his formulation of a theory he called “dark play.” Dark play is the term he used to describe games in which some players are aware of both the game and the script and some players aren’t aware of the game at all. According to Schechner, dark play “subverts order, dissolves frames, breaks its own rules, so that the playing itself is in danger of being destroyed, such as [with] spying, con games, undercover actions, and double agency.”

Fast forward 40 years: Carlos Murillo, a playwright with an interest in the influence of electronic media on storytelling and an affection for Schechner’s theories, hears of a bizarre instance of dark play. In 2003, in suburban England, a 14-year-old boy named “John” used the Internet to create multiple characters and intricate narratives. Via 58,000 lines of text typed into an MSN chat room, John carried out a complex and emotionally intense seduction of a naive older boy named “Mark.” Eventually John convinced Mark that he was being recruited into the British Secret Service and had to undergo a dangerous and bizarre initiation ritual. The ultimate result was criminal convictions for both boys that unmasked both John’s game and Mark’s gullibility.

dark play or stories for boys is the meeting of these two events–Schechner’s drive to explore the boundaries of performance and John’s need to control another human being. The direct inspiration for the play was a February 2005 Vanity Fair article about Mark and John. But Murillo’s work on the piece also had classical roots. Like Dionysus in 69, it was heavily influenced by Euripides’ The Bacchae, a play Murillo calls “my favorite ever.”

Although dark play was written in collaboration with young theatre students at the UC Santa Barbara while Murillo was in residence at the University’s 2005 Summer Theatre Lab, it is not intended to be a lecture on the dangers of the Internet. Rather, it reveals the potentially endless circle of art and life: theatre is reflected in life, which is then reflected in theatre, and so on.

Mary Resing

From the Dramaturg: MARISOL or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Apocalypse

Hey everybody.

We are 3 days out from Opening Night of MARISOL.  Tonight is the final dress rehearsal before the first preview tomorrow.  To serve as an appetizer, here are the program notes from Alan Katz, the dramaturg for MARISOL:

In America, our arts and media have had a long love affair with the apocalypse.

Even before the national news-media obsession with the Y2K virus had folks hording powdered milk and Bisquick in their basements, the horrors of nuclear war held the imagination of readers in the dystopian novels of the Cold War.

In the ‘90s, film studios capitalized on movie-goers fears of the oncoming apocalypse that they released themed doomsday movies in pairs—in 1996-The Arrival and Independence Day, 1997-Volcano and Dante’s Peak, 1998-Armageddon and Deep Impact…I think you get the point.

Jose Rivera’s Marisol was written and produced on the cusp of this fear of the new millennium. But, instead of glorifying and romanticizing the apocalypse, Rivera reaches into the poverty and pain of an imagined end times and draws out human beauty and vulnerability from that ugliness.

The world of Marisol, locked in a struggle paramilitary creditors and vulnerable debtors, may be even more relevant to today’s fears of financial apocalypse than the technological doom of Y2K.  The streets of DC show the seeds of this nightmare: men and women who call asphalt and parks home because a financial institution has foreclosed on their dreams.

The fresh wound of the economic crisis today calls for the performance of Marisol as a salve for the calluses we build against our own community.  This performance links Forum Theater and our audience as a community with the despair and hope of what could come   We need to own Marisol’s journey toward compassion as H Street, as North East, as Washington DC in order to fully absorb Marisol’s message: a love affair with the desperate, perhaps preventing the apocalypse.

Notes From the Cast: Adam Segaller

Adam Jonas Segaller and Peter Stray


Hi Adam. Take a second to tell us a little about yourself. Where did you grow up? When did you move to DC?

I was born in London, England. My father is an Englishman and my mother is from Flushing Meadows; they met when she went to England to study. We lived in London until I was six, then moved to Massachusetts and finally New Jersey.

I moved to DC just under a year ago, in order to play the eponymous character in Rorschach Theater’s Kit Marlowe. They put me up for the run of the show, and at the end I found I didn’t want to leave. So… I didn’t.



What are your experiences with Caryl Churchill’s writing before this production?

I saw a community production of Far Away in Charlottesville, Virginia when I was at UVA. Much like Drunk, it was a short, sparse, chilling little work in which the surrealism of the premise and the minimalism of its execution made for an audience experience that I would describe as scary but fun, and which caused little explosions of understanding– not just of the play, but of the issues addressed– in one’s head for days after the performance. I believe it’s her most recent work before Drunk, and the plays have two major themes in common: making government atrocities more palatable, and a caution against the disastrous wages of global mistrust. I’ve also loved reading Cloud 9 and Topgirls.



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Dramaturgical Notes

Hannah at the JUDAS opening, surrounded by Coke products

Hannah’s notes from the Last Days of Judas Iscariot program:

About Judas, not a lot is known except that he was chosen to be an Apostle, he betrayed Jesus, and then he hung his-self. Not a lot to go on.

The Last Days of Judas Iscariot

Truly I tell you: one of you will betray me…The Son of Man is going the way appointed for him in the scriptures; but alas for that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would be better for that man if he had never been born.

Matthew 26:21, 24 (NEB)

The story of Judas takes up a very small part of the Gospels. Judas was an apostle. He was trusted, respected, and yet he turned on his leader. Thirty pieces of silver were placed in his hand and the course of history was changed. Jesus was kissed and arrested, tried, beaten, and put on the cross. Judas killed himself before he was able to see Jesus’ resurrection. Jesus was revered and Judas was cast as the lowest of villains.

The stories continue to be told of Judas in Hell. Judas has been reviled throughout history, along with the Jews, Caiaphas the Elder, and Pontius Pilate. Dante envisioned Judas in the lowest level of Hell, hanging out of Satan’s mouth. Only the recently unearthed Gospel of Judas shows Jesus and Judas working together. The apocryphal Gospel was admonished by early Church leaders and disappeared. God did not forgive Judas, and neither did man.

In Catholic school, Stephen Adly Guirgis was told the story of Judas. The nuns told him the story of God turning away from a man. The God that he had been told was forgiving did not forgive. This new view of a vengeful, unforgiving God made Guirgis doubt. That doubt stayed with him for years. In his introduction to the published edition of Judas, he writes,

From then on … I was in no hurry to seek out God. In fact, I had no sense of who or what God was. I did believe that “God” existed—I still do—but that was about it. And knowing or believing that God existed but avoiding him probably instilled in me a lot of shame and guilt. There’s nothing wrong with that. I wasn’t avoiding “God.” I was avoiding myself.

But Guirgis could not avoid exploring his spiritual connection for long. His doubts made him question God, and that questioning inspired his writing. In plays like Jesus Hopped the A Train and Our Lady of 121st Street, Guirgis fused his knowledge of the world surrounding him with his own spiritual quest. In The Last Days of Judas Iscariot, that quest became a trial.

Guirgis’ play questions faith and is at the same time an act of faith. The characters we see on stage come out of the Bible, but their voices come off the streets. The questions they ask are to both God and man: should Judas be forgiven? Should he have a reprieve from Hell? These are the questions asked in the courtroom. But Guirgis is implying something deeper. The arguments are not being made just for Judas. It is Guirgis on trial, it is all of us. In Guirgis’ courtroom, the audience is asked to see themselves. We are the jury, we are the judge, we are the defense, and we are the prosecution. We are Judas, stuck in self-doubt and despair, and we are Jesus, with the capability to bestow love and forgiveness. The questions we are left with are not about Judas and what has passed, but about our lives now. Can we forgive? And can we be forgiven?

Why We Chose This Play and What It Means To Us

My notes from the Last Days of Judas Iscariot program:
“Forum Theatre’s goal is to create an environment where ideas about our common experience can be expressed, discussed, and shared through the plays we produce. Over the years, we’ve covered the horrors of war, the corruption of government, the pernicious influence of the media, and loads else. You know that adage, “Don’t talk about religion or politics in public”? Well, we figured it was time to fully break that rule.

What we didn’t expect was the debate it started.

Forum has produced 11 shows in our four years in DC, and never has one generated so much discussion among the company. From the actors, to the designers, to the backstage personnel, this play has touched on something deep within all of us. No matter our background or belief, The Last Days of Judas Iscariot has already been a remarkable experience. From the back and forth e-mail discussions to the rehearsal break debates to the production meetings, the ideas of this play have had us talking nonstop about belief, faith, and forgiveness. Even the auditions were filled with personal stories and fascinating religious debates. Each and every one of us has brought a unique perspective to the play. The result is a deeply passionate work that we are eager to share with you.

Every winter, the company sits down to discuss possible scripts and ideas for the next season. We usually start with about 25 possibilities and slowly narrow down the field until we’ve agreed on three or four plays. We knew from day one that Judas had to be seen. The night I found it at a bookstore, took it home, and read it three times, I knew it was something special. John Vreeke and I had been looking at several projects over the years to collaborate on, so I passed it on to him the next day. It took him much the same way it took me, and we decided immediately that we wanted to do this show.

Finally, after nearly two years of planning, casting, and rehearsing, we have arrived at the most exciting moment: the time we share this show with you, our community. We are very eager to bring the discussion and experience to you. No matter where you come from or what you believe, we hope that the ideas raised in this play will stick with you and carry over to your post-show commute, your dinner tables, or your workplace break rooms.

Thank you for coming and being a part of this journey.