Correction: An earlier version of this column misstated the scenery and props budget for the play “bobrauschenbergamerica.” The budget was $2,400, not $1,800. This version has been corrected.
Working with a scant scenery and props budget of $2,400 for Forum Theatre’s sprawling production of “bobrauschenbergamerica,” scenic designer Natsu Onoda Power had to think cheap. She haunted yard sales, thrift stores, craigslist and her house for stuff to put onstage at Round House Theatre’s Silver Spring space, where Forum is performing Charles L. Mee’s play through June 25.
Car bumpers, steam irons, vintage coolers and other bits and pieces were transformed into echoes of the late artist Robert Rauschenberg’s most famous assemblages.
A visiting assistant professor of theater at Georgetown University, Power was conscripted by associate professor Derek Goldman, her colleague, who directed the play.
“I realized that it’s actually not that hard to make something that looks like something Rauschenberg has made,” Power says. “It’s assemblage, right? So, my goal was to make a set that looks like Rauschenberg could have designed it . . . everything onstage references one of his artworks.”
For example, the goat with a tire around its belly, based on Rauschenberg’s piece “Monogram,” was built in Power’s living room. She says she used “wood scraps, pillows, duct tape and an Ikea blanket that I took apart, because we didn’t have enough budget for yarn.”
“My cat got very attached to it, because it’s another animal and it’s quieter than the dog that I have,” Power says.
Throwing herself — literally — into Forum’s low budget/big ideas mind-set, Power even slipped a tire around her waist, its treads coated with paint, and rolled herself across the stage floor, trying to re-create Rauschenberg’s “Automobile Tire Print” piece.
“The whole process was very like Rauschenberg trying to make art, and we were doing that,” Power says.
After the show closes, the goat will go home to Power’s cat.
One of the four Blind Date collaborations, “Collapsing Silence,” will be staged in Source’s upstairs rehearsal room June 17, 19, 25 and July 3. The piece explores how communication disintegrates after a disaster.
John Moletress, a founder (with actor Rick Hammerly) of the experimental Factory 449 theater collective, works primarily as a director, most recently on 449’s staging of “Magnificent Waste” by Caridad Svich. But as a sound designer, performer and the director of “Collapsing Silence,” he has had to let go of his most primal theatrical needs — to tell stories with beginnings, middles and endings.
Teamed with video artist, painter and performer David Carlson and choreographer/dancer Ilana Faye Silverstein, Moletress (pronounced mo-LEE-tress), has become conscious of how his narrative bent contrasts with Carlson’s and Silverstein’s more abstract, visual approaches.
“I kind of had to give up ideas of wanting to shape everything into a story,” Moletress says of their creative process. Letting go, he says, allowed “visual images that happen in the space to take on a story of their own, without trying to force them into one.”
Since early this year, the three have met sporadically to work out ideas. “I’d put together a sound bite or record some music, and then I’d bring that in and then we’d sort of bounce ideas off of that, and then Ilana would dance around to it,” Moletress says. “The more we stayed flexible and felt a little bit easier in the unknown . . . we got a lot more work done.”
The still-evolving piece, Moletress says, can be described as “dance theater” composed of “seven different meditations on a theme.”
Find the Source Festival schedule at www.sourcedc.org/sourcefestival.
Janet Luby is wrapping up her first season as solo artistic director of Bay Theatre Company in Annapolis. Her co-artistic director and company co-founder, Lucinda Merry-Browne, stepped down abruptly last July to open an acting school.
“It went better than I could have expected, really . . . especially the middle two shows. ‘The Foreigner’ and ‘Beyond Therapy’ were packed. I mean, we were turning people away every single show. . . . That has never happened before,” Luby says. Also an actress, she appeared in “Beyond Therapy,” a Christopher Durang comedy.
Launched in 2002, Bay Theatre performs in the cramped basement of an Annapolis office building. Luby says that this past season included multiple breakthroughs. She cites the company’s first Helen Hayes nomination — for Bill Largess in Larry Shue’s “The Foreigner”; the casting of Washington area actress Colleen Delany in Terrence McNally’s “Lips Together, Teeth Apart”; and guest directors such as Vincent M. Lancisi of Baltimore’s Everyman Theatre for “The Foreigner” and Washington-based Gillian Drake for “Lips Together.”
“I think we gained a lot of credibility this year, because of some of the directors, the actors, the people that decided to jump in and collaborate that hadn’t in the past,” Luby says.
Next up for Bay Theatre is its first summer children’s show. It has opened “Rumple Who?,” a “Rumplestiltskin” spoof by Will Bartlett. It plays weekends through Aug. 14.
lKeegan Theatre and Blacktop Theatre Company are holding a spelling bee for adults at 8 p.m. Monday at Church Street Theatre. Playwright Heather McDonald and director Jenny McConnell Frederick will be among the judges. Contestants will include actors Frank Britton, Heather Haney and Joshua Morgan. The event riffs off Keegan’s production of “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” running through July 3. Visit www.keegantheatre.com or www.blacktoptheatre.com for details.
Horwitz is a freelance writer