Mbali Guliwe performs at the Ohio University Theater Division’s performance of bobrauschenbergamerica at The Forum Theater on Monday, September 29.

The Surreal Life: OU Theater Presents Surprising, Unconventional Play (PHOTOS)

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What makes an American community? Playwright Charles Mee asks this question in his play bobrauschenbergamerica, being presented by Ohio University’s Theater Division in the School of Dance, Film and Theater, Oct. 1-4 and 8-11 in the Forum Theater.

Mee’s bobrauschenbergamerica focuses on the life of contemporary visual artist Robert Rauschenberg (known throughout the play as “Bob”), known for inspiriting pop art with his works in the 1950s.

According to Director Daniel Dennis, visiting assistant professor in the College of Fine Arts, the play is written like a collage.

“If Rauschenberg had been a playwright, maybe he would have written a play like this,” he said.

The cast includes Shambrion Treadwell, who plays Bob’s Mom; Ryan Holihan as Becker; Sophie Mitchem as Phyllis; Leah Kistler as Phyllis’ Girl; Marianne Murray as Susan; Anthony Baldasare as Wilson; Thomas Daniels as Allen; Mbali Galiwe as Carl; Sana Selemon as Roller Girl; and Jarahme Pollock, who plays Bob.

This nonlinear, surrealistic play mirrors Rauschenberg’s famous Combines, in which seemingly random, interesting objects were integrated into his art.

bobrauschenbergamerica, Dennis explained, is a play about everyday life in a small American town, and it highlights the different characters’ points of view, backgrounds, interests and problems through a surreal, out-of-this-world experience.

According to Dennis, the play does not follow the traditional plot formatting, with rising action, falling action, climax and resolution.

“The play is unconventional,” he said. “There are characters who change; who have to make decisions. There are love stories. And there is loss.”

Dennis’ extensive theatre background includes performance, sound design and directing. He earned his MFA in Theatre Pedagogy at Virginia Commonwealth University, and has completed his PhD in Interdisciplinary Arts from Ohio University.

It’s a challenge to summarize this play in one sentence, but Dennis managed to describe what is sure to be a surprising theater experience.

“Charles Mee sets his play during a Fourth of July neighborhood potluck to give us an ever-changing kaleidoscope of people, points of view, song and dance, unexpected shootings, chicken jokes, astronomy, marching bands, love and forgiveness,” he said. “I think people can expect to be entertained and confused. It’s unlike anything I imagine most of our audience will be used to. So I would tell any audience member coming in to prepare to be surprised and let us take you on the ride.”

Performances will take place at 8 p.m. in the Forum Theater, located on the ground floor of the Radio-Television Building at 35 South College Street.

Ohio University students will be admitted free with an OU student ID. Community members are welcome to purchase tickets for $10 ($7 for seniors) at the East Union Street entrance of Templeton-Blackburn Alumni Memorial Auditorium.