Reinventing Rauschenberg

SUNY New Paltz students will perform "bobrauschenbergamerica" on Oct. 28 through 30.
SUNY New Paltz students will perform "bobrauschenbergamerica" on Oct. 28 through 30.

When  Robert Rauschenberg sculpted and painted “combines,” the innovative mixed media works he became famous for in the transition between Abstract Expressionism and the rise of Pop Art, he did not simply capture an image or make an argument. Rauschenberg captured the numerous events occurring around him in a collage of the people, places and absurdities he witnessed.

That is the point of the play “bobrauschenbergamerica,” which will be performed by New Paltz theatre students on Oct. 28 to 30.

“[The play is] a wild road trip through our American landscape… made as one of America’s greatest artists, Robert Rauschenberg, might have conceived it,” playwright Chuck Mee said on his website, “[It is] a collage of people and places and music and dancing, of love stories and picnics and business schemes and shootings and chicken jokes and golfing, and of the sheer exhilaration of living in a country where people make up their lives as they go.”

Mee said he was trying to capture how Rauschenberg would compose a script if he had been a playwright instead of a painter.

Second-year theatre major with a concentration in costume design Julia Fell said the play is the most original show she has ever been involved with.

“It’s a bit hard to describe, but it’s been a real pleasure to design,” said Fell. “Most of the costumes are very independent of one another, but I think that helps to emphasize the mood of the play.”

That mood seems to be “a journey through the world of an artist’s eye…Where moment to moment defines the relationships between characters, constantly changing, always in motion connecting the dots and stars, and orbiting the people around each other — giving them life,” according to the production’s Facebook event.

“‘bobrauschenbergamerica’ just is. It’s something you need to experience to understand; it will change your life,” said Sam Marsh, the show’s director and fourth-year theatre major.

With posters featuring a chicken and a compact, scrawled, single-word title, the production is certainly trying to capture the complicated and busy mind of the artist and rouse the attention of New Paltz students.

“I have never heard of [Rauschenberg] before, but I’m willing to see the play,” said Marcella Guarino, second-year transfer student and philosophy major. “If there are chickens on the posters, then it should be a trip.”

“bobrauschenbergamerica” will be performed in Parker Theatre on Oct. 28 and 29 at 8 p.m. and Oct. 30 at 2 p.m. Admission to the show is free.