Ambivalent America

Amanda Palleschi

A baseball bat, a pair of roller skates and a tapestry-esque American flag litter the stage during a “Bobrauschenbergamerica” rehearsal.

A slice of Americana? Perhaps. An appropriate production in a time when “a nation divided” has become a hackneyed phrase etched into American consciousness? Absolutely.

“The play is very much about what it means to be an American and the struggle of both accepting the positives and the negative things in this country and coming to embrace being an American,” said Tracy Strausberg, a Communication senior and director of Wave’s production “Bobrauschenbergamerica.”

The play by Charles Meec is inspired by the works of Robert Rauschenberg, a visual artist who created object-driven art at the dawn of the 1960’s pop-art movement. The set and props echo Rauschenberg’s artistic approach, as well as American themes and attitudes.

“It’s very patchwork-collage, random objects, messy, raw, pieced-together stuff,” Strausberg said. “(Rauschenberg) is very interested in the idea that you can create art from everything and find beauty in anything. The show is about individuals who find beauty and the potential for beauty in everything around them.”

Strausberg cast 10 actors she felt would work well in “ensemble-based roles.” The play comprises vignettes from the past five decades of American life.

While the play is “written in the style that Bob Rauschenberg would paint in,” it also draws on works of Walt Whitman and Allen Ginsberg, said Brett Schneider, a Communication sophomore who plays Carl. Carl discovers his feelings toward America while developing a homosexual relationship.

“The play has to do with representing all facets of America and my character chooses to look at it from a good, optimistic point-of-view,” Schneider said of Carl.

While “Bobrauschenbergamerica” may not be blindly nationalistic, no one involved denies the play’s patriotism.

“I think there was a huge division in our country both before and especially now after the election,” said cast member Leah Kaplan, a Communication senior. “But this play is about accepting all parts of America, especially the aspects that may be different from you.”

“Bobrauschenbergamerica” runs Nov. 18 at 8 p.m. and Nov. 19-20 at 8 and 11 p.m. in McCormick Auditorium. 4

Medill freshman Amanda Palleschi is a PLAY writer. She can be reached at [email protected]