bobrauschenbergamerica is a play that many of us have wanted to produce for quite sometime. Some of us saw the SITI Co.’s production about a decade ago. Also, we’re big admirers of playwright Charles Mee. If you ask around (and we have) you’ll discover that Charles Mee is among the writers who’ve had the most influence on our generation of theatre-makers. If you visit his website, you don’t need to go far to figure out why.
Many of our favorite creators are less playwrights than collagists of a kind. We grew up making mix-tapes and learning to share our favorite things. Watching AVLT’s original works (for instance John Cage 101) you can see these tendencies manifesting themselves on the stage. So we rally behind Chuck Mee when he states “There is no such thing as an original play.“
None of the classical Greek plays were original: they were all based on earlier plays or poems or myths. And none of Shakespeare’s plays are original: they are all taken from earlier work. As You Like It is taken from a novel by Thomas Lodge published just 10 years before Shakespeare put on his play without attribution or acknowledgment. Chunks of Antony and Cleopatra are taken verbatim, and, to be sure, without apology, from a contemporary translation of Plutarch’s Lives. Brecht’s Caucasian Chalk Circle is taken from a play by Klabund, on which Brecht served as dramaturg in 1926; and Klabund had taken his play from an early Chinese play.
Sometimes playwrights steal stories and conversations and dreams and intimate revelations from their friends and lovers and call this original…
The plays on this website were mostly composed in the way that Max Ernst made his Fatagaga pieces toward the end of World War I: texts have often been taken from, or inspired by, other texts. Among the sources for these pieces are the classical plays of Euripides as well as texts from the contemporary world.
I think of these appropriated texts as historical documents—as evidence of who and how we are and what we do. And I think of the characters who speak these texts as characters like the rest of us: people through whom the culture speaks, often without the speakers knowing it.
And I hope those who read the plays published here will feel free to treat the texts I’ve made in the same way I’ve treated the texts of others.
Mee’s way of writing plays reflects the way we experience the world. Particularly here at Available Light, we find it thrilling to work our way into a play that brings so many layers of meaning to its subject. Part of the challenge, as our director, Eleni Papaleonardos, says, is to allow all those layers to bump up against each other, and to mean at the same time.