Rubicon’s world premiere celebrates the art and mission of Lorraine Serena
WOMEN BEYOND BORDERS
When: through June 2 (2 p.m.
matinees Weds., Sat. and Sunday)
Where: Rubicon Theatre Company, 1006 E. Main St., Ventura
Information: 667-2900, rubicontheatre.org
Ojai artist Lorraine Serena is known for many things, for her abstract work, for her assemblage and collage work, but mostly for the inclusive nature of her projects. In 1991, she started the collective Women Beyond Borders, which organized a survey of sorts. She sent out small wooden boxes to women artists around the world, looking for miniature works of art along with short written works as accompaniment. From Afghanistan to Zambia, nearly a thousand works came back, a testament to the shared female experience, personally, politically, and economically.
Those stories, coupled with projections of the boxes, form the background of Rubicon Theatre’s world premiere of “Women Beyond Borders” opening Saturday and running through June 2. The foreground is what director Jenny Sullivan calls “women on stools”—a constantly rotating cast of five actors reading the prose, a celebration of Rubicon favorites, Sullivan veterans, and others.
“Lorraine is a visual artist,” Sullivan says, “But some of the language in these pieces is extraordinary.”
And such a cast: Tony Award-winner Lillias White, Emmy Award-winners Susan Clark and Michael Learned, Golden Globe Award-winner Amanda McBroom, five-time Emmy nominee Meredith Baxter, Kimiko Gelman, Donna Simone Johnson, writer Sandra Tsing Loh; Obie Award-winner Zilah Mendoza, Ulka Simone Mohanty, UCLA graduate and newcomer Joanne Nguyenin, and Jennifer Leigh Warren.
The play, written by Claire Bowman, Rubicon’s Karyl Lynn Burns, Lauren Patten and Beverly Ward, interweaves the artist statements that came back with the boxes with a story of Serena and her collective.
Sullivan met Serena and visited her studio well over a decade ago, as well as checking out several gallery showings of the boxes.
“She was a unique kind of being,” Sullivan says. “We kicked around a lot of ideas about these boxes.”
Meanwhile, Sullivan was working on stagings of “Love Lost” and “The Vagina Monologues,” developing the style that would later be seen as perfect for Serena’s work.
“In this way you can include a lot of different kind of women in this,” she says.
“It’s also a way to work with fabulous actors who can give you a couple of days (out of of their schedule) but they can’t give you a whole run.”
Like “The Vagina Monologues,” Sullivan hopes the play can keep evolving, keep changing, and have an extended production life, some of that for the reasons detailed above—a chance to bring in an impressive list of actors in a short amount of time.
However, unlike any of the other plays, “Women Beyond Borders” is ultimately about the artwork, arranged thematically around topics like war, birth, aging and community, with both whimsical and serious stuff in between.
Beyond the production, Sullivan wants to reach out for future productions and bring in music.
“What I’ve most enjoyed about this journey is reconnecting with Lorraine,” Sullivan says. “She’s just a delicious, beautiful, inspiring human being.
“That’s the best part for me. And so I hope we do it justice.”