In a post-pandemic-stricken world, it’s not always the fittest that survive. That’s the harsh reality of Rusted Heart Broadcast, the latest devised- theater production from Cleveland Public Theatre’s Raymond Bobgan and his ensemble of co-creators.
The production, which runs May 30 through June 15, centers on a group of Clevelanders celebrating a woman who spurned fame in order to warn the city of an approaching pandemic that goes on to destroy most human life on the planet.
“There’s this sense that being aware and being kind to other people might be more important than being a movie star,” says Bobgan, who is also Cleveland Public Theatre’s executive artistic director. “Because of that, in some ways, Cleveland survives.”
That sense of awareness and interconnectedness running through Rusted Heart Broadcast also lies at the core of devised theater’s collaborative development process, in which an ensemble shapes a story together. They build the script as a montage, assembling various elements that may seem an unlikely combination but find more cohesion with each addition. Bobgan’s approach also involves what he calls “highly organized physical improvisation.”
“It’s like what you would do if you were a kid and wanted to put on a play for all the other kids in the neighborhood,” Bobgan says. “You’re just going to make it up.”
Ensemble member Chris Seibert was living in Chicago in 1998 when she attended one of Bobgan’s earlier devised-theater productions, Frankenstein’s Wake. “It just changed how I thought about theater,” she says. “There’s such a deep commitment and connection to the material.”
Bogan’s says his earliest musings about Rusted Heart Broadcast began more than two years ago, growing from an idea to incorporate what he calls “Cleveland values” into an exploration of society’s obsession with fame.
“I think people will walk out with a greater appreciation of their own existence,” he says, “and also a sense of pride in who they are and what they’re about.”