Miami’s Rubell Museum to Stage Plays Inspired By Its Collection

The museum's upcoming performance series was inspired by works by artists including Kehinde Wiley and Glenn Ligon.

Six people stand in museum gallery room
Playwrights will create performances based on specific works of art. Courtesy Rubell Museum

Visitors checking out Miami’s Rubell Museum in the coming weeks can take in its vast collection of contemporary art as well as a series of immersive theatrical experiences.

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Between Feb. 22 and March 31, the museum will stage a series of six short plays inspired by works hanging in its galleries. Entitled The Museum Plays, the project is a collaboration between the Rubell Museum and theater company Miami New Drama.

“We are always looking to find innovative ways of staging new work, as well as collaborating and promoting the excellence and vitality of Miami’s art scene,” said Michel Hausmann, Miami New Drama’s artistic director, in a statement. “We hope The Museum Plays becomes a model that can be performed in other cities, by other theater companies and art museums and collections.”

Man stands in front of triptych painting
Aurin Squire posing next to Kehinde Wiley’s Triple Portrait of Charles I. Courtesy Rubell Museum

Each ten-minute show will be performed in front of the artwork that inspired the play. Kehinde Wiley’s 2007 Triple Portrait of Charles I, the vibrant and decorative triptych that showcases Wiley’s desire to play with the relationship between portraiture and mug shot photographs, is the basis for Aurin Squire’s play Maybe It’s About Love.

Playwright Carmen Pelaez, meanwhile, created America based on Glenn Ligon’s 2008 work of the same name that was part of a neon series exploring issues related to American history. Other plays include Rogelio Martinez’s Bedfellows, inspired by Kaari Upson’s Rubells; Hannah Benitez’s Muse, inspired by Jenna Gribbon’s Sceniscape; and Harley Elias’s Not a Scam, inspired by Alfonso Gonzalez Jr.’s Your Ad Here.

The performance series will close with playwright Marco Ramirez’s Body of Work. Although it will be performed in front of the main gallery’s display of Alejandro Piñeiro Bello paintings, Ramirez’s play will be the only one that doesn’t draw inspiration from a specific piece of art.

Woman poses in front of neon sign reading 'America'
Carmen Pelaez posing next to Glenn Ligon’s America. Courtesy Rubell Museum

Who is behind the Rubell Museum?

Founded in 1993 by art collectors Don and Mera Rubell, the Rubell Museum holds a collection of contemporary art encompassing 7,400 pieces by more than 1,000 artists. It relocated in 2019 to a new site in Miami’s Allapattah neighborhood, with an additional location opening three years later in Washington, D.C. “We can’t wait for this dynamic adventure in creativity to explode in our museum this coming season,” said Mera Rubell in a statement.

Miami New Drama, meanwhile, opened in 2014 with an emphasis on diverse representation. Its collaboration with the Rubell Museum won’t be the first time the theater company has engaged in nontraditional performance settings. Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, it staged the production 7 Deadly Sins across empty storefronts with many of the same playwrights now participating in The Museum Plays.

The Rubell Museum is one of several U.S. arts institutions using live performances as a way to engage with the art hanging on their walls. New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art often explores its galleries and art collection through the performance program MetLiveArts, while the National Portrait Gallery has hosted more live performances in recent years, some of which draw inspiration from specific works in its collection. Its 2022 staging of a live performance series from choreographer Dana Tai Soon Burgess, for example, drew from Rigoberto A. González’s 2020 painting Refugees Crossing the Border Wall into South Texas

Miami’s Rubell Museum to Stage Plays Inspired By Its Collection