"The Art of Remembering"

A One Act Play by Adina L. Ruskin

The Art of Remembering
Mementoes in a box prompt memories that come to life in this drama. Images by Fabio

Rebecca has returned home to pack up her old room after her father’s death. Her mother has requested that she clear out all her “junk” from her closet. Rebecca doesn’t see her old boxes as full of junk, but rather – boxes full of memories.

One box in particular sets her off down a long and winding collection of memories. The box contains letters from her family, friends, and acquaintances from around the world.

She has collected these letters and memories as others might collect knick-knacks and is concerned about who will preserve these memories when she dies and how many stories and experiences have already been forgotten in the world. She mourns the fact that glass, stone, and concrete cannot tell stories and that “it only takes one generation to forget.”

Among her collected memories are: the account of a Polish Jew looking for her long lost father separated from her by the Holocaust, her grandmother’s and great grandmother’s stories about drinking, gambling and lost loves, her own search for a man she saw at a bus stop, an Argentinian who stood up against repression, and tales from the Berlin Wall.

Rebecca, Reba, and Becky

Three characters weave in and out of Rebecca’s stories playing all the roles of the various and wild characters from her memories. These characters named Rebecca, Reba, and Becky also represent three different aspects of Rebecca’s psyche.

Their movements often resemble a modern dance. They mime, and stretch and show emotions such as longing, desire and excitement through their bodies. Although the script is broken into scenes, the production notes encourage seamless transitions from one story to the next with a stream-of-consciousness fluidity.

Production Details

The set, the props, and the lighting are minimal in The Art of Remembering. Playwright Adina L. Ruskin suggests such conventions as using trunks and boxes to create the various locales of the memories and the use of a single piece of blue fabric to create puddles, oceans, or various costume pieces. At one point, the fabric is even used to create a grave. The purpose of such a minimalist approach is to intensify the audience’s attention on the characters and the stories they are telling.

One interesting and different staging direction is that all three performers are onstage in place and investigating objects before the house is open to the audience. Under half lighting, they touch and examine objects from Rebecca’s room while music plays and the audience is seated. The change to full lighting indicates that the play is about to begin.

Setting: Rebecca’s room

Time: 1990s

Cast size: This play can accommodate three females.


Rebecca is the protagonist and plays herself in her own memories. She is sentimental and deeply concerned about the well being of her stories and the stories of those she has encountered in her world travels.

Becky is practical and skeptical. She prefers to have her feet on the ground in a safe and sound existence.

She keeps her other two selves on track and in the story one they have started.

Reba is the “ gutsy, take-life-by-the-horns-and-run type.” She admires those who have tested and questioned their circumstances. She longs to be someone like her great grandmother who drank and gambled during prohibition under the guise of running a knitting club.

Content Issues: Historical atrocities

Production rights for The Art of Remembering are held by Dramatists Play Service, Inc.