Characters gether on the stage to perform in the final act. Courtesy of Kat Delaney / The Snapper
Associate Opinion Editor
The lights are on and the stage is set. People scatter throughout the auditorium in hoodies of blue, green, red, and purple. They rehearse vigorously, anxious for opening night of Millersville’s latest production, “Love and Information.”
One of the more recent plays written by the legendary Caryl Churchill, this unique and abstract piece combines seemingly random scenes with dance, technology, and modern music, each scene depicting feelings of love, loss, hope, and humanity. Over the course of the story, characters interact with each other, piecing together a story that could mean anything to anyone.
The play itself comprises seven segments, each with seven scenes, which can be performed in any order within the segment. There are 23 dedicated, hard-working actors – all of whom are Millersville University students – who portray various unnamed roles.
While “Love and Information” may seem like a daunting task for a theatrical production, this did not faze the director, Jonathan Strayer, who is also a theatre professor at the university.
“There are limitless creative possibilities, and thousands of ways to perform it,” Strayer comments. “While Churchill wrote and created this production, we in a way created it as well, and could make it our own. She provides us with so much information, giving a framework for us to find our own meaning.”
With a basic script and outline, Strayer says, the cast and crew have plenty of creative freedom in terms of how the scenes are structured and performed. This modern Churchill classic, released in 2012, was chosen out of 40 other possible scripts by a committee of faculty and students, with the unique, abstract format appearing as both attractive and intimidating.
Since September, the cast, crew, and director have labored to create this production, with many challenges appearing along the way. This ranged from choosing the order in which to perform all the scenes, a process that took nearly two weeks, to choreographing original dance numbers for the musical segments.
Francesca Calautti, a sophomore theatre student, choreographed all of the scenes herself. “I have been dancing since I was about three years old, but I have never done something like this before,” Calautti comments. “I took some advice from my teachers and instructors I have had over the years, and they provided me with a lot of help, so I could figure out which style [of dance] to use, and how to script everything.”
The high-energy spirit of the cast also provides an energy unlike any other. Actors Giancarlo Cooper and Ashley Calderon both express this viewpoint, citing it as motivation during their rehearsals. “There is really no hierarchy within the cast,” Cooper says. “Everyone gets along and we are all equal.”
“Everyone is definitely more professional than what I have seen from past experiences in theatre, but we still get along very well,” Calderon adds, “we have people of all majors in the cast, so the production is also very inclusive and provides something for everyone.”
The production not only provides a positively unusual environment for the cast, but also the crew as well. In order to create music and sounds, much of the soundtrack was developed through echoing sounds off of plants on stage, a method known as biodatasonificiation.
“What we’re doing is we are measuring the resistance of electricity off the leaves and the changes in resistance and converting it into data, which is wirelessly transmitted to be played in real time,” explains Zacc Bang, the sound designer for the production.
This unusual technique, while bizarre in nature, only adds to the “woah!” factor in Millersville’s “Love and Information,” a theatrical experience unlike any seen before.
The story flows like an anthology of dreams, an “acid trip” if you will, albeit a pleasant and intriguing one. Of course, such a production is not for everyone. With no straightforward plot or consistent roster of characters, some audiences may find the experimental piece mind-boggling and hard to follow. Nonetheless, the chemistry among the young cast of characters is undeniable, and the innovative use of technology as a form of storytelling never fails to keep eyes, minds, and hearts moving. At times intense, and other times lighthearted, each scene builds up to an experience, unique to each person, as in the eyes of the beholder. In other words, the plot, and really the play itself, cannot truly be explained in detail. As Strayer says, “you just have to see it for yourself.” Opening night for Millersville University’s production of “Love and Information” is at Clair Performance Hall at the Winter Center, on Thursday, November 4th, at 7:00 PM, followed by a 2:00 PM matinee on Saturday, November 6th, along with evening performances on the 6th, 10th, and 12th of November. A live stream performance will take place on Friday, November 5th, and Wednesday, November 12th, at 7 PM, and be available online. Tickets can be purchased at the box office, located in the Student Memorial Center, or at the door. To purchase tickets online and learn more about “Love and Information,” log on to www.millersville.edu/theatre .