How We Chose to End The World
Oct. 19-20 7:00 p.m., 9:00 p.m.
Directed by Adriana I. Colón ’12,
Produced by Rachel V. Byrd ’13
and Kathleen S. O’Beirne ‘15
“This is a site-specific piece,” says director-actress Adriana I. Colón ’12 as she opens the door to the downstairs basement in Agassiz House. “As a sensory thing, the audience will walk in here and feel underground.” The surprising set location for “How We Chose to End the World”—Colón’s senior thesis for her self-designed concentration of performance and the body—corresponds to a similarly unorthodox play.
Past Harvard productions that claimed to build in more audience interaction have nonetheless taken place in a single enclosed room, where the separation of stage from seats was still present. Audience-actor engagement, while implicit in these other productions, is central to Colón’s piece. “I’m less interested in theater as story-driven. I believe that theater is an experience of community, which is why I prefer smaller audiences,” she says. Colón has dispensed with formal script-writing altogether in her planning of the show, so even though the play does have a rough plot, the details will depend largely on the spectators and how they react to various events. Colón’s audience, at most 20 people to a show, will be obligated to don white coveralls and be guided by actors through a series of stops in the basement. The tour ranges from a white “Sanitation Center” to the “Green Room,” a long chamber where blacklights illuminate a hanging ceiling of plants and a floor strewn with dirt.
In the meantime, there will be an intro meeting of “the Harvard College Survivalists”—whose byword is “Survivitas.” Audience members, between being asked uncomfortable questions by the Survivitas secretary (Carmen A. Tracy ’15), intimidated by the vicious club VP (Eli E. Kahn ’13), and smiled upon by the useless figurehead President (Arleen B. Aguasvivas ’15), will learn of the club’s purpose and its comp process. At some point, the audience will begin being the real contributors to the performance. “You really get to break through the fourth wall,” says Aguasvivas, referring to the “wall” between actors and the spectator in drama.
Ultimately, the aim of the production is to lead the audience to a point where they have to make a decision that will influence the outcome of the play. “For whatever reason, people think about the end of the world a lot, and this particular show engages with it in a way that is both irreverent and serious,” says Kahn. “The audience will be moved to consider what it means for the world to end… but also what it means to live in civilization.”