Anthropology students explore topics through theatre
It is rare to see the Theatre Auditorium packed with students ready to watch a play written and performed by relatively inexperienced actors, and it is even more rare that the stage becomes a mechanism for academics generally allocated to the classroom.
This past weekend, the Anthropology 101 class took the stage to present three showings of the aptly-titled ethnographic theatre production OMG! The production attempted to call attention to the impact of technology on our daily lives.
The students were led by Laurier professor of anthropology Magdalena Kazubowski-Houston, but the students wrote the script, according to co-facilitator and ethnographer Shawn Kazubowski-Houston, a professional theatre artist.
The Kazubowski-Houstons “helped guide [the students], got them to do improvisations and even did some training with the actors” before the students themselves took the role of writing the script, linking the performance with ethnography and technology.
“If there is a message, it would be let’s talk about technology and what role does it have in our day-to-day lives,” said Kazubowski-Houston. “We’re not very critical in our interaction with technology, so let’s talk about it.”
Using this theme of technology, the play chronicles the life of Tyler, an electronics store drone cast into unfortunate circumstances when a giant cell phone placard crashes on his head.
After the trauma, Tyler awakes, unfamiliar to the technology around him. He endows his cell phone and laptop with superlative powers, convinced that these devices grant him powers that no other mortal possesses. Under this assumption, he has convinced himself that he is, in fact, God.
Despite this rather clear summary of the play’s plot, it took a fine-tooth comb to sift through the convoluted writing and massive number of unnecessary set changes when watching it live.
The production’s finer moments came during the beginning of the play, when the cast seemed more at ease with the parts they were playing.
The lead role of the play was thrust onto the shoulders of Mike McMurran, who often channeled the characteristics of Jim Carrey, exemplifying his on-stage charisma. Although failing to achieve that level of comedy, he did the best that he could with what was written.
The strongest performance of the evening belonged to Landon Lewis. Playing Howard, best friend to the ill-fated Tyler, he wafted through his lines with confident flow.
Besides the enthusiastic cast, the production really didn’t excel in many other areas. The stage wasn’t used as effectively as it could have been.
Too many set changes led to a lapse in the fluidity of the plot and some dated, borrowed comedy bits allowed for the overall message of the play to be lost in place of a cheap laugh.
Still, a dialogue was born from the translation of metaphors relating to technology, which was the obvious goal of the production from the onset.
So, in spite of the production’s shortcomings and an obvious amateur touch, the play was successful in delivering its message of the entrenchment of technology in our lives and its capacity to hinder our relationships, often providing a laugh along the way.