Prepare to leave your computer screens behind for UP’s first in-person performance since March 2020. The cast and crew of You Cannot Undo This Action, takes aim at social media, while eschewing Zoom boxes for the stage at Mago Hunt Theater.
Different from a typical full production, this performance is a staged reading. The performance features no blocking or set design, just the actors sitting on stage, acting out the dialogue and narration.
The play, written by professional playwright and UP alum Conor Eifler, recently won the Angus Bowmer award for drama from the 2021 Oregon Book Awards.
Eifler’s script follows a group of teenagers and their online conversations as they go about their lives talking about everything from philosophy to pop-culture. The script also turns a critical eye to the social media laden lives of modern youth, with all of the benefits and drawbacks that interconnectivity might bring.
“It’s critical in the sense that we should be reevaluating our own relationship to [the internet] and our reliance on it,” senior Hannah Harrison said. “The question we’ve been toying with is ‘How do we want people to perceive [us] online and how does that differ from our offline presence?’ In that sense, being very critical of the self that we are performing to other people.”
Harrison, a communications and theatre major, plays the role of Lane, a character who forgoes the digitally-dominated lifestyles of her classmates. Harrison’s own opinions about the internet and social media found a voice within that role.
“I want to cherish the good in it,” Harrison said. “But at the same time, I do see that there's so much bad in it as well, and so much anger and danger.”
Eifler, as a non-social media user, described doing intense research before he started writing the play. Part of that included talking to actual teenagers.
“I had a facilitated conversation with teenagers from Wilson High School about social media, about technology and their perspectives. Some of their direct quotes wound up in the play,” Eifler said.
Eifler echoed Harrison's point, citing violent tirades on the message board 8chan and the documentary “I Love You, Now Die” as inspiration for the script's exploration of the internet’s darker side.
“Those two things really came together for me to explore that deep sense of vulnerability to the way that social media and technology make us more unsafe, to see what we do with that sense of responsibility, or lack thereof,” Eifler said.
As heavy as the subject matter may be, the cast and crew are excited to be performing in front of a live audience again. As a current sophomore, Makenzie Binsacca has only performed on a digital stage during her UP career.
“I'm so excited,” Binsacca said. “Even just the rehearsal process has been amazing, actually being able to look people in the eyes and interact with them in that way. And I'm very excited to have an audience back in the room with us, rather than just us in the Zoom meeting.”
Binsacca detailed how a return to in-person theatre revived something lost when performing over a computer screen.
“For me, theatre is a very special art form because of this interaction between you as an actor and the audience,” Binsacca said. “You’re exchanging energy levels and emotions with each other. And it's not just the actors having an effect on the audience, the audience definitely has an effect on the actors.”
Tickets for You Cannot Undo This Action are available here.
Will Mulligan is a reporter with the Beacon. He can be reached at email@example.com.