BAR HARBOR, MAINE — A production opening next weekend explores the effects of technology on communication. At the same time, students in Professor Jodi Baker’s Play Production Workshop class are learning about collaborative process and common practices in professional theater.

Baker, the course instructor who also serves as director of the play, met last spring with students interested in selecting a title for the fall production. The group had talked about the nature of invention and discovery as themes, and the two plays she ultimately brought to them were Ariana Reines’s “Telephone” and Lucas Hnath’s “Isaac’s Eye” — the former about inventor Alexander Graham Bell and the latter about Isaac Newton.

“Everybody was into both,” Baker said at the end of a recent rehearsal. “Given the makeup of this particular group of students, we chose to do ‘Telephone’.”

Over the summer, the group shared insights, posted research materials and corresponded on a shared blog. Baker determined roles and crew assignments based on interests within the group.

“The point of the course is to provide practical experience by working deeply on this one shared project. Ideally, it can help clarify how theatrical process fundamentally informs and intersects with other concepts and disciplines that students are engaged in outside this class,” she said.

Eloise Schultz ’16, the sound director who also portrays Bell, said the play is “exploratory and playful and almost terrifying.”

Schultz said the play is about the schizophrenia of two things occupying the same time and space. “We’re dealing with a caller and a receiver. The fundamental elements of a telephone, and the space in between.”

“For me it’s all about metaphor,” she said. “That’s my human ecological tie to this.”

Conversations about metaphor translate in very interesting ways from process to process and across disciplines, Baker said.

Schultz said the play considers the “technology inside us.”

The play involves Bell’s invention of the telephone as well as another real-life character — a patient of Carl Jung — “who believed she had a telephone inside her body,” Baker said.

The final act is a series of overheard conversations that invite the audience to consider the more contemporary ramifications of communication technologies. It’s investigating that “special kind of loneliness” that some technologies create, Baker said.

“Primarily, this play is about how humans communicate and whether it’s enhanced or obstructed by technology,” Assistant Director Kaitlin Young ’15 said.

Cast and crew members each created a personal syllabus, sharing the responsibility for defining the course.

Baker said  discovering the students’ common goals and their intense level of personal investment in the coursework was inspiring, but that each syllabus was articulated differently.

“It was a way of understanding each other creatively, beyond what we all already knew about each other,” Young said. “I enjoy being within the process and exploring that process.”

Schultz said all her classwork this term has been influenced by the central theme she finds in this production – and that that’s what a human ecological practice looks like. “I think about this play all the time,” she said.

This is the second Play Production Workshop class Baker has offered at COA. The first was an exploration of what it takes to build a portable theater production with very limited time and resources. That group developed three short absurdist one-acts and performed them in Studio 6 in collaboration with Nancy Andrews’s Puppetry class, “and it was great fun,” Baker said.

Baker said the structure of the current course is more along traditional lines and “more like a small contemporary union theater … still highly collaborative but individual responsibilities are more clearly defined and relationships more hierarchical.”

“Telephone” will be performed in College of the Atlantic’s Gates Auditorium at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 14, 15 and 16; and 2:30 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 16.


Save & Share: