The Utopia Project, Coming December 3rd

Courtesy+of+Hannah+Dubb+%2721

Courtesy of Hannah Dubb ’21

After months of fully virtual brainstorming sessions, table reads, and rehearsals, the FSS theater department will release its virtual fall play and multimedia art experience, titled The Utopia Project, on Thursday, December 3rd.

Given the scheduling limits and physical barriers posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Drama Department could not produce a traditional fall play. Instead, Drama Department Chair Donna Romero conceived a student-written theater experience directed by her former pupil Ang Bey ‘15. 

This fall, Ang has worked with student writers and actors to devise a story called Coruscatum. Ang notes that the pandemic made production difficult and demanded strong teamwork: “the level of coordination and responsibility as a director is comparable, if not more, online than in-person,” they said. “I am so impressed by the students’ generosity and creativity.”

According to Gabe Tarini ‘21, who served as co-writer with Olivia Shuman ‘21, “it’s hard to actually describe the plot of The Utopia Project.” In his view, the play is a non-linear collection of scenes and poetry connected by a common dystopian theme.

Olivia describes the plot in much greater detail. “The play is set about 50 years from now, and the government has even more control over the US. Everyone has to get a mark tattooed on the base of their neck,” she says. Throughout the show, an alien named Coruscatum (Latin for “having been shakily reflected”) watches carefully. Coruscatum is a sort of omniscient and immortal overseer of the universe, and it watches global society collapse through the first part of the show. Halfway through, though, the alien arrives on Earth in an attempt to end the meaningless cruelty of the modern age.

Although The Utopia Project will be released about two weeks after the fall play’s traditional dates, planning began much earlier than usual. According to Assistant Director Elena Milliken ‘22, Donna proposed the idea for a virtual, student-written play to a group of experienced student actors in early August, and leadership meetings took place right at the beginning of the school year. A cast meeting and writing prompts followed, and Olivia and Gabe were selected as co-writers in September. 

The writers assembled the script through October and presented their work to the cast in time for filming in early November. Most actors filmed their scenes, which required no face to face interaction, at home using costumes, props, camera equipment, and other materials from school. “It was interesting to explore a different style of acting from the usual on-stage experience,” says Elena. Since then, Ang, Technical Director Max Budnick, and Jonas Gruber ‘22 have edited the video for release this week. 

The Utopia Project’s production also depended on behind the scenes work from co-dramaturges Hannah Dubb ‘21 and Chris Crisden ‘22. According to Hannah, dramaturges traditionally take notes, research theatrical information, and organize ideas during the creative process. Due to the pandemic, Hannah and Chris were also tasked with building a website and social media presence for the show. The website holds blog posts and deleted content produced throughout the show’s development.

For Olivia, Gabe, Elena, Jonas, and others, The Utopia Project has provided a rare opportunity to get intimately acquainted with the organizational side of theater. “I think it was pretty awesome that the students really had a chance to step into leadership positions and control the outcome of the show,” says Elena. “I would love the school to continue having these roles for other productions.” Ang agreed that Friends Select must continue to use their voice to drive creativity as the “pulse of theater.”
Coruscatum and the entirety of  The Utopia Project will be released on utopiafss.com at 7:00 PM on Thursday, December 3rd, and can be viewed at any time.