A machine and a monster

A student in the “Frankenstein 2029” production “protests” in front of Farinon to preview to performance opening next week. [Photo by Elizabeth Lucy ‘15]

A student in the “Frankenstein 2029” production “protests” in front of Farinon to preview to performance opening next week. [Photo by Elizabeth Lucy ‘15]

“Frankenstein 2029” promises a deep, interactive experience

Interacting with the performers, grabbing a drink from The Spot mid-production, and traveling to up to eight different venues. The production of “Frankenstein 2029” will provide an interactive performance through cross-disciplinary learning.

The eight venues serve as their own art instillations, and each will provide a combination of theater, music, dance, and film.

“Frankenstein 2029” is based on Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein”, which was published in 1818. Director of the Arts and Professor of English and Theater Suzanne Westfall and Gavin Knox ‘17 collaborated to write a script that implements parts of Shelley’s novel, but that also takes place in 2029.

Westfall directed the production, and worked closely with Professor of Art Ed Kerns. Kerns’ interest in the idea of transhumanism, and Westfall’s passions for environmental and immersive theater led to a collaboration that depicts the effects of growing technologies on humanity.

“The same thing Mary Shelley was writing about in 1818 is still a problem,” Westfall said, “Men creating things they can’t control and then running away.”

The character of Victor “Frankenstein” from the 1818 gothic novel, played by Knox, provides a parallel for Victor NeuroTech, played by Heman Matharu ‘18.

“You’ll be able to tell the difference [between the two time periods] by the way they walk and the way they talk,” said Lauren Young ‘17, who plays Margaret in the show.

In the 1818 novel, Victor brings a creature to life. In the version developed by Westfall and Knox, that creature is a robot.

“It’s just such an interactive show that we need to make sure we know what could happen,” Assistant Stage Manager Meryl Hahne ‘18 said. “The audience can choose what they want to see.”

The audience can decide to follow one character, or even stay in one location for the entire show, according to Young. Because the actors and audience members will be interacting so closely, the audience will wear masks to help identify who is performing and who is not.

Over 80 students, faculty, staff, and alumni have worked on the project. The team includes students taking the course Making Theater: “Frankenstein 2029”, which is taught by both Westfall and Kerns.

The entire sequence will be run two times and audience members can go to any location at any time.

The project goes well beyond the actual performance. “Frankenstein 2029″ is all over social media, giving people a look into Victor NeuroTech. A Victor NeuroTech website includes functional body art and other digital services.

Actors in the production protested on the quad on Wednesday, acting as the Society Against Victor NueroTech (SAVIN). SAVIN has its own blog to stop cyber “Frankensteins”.

“Steven Hawking recently said that artificial intelligence will be the end of the human race,” Westfall said. The production brings to light the idea that humans are unaware of the implications and effects of these new technologies”

Each element of the project allows for interaction between the audience and all involved in the production.

“Immersive theater is different for audiences,” Westfall said. “Every person builds a different adventure and every person’s experience will be different.”

            The production of “Frankenstein 2029” will run from April 22-25 at 8 p.m. It will begin at the Williams Arts Campus, and move through different locations on the North Third Street campus.