Student play telegraphs relationships through tech
What do you get when you blend TV’s futuristic “Black Mirror,” “The Twilight Zone” and the 2004 memory-wiping romance flick, “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”?
Probably something like “TomorrowLove,” a tech-friendly theatrical production about fictional inventions that spark change in the relationships of seven couples in seven different versions of the future.
Take the Infinite Space Refrigerator, which looks like a regular fridge but expands to hold everything you could ever buy — literally.
“Why do we need infinite space?” questions Andrea Donaldson, the award-winning Toronto director overseeing this University of Waterloo studentacted production.
“Can’t enough be enough? I am dubious of humans wanting more and bigger.”
The tech is a catalyst for selfdiscovery, she points out, in each of the thematically linked playlets adapted from Toronto playwright Rosamund Small’s acclaimed 2016 production.
“It’s about how tech brings us together and tears us apart. It depends on each person’s perspective.” During the play’s Toronto run, critics were entranced by Small’s “immersive” attempt to explore human relationships through futuristic tech, with the Toronto Star citing the play for its “ability to convey complex ideas in brief interludes, leaving room for humour and pathos.”
But that was a more ambitious version that included 15 playlets and active participation from the audience.
By consolidating and simplifying the play into a more traditional format, Donaldson hopes to make it more accessible.
“My hunch was that this community would respond to this,” notes the former assistant artistic director of Toronto’s Tarragon Theatre.
“Rosamund has a youthful contemporary feeling to her writing and Waterloo is known to
be a tech hub.”
It’s an innovative play, she notes, and in the stodgy student theatre world of 2018, that’s a move in the right direction.
“Universities can get stuck in a rut with a Canadian canon of plays from the ‘80s and ‘90s,” she muses. “This is an opportunity to introduce (Rosamund) to students and her work.”
Along with the monster fridge, there’s an invention that allows people to erase former partners from their memory and one that allows Skype sessions with dead lovers, a thematic thrust that, for Donaldson, prompts larger philosophical questions.
“As much as I think the impulse to connect with somebody you love deepens after they die, I can’t help but think the desire to live as long as we can is actually a darker human urge.
“My life goal is not to preserve myself but to live well, to accept the inevitability of death.”
One thing that surprised her was the reaction of the student actors, far more open-minded about tech, she notes, than people a generation older.
“They happen to be a really optimistic group,” notes Donaldson. “The majority were basically pro-technology.
“After the first read-through they were adamant that we not present only a doom-and-gloom perspective.”
Fortunately, the play, penned by a fellow millennial, respects this view, making no definitive statements about tech as a force for good or evil.
“Technology is not a new phenomenon,” points out Donaldson, striving for perspective. “It’s something we’re always imagining and inventing — and it always will be.”
Jess Bertrand in “TomorrowLove.” A series of thematically-linked playlets set in seven different versions of the near future where one piece of technology is developed to help humans in their relationships.