The department of theatre and media performance continues the academic year’s theme of dreams, this time with a nightmarish twist. “The Nether,” a play by Jennifer Haley, opened on Feb. 23 and will continue its run March 2-4 at 7 p.m. in the Studio Theater.
“The Nether,” directed by Linda Chambers, takes place ‘soon,’ according to the time period listed in the script. The play, which premiered to the world on March 24, 2013, in Los Angeles, Calif., explores the moral responsibilities in the virtual reality of video games.
“The Nether” switches back and forth between scenes in the present reality and the virtual world. In the virtual world, called the Hideaway, characters assume avatars that allow them to engage in imaginative behavior that would not be culturally or legally acceptable in the non-virtual world. Thus, questions are raised: are there responsibilities in a virtual world? What are the lines we cannot cross? If there are lines to cross, what are the consequences?
Chambers was on a panel of female playwrights two summers ago when she was introduced to the show. “When I read it, I thought it was a huge challenge,” she said, “but I thought it asked very interesting questions.” After sharing the piece with Ryan Clark, coordinator of the theatre and media performance program, they decided to include the piece in the 2016-17 season.
The cast stars Jordan Brown as Sims/Papa, Destani Gross as Detective Morris, Matthew VanNostrand-Young as Doyle, Nicole Arrison as Iris and Sean Laraway as Woodnut.
The cast began working on the show in October, 2016. In preparation for assuming the roles of virtual avatars, the cast had workshops with gaming and interactive consultants Dr. Amanda Licastro, assistant professor of English, and KC White, a Stevenson alumnus working in the gaming industry. According to Chambers, both women helped the cast further understand the virtual world and how avatars move and interact with each other.
For Arrison, this was the most difficult part of rehearsal.
“It took us a while to figure out how to act mechanical, but I think it turned out.”
Brown did not have as much difficulty, saying he has enjoyed the process.
“Each rehearsal is for the sake of seeing what makes the character I play,” said Brown, “so, that involves me possibly speaking differently, walking differently and reacting differently than how I, myself, would.”
The production resumes its run March 2. Tickets are $10 general admission and $5 for students and seniors. It is recommended that attendees reserve tickets ahead of time by calling the box office at (443) 334-2618.