Watching “Love and Information” feels a lot like scrolling through your Twitter feed—which you might be, if you happen to sit in the “Tweet Seat” section. Based on the award-winning play by Caryl Churchill, the interactive play tackled what it means to be alive right now—to be constantly inundated by digital media.
“Whether or not you have a smartphone, whether or not you use a computer, whether or not you’re on social media, you live in a world that has increasingly oriented itself towards those things, right?” said director and Professor of Theater and Dance Sarah Bay-Cheng. “I mean, this is just part of the world we live in right now. So, I wanted to do a play for Bowdoin students that spoke to their reality.”
“Love and Information” is composed of 59 short plays or “microdramas,” which run anywhere from ten seconds to a few minutes. The scenarios in each section are grouped together by themes, such as memory, communication and connection.
“The scenarios are different. The way I describe it, is it’s a bit like changing channels on cable TV,” Bay-Cheng said. “So, you go from channel to channel to channel, and one channel doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with the channel before it or after it. But, if you keep doing that, you might pick up patterns or see things you find familiar.”
The show’s musical accompaniment is played by the Social Media Musician who punctuates the action on stage. While the show proceeds, audience members, specifically those sitting in the Tweet Seat section, are encouraged to engage with the Social Media Musician by sending tweets from their own Twitter accounts or through the play’s own app, which is available for download in the iOS App store.
“‘Love and Information’ is about technology, but it’s also about human beings without technology, and the ways that we are both online and offline, and our inability to constantly separate those two things,” said Sally Rose Zuckert ’19, who acts in the play. “I think that’s true of everyone today, when we use social media or we engage with anonymous media, you can say whatever you want online, but in real life you are who you are.”
Love and Information, the app that accompanies the theatrical performance, was designed by Sawyer Billings ’18. The app includes the script, cast information, a director’s note, images from the show’s Instagram feed and videos that visiting professor in art and computational studies Erin Johnson made with her class.
Through its accompanying app, Love and Information demonstrates the all-encompassing nature of digital culture: by allowing the app to use your location, you can unlock two special videos on campus, which allow you to interact with the show before and after attending it.
“If you sit in a certain section and you want to be on your phone or tablet or even your laptop…you could. And you could be contributing, and that would be a kind of, again, social media accompaniment that goes with everything else that’s happening on stage,” Bay-Cheng continued. “The idea is that, even when we’re not actively on social media, for many of us—not all—it’s a kind of constant presence in our lives, like a soundtrack.”