Science Fiction is Real: Stay Safe

Jasmine Zhang ’23 (News Editor, 142nd Board), Tiffany Wen ’23 (News Editor, 142nd Board), and Kelly Lu ’23 (Arts Editor, 142nd Board) in Arts | December 9, 2022

On Friday, December 9, 7:00 PM, members of the Periwig Club will perform Stay Safe in the Kirby Arts Center’s black box theater. Stay Safe is a new science-fiction dystopian play written by Director of Student Life Ian August and directed by Performing Arts Department Chair Matthew Campbell. The show explores themes of freedom, choice, and safety through the lens of a group of teenagers in a radiation containment facility. The show was originally performed in Edinburgh, Scotland, at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, which the cast and crew traveled to during this past summer. Now, the show will take on the KAC stage.
Eric Frankel ’23, who plays the facility mechanic Wrench, said that acting in the play provided him with a unique acting experience since the festival in Scotland was Stay Safe’s world premiere. According to Frankel, he said the overall experience in the Fringe Festival changed his perspective. “Going to these shows that made me question if they really were theater helped me understand that theater is anything that can take you to a different place. And when I went to these other high schools’ shows, I was absolutely stunned by how amazingly these people, who were just like me, were able to pull off their shows, and that really motivated me and the rest of the cast to actually really up our games during our later performances,” said Frankel. When asked how he approached the acting process, Frankel described how he viewed Wrench as not an extension of himself, but rather an entity he built a bridge to. He also mentioned that the process proved particularly challenging because Frankel had no established image he could rely on for the character. He said, “Because I couldn’t search on YouTube for videos of someone acting Wrench…I [spent] a lot of time with my lines and thinking, ‘Okay, how does he respond to situations.’” Since Wrench’s character was completely in his hands, he often had to rely on August’s guidance. Frankel also fabricated imaginary backstories and created Spotify playlists that he believed his character would have enjoyed in order to help him feel a closer connection with the character. Highlights from the Wrench playlist include “All Along the Watchtower” by Jimi Hendrix, “First Day of My Life” by The Bright Eyes, and “Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want” by The Smiths.
Lead Deck Crew and Mechanical Puppeteer Sonia Singhal ’24 helps run the robot, Johnny Rockets. Throughout the production of the show, Singhal learned to “think [quickly] when the robot and the controller malfunctioned,” which was particularly important due to the confined space of the church in which they performed. In addition, the performing area had no backstage for Singhal to work in, so she spent much of the production “listening and trying to adapt in the moment.” Furthermore, Singhal felt that performing “full-time” without balancing other obligations such as academics and club activities helped her “get in the zone,” but also made the “stakes higher” and put their “heads were in the game and in the show,” since the audience was paying to see their show in a professional environment. Overall, Singhal’s favorite moment was after one of the last performances, during which audience members personally expressed their appreciation for the show. “I didn’t expect that, and their enthusiasm was out of this world, and that was something I had never seen before, and it felt really good,” Singhal said. 
Matthew Campbell, the director of the show and one of the faculty chaperones of the Harkness Travel trip, explained that he appreciated the new aspect that Stay Safe brought to the stage: as a “future leaning play, I haven't seen the personalized drama that this play brings up when you have these characters split almost into wedges before, and they each have their own individual story…and I like the way that it interacts. That's something that's really kind of unique.” He also reminisced on attending the Fringe after Covid-19, describing how the magic of the Fringe removes “you from yourself. It should make you laugh and make you cry and make you judge, it should do all of the things that you would want them to do to make you think and feel…it's worth all the time and the effort.”
Reflecting on his experience working on the show and attending the Fringe Festival, Frankel said, “For me, the Fringe was like being a kid in a candy store. I was really steeped in the act and the pursuit of great art in a way that I hadn’t been before,” allowing him to incorporate elements of what he had seen in other shows into his own performance. Singhal similarly said that she was able to see how “not all theater is exactly…a musical or a play…theater is really something that transforms your audience to a different place.” Campbell recommends that anyone interested in seeing more “personalized drama” or a “future-leaning kind of play” come out on Friday evening!