#trending is a devised piece created by IN MEDIAS ARTS. In the digital age, we all lead two lives. The relationships we keep online are every bit as real as those we have in person. #trending is a story about love in the 21st century and commentary on our filtered online existence versus our unfiltered daily lives. The story revolves around Sara and her relationships with two different people - Alexander, her boyfriend and an unknown identity that she met online. Our story beings in the middle. Sara has a choice to make between partnership and potential. Each choice offers its own complexities. Sara turns to the people in her life (her online audience) to help guide her to the right decision.
#trending is never the same twice. Both the outcome and the trajectory of the plot are determined by the audience through an interactive social experience. Audience members areencouraged to use different forms of social media (i.e. twitter, facebook and instagram) throughout the performance. The audience has the opportunity to tailor the show to their reactions and opinions creating a networked performance. #trending is a choose your own adventure story for the digital age.
The audience chooses everything from the style of restaurant we are in to which guy she should be with at the end of the story. Just like a choose your own adventure story, there are different paths your choice can lead down and even some dead ends. We are trying to cultivate an audience experience in which they feel engaged in the show in ways different from a traditional theater production. There is a live wall which allows the audience to post photos of themselves, their reactions to what is happening on stage, and even advice to the characters.
In 2017, the company did a complete overhaul of the show. We built all new video and created original social media platforms for the characters, added POV video of Alexander throughout his journey, and developed the character, IRIS. IRIS is our version of a SIRI or Alexa-like product. She begins by simply giving cheeky answers to Sara's questions and complicating things further and eventually turns into the voice inside her head helping to propel the plot.
PHOTOS - (Top 3 Photos) Fringe PVD • July 2016 - Photo Credit - James Lastowski, (Middle 2 Photos) Connecticut Workshop • October 2016, (Bottom 2 Photos) The WIP Theatre • Chicago, IL
#TRENDING's HISTORY & ACCOLADES
- Premiered at FringePVD, Providence, RI - July 2016
- Nominated for Broadway World RI Awards (Mid-Size Company Division)
- Best Actress- Christi McLain
- Best Actor - Jerron Jorgensen
- Best Director of a Play Kristy Chambrelli
- Best Sound Design - Jarrod Ratcliffe (awarded runner up)
- Nominated for Broadway World RI Awards (Mid-Size Company Division)
- Workshopped in Granby, CT - October 2016
- Accepted to perform at Charm City Fringe Festival, Baltimore, MD - November 2016
- Awarded an artist grant by the Beatrice, NE Arts Council
- 2017 Midwestern Tour
- The WIP Theater - Chicago, IL - June 30 & July 1, 2017
- America's Fourth of July City Celebration - Seward, NE - July 4, 2017
- Apollon Art Space - Omaha, NE - July 6, 2017
- Boiler Brewing Company - Lincoln, NE - July 7, 2017
- 2017 Midwestern Tour
#TRENDING's PREVIOUS WORKSHOPS
We have staged two workshops to get audience feedback and see some of the technical elements in action. In developing this idea we have presented versions of the show on its feet every few months to better understand where the story is/is not working and how we can cultivate the audience experience. In Providence at FringePVD, we used more traditional seating banks that were moved closer to the actors. It felt similar to a modified black box within a traditional, proscenium theater. In Connecticut, we tried bistro tables and chairs. This particular setting received a lot of positive feedback. Many audience members said they felt connected because they were physically in the same space/restaurant as the characters.
This summer, we did a midwest workshop tour of an entirely revamped version of the show. We were invited to venues in Chicago, Illinois and Seward, Omaha & Lincoln, Nebraska. At the end of each performance, we had discussions with audience members regarding the clarity of the new changes and what else could still be made clearer. Our venues ranged on this tour but in every instance they were fairly intimate and the audience was close/in the action.
Our goal is to find a way to bring the Netflix generation to the theater and to challenge what a theatrical experience can be. Our culture is so connected to our devices that many people no longer feel comfortable without them. Regardless of your personal opinion of social media and its place in the theatre, we have to recognize that reaching new audiences often means finding new ways to connect. The goal, just like with any other theater piece, is to start a dialogue about where we are as a society and how we communicate today.
The collaborators are Jarrod Ratcliffe who has written all of the original music and created new arrangements of the art songs. Jarrod has also designed and created many of the interactive moments in the show. The show stars Christi McLain who has also curated all of the social media for Dating Sara. Alexander is played by Jerron Jorgensen who also contributed to the musical arrangements. Kristy Chambrelli has been in charge of story continuity, stage direction and video design.
RESIDENCY GOALS & LONG TERM IMPACT
Our larger goals for #trending include —
- Expanding to 90 minutes
- Raising the stakes of the decisions & creation of a new track - We feel as if the first track is very clear and that while there are several different outcomes within the first track it would be more impactful and help the story if there were bigger consequences to the audience decisions. The new track would allow us to develop Alexander and the Mystery Man further. It would also put the audience even more in the driver's seat as they navigate throughout the show. In the CT workshop, we added a phone call from Misti. We think that how Sara reacts to this phone call is a great place to pivot the show off into an entirely different direction.
- Adding additional scoring - the French track was completely rewritten for the midwest tour and the hope is to start on the Mexican & German tracks soon as well.
- We are exploring the idea of having the character of Alexander speak. Currently, there is no dialogue in the show. There are two short outbursts that Sara could possibly have depending on audience decision. One of the schools of thought behind giving Alexander the ability to talk is that it helps to draw even clearer lines between the two characters. Sara is in her phone the entire show so her being withdrawn and non-verbal makes sense. Alexander does not care about or truly understand her plugged in lifestyle and would probably be making efforts to speak to her. During the Providence Workshops, the actor made more of an effort to try to speak and be shut down by Sara while this seemed to become less of a focus in Connecticut. On tour we experimented with using improv to create these spoken moments and have come to the conclusion that it either needs to be scripted or scrapped.
- For the midwest tour, we added a Narrator of sorts. The character of IRIS was created to help Sara and act as a SIRI or Alexa-like service. We would like to expand this idea and run it through the new track.
- Where is Alexander? - We added video in the new version of Alexander throughout the show so we can better track his whereabouts as we discover he is late. One of the ideas we have been considering is that the new track we develop shifts the audience to his side and completely changes who they are in control of.
For this particular residency we want to explore the questions- Why Sara does not trust this man — she has been with him for quite a while and we wonder what is leading her down this path? Who is this online character, how can we make him a more central focus and what can we do to keep track of where he is in the grand scheme of things? What are the most impactful audience decisions we can provide and how can they propel the action forward?
Through exploring these questions we are hoping to have a clearer idea of what is missing and what direction the new video needs to move in order to truly be the other character in the story.
HOW WE DEVISE
We do a lot of our work through experimentation. We will develop ideas and work our way through the narrative to see if the idea is pushing the action forward or if it is not a strong enough addition to the storytelling. Some of our work is physical. The show is all physical comedy. We have and will continue to spend a lot of time examining and breaking apart “moments”. We have utilized methods from sequencing to different LeCoq exercises to try and figure out what is working and where we need to play harder. It has been challenging because up until now we have had to do a great deal of our work in living rooms and small domestic spaces. Having space, time and resources would be a huge thing for us.
VIDEO & AUDIO SAMPLES FROM PREVIOUS WORKSHOPS