Lighting Design/Storyboard: Emily Clarkson
Text Responses: Meghan McEnery
Action Guide: Cole Wimpee
Sound Design: Almeda Beynon
The Reversal Project is a project where a group of theatre artists turned the theatrical production process on it's head. As opposed to beginning with a script, we began with a lighting design. I came up with a look and an emotion, then after a short and simple staging of actors by the director, we presented to the playwright. This process continued back and forth for five weeks. At the end of those five weeks, Meghan compiled a final script which we presented to the public as the production Retrograde. See the link for more information on Retrograde.
Phase 1 was presented just weeks after the election. Feeling helpless and like I had no voice being heard, I created this first lighting atmosphere. A girl representing myself and my peers who felt the same was hunched on one end of the stage. In agony she screams silently across a void to a group of people laughing and drinking champagne. Though the actress is silent, a soundtrack of a muffled scream plays. With each scream, it travels closer and closer to the other group through the series of lightbulbs hung above her head, connecting the two groups. When the scream at last reaches the other group, they see the light, see her, then make the choice to unscrew the lightbulb and ignore her.
Meghan's response was in prose from the perspective of the girl screaming.
Phase 2 came in January. Still feeling politically helpless I was discussing with a friend the idea of consciousness. How it would be a bit of a relief if we realized we were in a coma, not really awake and having this horrible nightmare. We discussed a Facebook post he had come across that was a simple black background with white text, simply stating that if "you are reading this, please wake up. You're in a coma and this is the only way we can reach you." I took this idea and translated it into a projection design to mirror flickering bits of reality through the lights.
Meghan's text response to this was a scene in which a brother had escaped to a cabin in the woods and had tucked himself away in a room covered in tinfoil. His sister has just arrived to visit.
Phase 3 came from a desperate feeling to hide. The news continued to get darker and more bleak with each passing day and I was filled with this overwhelming urge to crawl under the sheets and hide. I was also interested in presenting an environment that was only light, no sound. I asked the actor in the first movement to pretend it was the worst, and most frightening thunder storm he had ever experienced, but no one other than himself could hear it. At the end, a second actor approaches the tent and his shadow represents the true fear I was trying to hide from. The second movement of this phase was what I called "The Longest Crawl." Inspired by Meghan's text response I created a cold beam of light that the actress was instructed to crawl through, taking as much time as she could. I wanted it to seem never ending.
Meghan's text response to this was a series of haikus.
Phase 4 spawned from another feeling of helplessness. It felt as if there were these lawmakers that were making these decisions and signing these laws that didn't affect them, but had a huge impact on citizens. Whether they thought they were doing it for good, or maybe they were doing it for selfish reasons it feels so frustrating that these laws are forbidding people from being happy.
Meghan's text response to this was another series of haikus.
Phase 5 was inspired by a few factors. In one of Meghan's text responses, she had asked a question to the reader within the stage directions. "What does a room made of tinfoil look like under light? How does it react?" I wanted to show her. I also wanted our last phase before the final product to be that of hope. I put an actor within a box covered in tinfoil and for nearly two minutes she summoned the courage to finally break free and face the fear. Because ultimately I know that fighting is better than this hell we have put ourselves in.
Meghan's text response to this was our final production, Retrograde.