Director, Playwright, & Project Concept
Presented as part of the mainstage performance season for the Theatre program at Old Dominion University.
A devised/new play development. 7-week rehearsal process, regulated by COVID-19 protocols and restrictions.
Director: Brittney S. Harris
Producer: Deborah Wallace
Digital Set Designer: Jim Lyden
Costume Designer: Meredith Magoun
Sound Designer: Marcus Pratt
Symptomatic: IRL centers on embodying the psychological dilemma and chaos of the COVID-19 pandemic and national regulations. This show intends to amplify the complex narrative that embraces the absurd contradictions of the COVID-19 and its diagnoses/treatments and its adverse effects on our social lives and livelihoods. Themes of connectivity, social distancing/isolation, individualism, artistic expression/lack thereof during the implementation of COVID-19 national regulation.
A stylized devised, interactive ensemble piece about self-diagnosing without an accurate understanding of the prognosis, everyone’s symptoms are different and varying (beyond the health ailments). The symptoms of isolation, confinement, detachment, need of connectivity, etc. Adjusting to constant virtual interaction, psychological effects: emotional distress.
Live-streamed with pre-recorded material: executed through about 15 to 20 “scenes”: monologues, innovative virtual scene work, and filmed montages/excerpts.
Methodological Approach(es): Exploring the thematic elements of a) Theatre of Absurd and b) variations of Augusto Boal’s methodology of Forum Theatre and c) Viewpoints (adapted by Anne Bogart) relation to space and time.
“How did it all begin?
I really can’t say…felt it creeping up in the back of my throat.
Felt like a virus but it wasn’t.
Felt like suppression but it was a revelation.”
Beyond the coronavirus itself lies a list of questions and contradictions, plus a kaleidoscope of emotions: denial, panic, disconnection - even, surprisingly, peace and hope. The main inspiration for creating Symptomatic IRL was the need to be creative in a time when not only were we physically in “quarantine” but feelings creatively stifled and isolated as well.
As a director, I believe the theatrical realm exists as a platform for artists to explore their own roots and spiritual life, as well as questions about morality and society. Symptomatic: IRL centers on the psychological dilemmas and chaos of the COVID-19 pandemic and national regulations. Using 6 performers to embody the wide variety of perspectives and points of view, this show intends to amplify the complex narrative, to enhance the absurd contradictions of COVID-19 and its diagnosis, treatments, and adverse effects on our social lives and livelihoods - from adhering to restrictions vs. not believing in or enforcing restrictions; conspiracy theories about COVID-19 as it pertains to race, gender, age, location, etc.; to contradictory information from “experts” and “news sources.”
Developed and devised over a 7-week virtual collaborative rehearsal period, the show was built from scratch - from just a directorial narrative-based outline. Theatre as an art form is formatted on the platform of personal, intimate interaction - it is a society within itself, a microcosm of society as a whole. We created our own society within our shared screens, and our private spaces became shared ones. We fought through the too-easy detachment, the audio lag, the buffering, the strange new technologies, the awful distance, to craft a visual, verbal, theatrical, cinematic work of art.
Nevertheless, we persisted and explored the full spectrum of symptoms and hysteria of COVID-19 IN REAL LIFE.
Old Dominion University
"I really enjoyed watching theater in a new unexpected light. I felt that the opening was very well captivating, yet confusing but it really made the play more interesting."
"I appreciate the intentionality of the technical difficulties. It almost lost me, but I think that is the point. I am appreciative of the work, because I have lived in most of these moments since March. I liked the dedication to authenticity and intentionality."
"Symptomatic was impressive and moving. The innovation shown by those involved is inspiring."
"I personally really enjoyed the show! Even though there were a few difficulties, it is hard to be able to give a live performance over the internet. It was riveting and something I can relate to. I especially enjoy the fact mental health was touched on since it is something that effects many people. Bravo!"
"It was extremely immersive and disorientating in a great way. It was able to really show all the different ways this virus has affected people mostly mentally, which is typically not what is shown in most productions. The interviews and the colored lighting monologues were also very moving."
Featured photos are from ZOOM & in-person rehearsals, script development sessions, and performance of Symptomatic: IRL