Little Theatre Production holds a mirror to society in a humorous, yet realistic light.
Perhaps no greater paradox exists at present than that of the social media phenomenon — a concept that has allowed humanity to instantaneously connect with one another, but has set forth just as many barriers as it has seemingly demolished. Younger and older generations flock to the idea of creating and upkeeping online presences and personas, though there’s no denying that teenagers nowadays are faced with an onslaught of pressures at the hands of social media that their parents did not have to encounter back in the day. The positives and negatives of such an era are explored in Little Theatre’s production of “Connected,” in which the navigation of social media amid young adults is depicted in a painfully realistic yet charmingly humorous light.
“The message the show presents is to really think about how social media and social norms are playing into people’s everyday lives and adding a filter that never really existed before,” Chip Nolan, Little Theatre’s adviser and director of “Connected” said. “It’ll resonate with a lot of people, and I hope they will start realizing how social media pushes them to act a certain way or put on a particular face on a daily basis.”
“Connected” is composed of an array of characters and plot lines that each highlight the immense dependency teenagers and young adults have on their cell phones and social media applications — a lifestyle that the actors themselves are particularly familiar with.
“It seems the actors are really just drawing inspiration from their own lives and their own experiences,” Nolan said. “Each of their roles serve to spotlight the effects that social media and social pressures have on high school and college-aged people — both good and bad.”
Needless to say, the show’s plot contains an underlying element of poignancy in the deliverance of such a familiar cultural normality. However, as with many societal factors, perhaps the pros and cons ultimately balance each other out.
“Teens nowadays need to be more cautious of their social media use but, at the same time, there can still be growth within it,” junior Claire Bingaman, Little Theatre’s president and one of “Connected’s” phone-obsessed teenagers said. “I don’t think it’s always necessarily a negative thing, and it’s definitely not always a negative thing in the show. It’s almost a topic piece of ‘this is what life looks like now and you take what you want from it.’”
Having performed in and been a part of a multitude of shows that took place in a variety of different decades, Bingaman reflected on the aspects that sets “Connected” apart from past experiences.
“It’s weird doing a show that’s modern because I’ve never had to play a character that I think could’ve had a life similar to mine,” Bingaman said. “But I’m really excited because we haven’t always had a lot of shows with new freshmen, which I think is a result of having usually picked smaller-casted shows for the first show of the year. It’s cool to have a lot of new people among the returning cast members.”
Despite the cast splitting up during rehearsals and practicing on separate days because “Connected” is divided into four parts, a familial atmosphere was undoubtedly still created offstage, especially for the stage’s fresh faces.
“Everyone has been incredibly nice and welcoming. I’ve never felt like I was an outcasted new kid,” freshman Kieran Wiesenberg said. He plays numerous roles in the show. “I’ve been able to get out of my comfort zone and try my best to embody something that I otherwise may not have gotten to do on a day-to-day basis,” he said.
Among Little Theatre newbies and veterans alike, the process of playing roles so close to their own lives paves the way for potential journeys of self-realization to occur.
“I think I can definitely draw some parallels between myself and some of the characters,” Wiesenberg said. “You’d think it’d be harder to embody someone you’re totally opposite of, but I almost feel like it’s harder to embody the roles more similar to you. You have to really learn about yourself in order to completely connect with the character without making it seem as if you’re just playing yourself.”
It appears that the numerous avenues pursued by each actor, with Nolan’s crucial guidance and the crew’s remarkable dedication, to portray their characters ultimately creates a recipe for success, and will certainly leave audience members with tears in their eyes –– from both laughter and empathetic piteousness.
“Connected” runs from Thursday, Oct. 10 to Saturday, Oct. 12 at 8 p.m. in the Marie Maday Theatre. An additional matinee performance will also take place at 2 p.m. on Saturday.