A handful of students trekked down the hill to Lamson Lodge on Friday and Saturday night, ready for a night with the Denison Independent Theatre Association, and something a little strange.
Perhaps they had prepared themselves for something a little experimental, given that the Denison Independent Theatre Association advertised This was Mark Bryan’s Idea as a showcase for a “Night of Neo-futurism.”
Neo-futurism, which the director, Michael Somes ‘16 explained at the beginning of the show, is a theatrical style that holds honesty and legitimacy as paramount. As he addressed the audience, Robert Templehof ‘18, another DITA member, stood beside him and smacked him with a plastic bat which was meant to help illustrate the style the group was driving toward. In other genres of theatre, Somes might have pretended to be injured. However, Neo-futurism forces the actors to tell the truth at all times.
Thus, he did not pretend. All of the actors used their real names and everything that was said or done on stage was actually done, or was recounting one of the ensemble’s experiences.
According to the performance program, the audience is thus empowered to “find interest in the here and now, and to show how many interesting things you can do without making anything up.”
Somes had been interested in putting on some sort of avant-garde show with DITA for a long time.
“While I was doing research into different experimental theatre companies, (Professor) Mark Bryan told me to check out the Neo-futurist troupe in Chicago,” Somes said. “Their style was really informal and it looked like the sort of show that could be put on with a low budget. Also I liked the challenge that neo-futurism presented. All the theatre I had experience with was about pretending, or convincingly faking something. Neo-futurism doesn’t allow for any of that, so I was excited because I knew that whatever the end-product was, it was going to be something completely different.”
Something “different” is putting it lightly. The show, which was very episodic, featured everything from Erin Katalinic ‘16 reading Yik Yak posts, to Dominic Pfister ‘17 eating an entire head of lettuce, to Cole Stern ‘17 telling a personal story about a friend who had committed suicide.
The style lends itself to randomness and improvisation. For some audience members, like communication major Jake Mullin ‘17, the results were mixed.
“I was a bit confused by the lack of focus and the seemingly random or stitched together aspect of the performance,” Mullin said, “but I saw the possibilities that Neo-futurism opens up during certain segments, like Cole’s monologue about his friend who committed suicide.”
“I think it’s an interesting philosophy of drama and it seemed to me as if DITA was playing around with what worked and what didn’t,” Mullin continued.
There were a few moments where the issues with the form became clear, but the tone of the performance was purely experimental. Though it lacked focus, This was Mark Bryan’s Idea was as weird and as fun as advertised.