Pulling out your smartphone in a theatre is typically taboo, but a new play written and produced by Davidson thespians encourages audience members to do just that. Created with funding from the Davidson Research Initiative, Spark Source explores the social implications of technology and social media.
The play will be performed at the Warehouse Performing Arts Center in Cornelius at 7:30 p.m. on September 27 and 28, and at 2 p.m. on Sunday, September 29. Tickets are $10 for regular admission and $5 for students, and they are available only online.
Davidson theatre majors Christian Hatch '15, Quincy Newkirk '14, Christine Noah '14 and Allen Rigby '14 wrote Spark Source over the summer. The interactive play focuses on four characters: a high school teacher, his female student, the student's middle-aged mother and the mother's next door neighbor. The neighbor's creation of the eponymous social media network called "Spark Source" links all of these characters together through online interactions.
Upon purchasing a ticket to see Spark Source, audience members will receive a password that grants them access to the Spark Source social media network. Audience members will be encouraged to post questions, confessions, opinions or thoughts on the network, and other audience members will be allowed to respond and share their own ideas.
The play's four characters will also post to the forum before and during the play, thus breaching the boundary between stage and audience. The characters are played by Bill Reilly, assistant manager of the Davidson College Store, Christine Noah ‘14, Davidson resident Virginia "Ginny" Darcey and Chris Blanchard '14.
"We want to encourage people to think about how technology and social media affects their lives," Newkirk explained. "Spark Source highlights the range of consequences and benefits of an individual's actions behind a digital screen."
Newkirk, Hatch, Noah and Rigby developed the idea of producing a play together when their "Contemporary Performance" theatre class took a trip to New York City last spring with Associate Professor and Chair of Theatre Sharon Green.
"We attended productions that used elements of highly-interactive theatre and involved lots of audience participation," Newkirk said. "When we expressed interest in learning more about this type of theatre, Dr. Green encouraged us to create our own production over the summer through the Davidson Research Initiative."
After receiving the funding, the four thespians devoted themselves to the play, living in a house together and even scribbling ideas on large sheets of paper fastened to the walls. This collaborative process allowed them to make group decisions on all aspects of the production. The four also bounced ideas off of Assistant Professor of Theatre Mark Sutch, their faculty advisor for the project.
"Producing Spark Source has been the most comprehensive learning experience I've had at Davidson," said Rigby. "Taking what I've learned about traditional theatre processes and applying it to a more collaborative model has opened my mind to more possibilities of theatre creation."
Newkirk said the project has helped her appreciate the work that happens behind the scenes of theatre productions. "So much has to happen for a production to become a success," she said. "It has been rewarding to watch our ideas become reality. It gives me hope for pursuing my dreams for theatre in the future."