Collective Memory and the “Other”
By Megan Muratore
About five minutes before the show is scheduled to start, we are ushered into Studio A, where the ensemble is already in character. Each of the cast members pick up rainbow confetti, cups, boxes, and other various objects splayed out on the floor. These items are returned to the nine cardboard boxes which are set in a semi-circle on the stage. After all of the items are picked up, the each actor sits behind a box; this will be their base throughout most of the show.
When They Came, directed by Miranda Coble ’19, tells the story of a small town which becomes a relocation site for “the blues,” aliens with blue skin who have come to Earth from another planet. While the town is welcoming toward the aliens at first, the adults in the town become increasingly wary of their presence. The blues are welcomed into the town but segregated into a building supervised by Johnny Reynolds (Max LoSardo ’20). As storefronts begin to close in the town and people are beginning to lose their jobs, the townspeople become progressively colder toward the blues, with the exception of Grace Madden (Annie Cox ’21), Rita Oh (Margot Friedman ’18), and Suzie Lucas (Kirsten Mulrenan ’18), who attempt to learn about the culture of the aliens without othering them.
The presence of the blues brings forth the dark secrets of the townspeople, bringing up the question of whether the humans are in a position to be commenting on the blues’ place in the town.
The majority of the play is narrated by a collective “we,” comprised of the townspeople, whereas the aliens are constantly referred to as “them.” Yet, the actors embody both the human characters and the aliens. Ensemble members deftly transition between human and alien by covering their hands in blue paint and moving in a stylized manner.
When the younger aliens are introduced into the public school system, Suzie attempts to tell one of the younger aliens (played by Brendan Higham ’21) her name. He is able to pick up her language cues and can comprehend her, but when she asks for his name, he can only communicate it in a dance. While the adults pick out the differences between the blues and themselves, the town youths, as well as their teacher, Grace, find points of connection.
The cardboard boxes on the stage are the lifeblood of the characters. They contain the food that the townspeople give to the blues, confetti which is thrown after Dana Fisher (Serena Lehman ’19) and Jeff Campbell (Nicky Citera ’18) are married, a painting of what the townspeople suspect that the blues’ home planet looks like, which Maria Lucas (Julia Guy ’19) buys, to her husband, Isaac Lucas (Jake Kanengiser ’18)’s dismay. The boxes also serve as a sort of home on the stage for each character, and are representative of their literal lives, as when one person’s life ends, their box closes as well.
From the stylized movements of the aliens, to the representative mode in which physical violence is depicted, and the staging of the community surrounding the scenes, Coble is specific in all of her directing choices, effectively expressing the themes of othering and alienation of the play.
The “us” vs. “them” narrative presented in this piece feels incredibly relevant in today’s political climate, but does not force a specific political agenda. Rather, the play allows audience members to think critically about the actions the townspeople take towards the blues. The way that the audience is set up in a semi-circle across from the semi-circle of the actors invites the audience to be part of the town and to experience their stories, but also ponder the choices of the townspeople and the effects of alienation of those different from us.
By: MT Cozzola
Director/Lighting Designer: Miranda Coble ’19
Stage Manager: Carrie Baker ’20
Cast: Nicky Citera ’18, Annie Cox ’21, Margot Friedman ’18, Julia Guy ’19, Brendan Higham’21, Jake Kanengiser ’18, Max LoSardo ’21, Kirsten Mulrenan ’18
Megan Muratore is a Junior English major and a Staff Writer for STLN