A Show for You and Mii
By Joe Newman-Getzler
“On your mark, get set/We’re riding on the internet…”
Those lyrics, repurposed from a ’90s educational video for kids, are the first we hear in For Sale, this semester’s New Works Lab. The New Works Lab is a chance for directors to work on and develop their original projects. Rather than working from a completed script, director Graham Cook ’19 developed the show with four actors over the course of their rehearsal process. In For Sale, four actors – Taylor Goodwin ’20, Hannah Gross ’21, Brendan Higham ’21, and Emily Zeller ’22 – act out a series of initially random vignettes. There is a Satanic ritual, a Christmas party, a funeral, and cup-stacking, among other pieces. They all seem random, until you learn the show’s main conceit—to find the most random, inexplicable items on Craigslist, that beautiful internet-based paean to the fact that humans can make and own pretty much anything they want if they’re creative enough. Cook and company used these ads as a basis for the vignettes, which gave their ideas of how those items came to be sold in the first place. After all, if you see some of those ads, you know there’s got to be a story there, whether the seller wants to tell it or not.
Those ads provide the play’s only dialogue. It’s all they need, just to make what we see more explicable. On the surface, For Sale sounds like it could go in an uncomfortable direction. Craigslist is somewhat notorious for selling things that reveal more about the seller than we’d like to know. But none of the items profiled in For Sale are particularly creepy (save for a baby doll conjured up in the aforementioned Satanic ritual), nor are the folks selling them. Rather, the show celebrates how wonderfully wacky the Internet and the people who use it can be.
We live in a privileged era. Thousands of webpages about anything you’d care to learn about are right at our fingertips. That’s the fun of the Internet, but also what makes it so weird. If this vast database of information contains everything anyone has ever wanted to know, that probably means it gets very specific sometimes, doesn’t it? From the niche to the well-recognized, the Internet covers it all…which is both exciting and terrifying.
The show was staged in the sub-basement of Wait Hall, which is accessed by going to the end of the hall and going down a flight of stairs. It isn’t a big space, but that works to For Sale‘s advantage. Not a detail could be missed, as the cast took up every vacant space it was possible to fill in the small room. It was very loose and relaxed, feeling like a very unique game of charades at some points. You could see the actors that weren’t onstage laughing along with the audience, not worried about being “on” at all times. That casual vibe is one of the benefits of this intimate atmosphere of theater. If you’re sharing a space with a smaller group of people, it’s good to make it feel like you’re inviting them into the party, rather than shutting them out.
An example of that intimate atmosphere came early on in the show, if unintentionally. Higham and Goodwin were initiating a Christmas party scene, involving all four actors (Zeller would appear to passionately lip-sync “All I Want for Christmas is You” and Gross would cheerfully munch away on a bowl of popcorn. The bowl, minus the caramel pieces, would be the item up for sale at the end of the scene). Right when it was about to start, a student walked in late and crossed in front of the actors. They just shrugged and went with it. It didn’t feel awkward or out-of-place at all. Maybe you’re late to the party, but you’re here now, and that’s what matters.
For Sale is a lot of fun. It is, more than anything, a celebration. People are unique in their desires and interests, and even if it doesn’t always make sense to us, the “live and let live” principle of letting people enjoy the things they like if it isn’t hurting anyone is always applicable. Placing the show in the sub-basement of Wait Hall gives it that desired isolating feeling, emphasizing how all these people are cut off from the world in their unique hobbies and pastimes. But they all have a place to be themselves and embrace their eccentricities, and that’s the Internet.
In any case, I’m definitely buying what they’re selling.
Director: Graham Cook ’19
Stage Managers: Bridget Schwartz ’21, Lea Tanenbaum ’19
Cast: Taylor Goodwin ’22, Hannah Gross ’21, Brendan Higham ’21, Emily Zeller ’22