Last weekend, Taylor Theatre featured the Colorado College original play, “MSR: A Sci-Fi Adventure 4 Millennial Souls”. Hundreds of students and even some faculty members attended the show over its three nights, and chairs were crammed into corners in order to meet the demand as best possible.
The play centers around a group of interns at a tech conglomerate who discover a plot to take over the world (classic, right?). With a cast of eccentric and gregarious characters, “MSR” plays with common science fiction tropes but mixes them with commentary on social media and a sense of realism.
“It’s about a lot of things, but fundamentally about people believing in their virtual selves more than their actual selves,” said James Dineen, the writer and director of the play. Dineen had begun writing “MSR” last June while staying at Berkeley with a friend. There he began to think about social media and its effect on people’s self-perception. One recurring element in “MSR” is the prevalence of social media. Many of the platforms that people use in reality found counterparts in the play; for example, tinder has “flintr”, and Uber has “Duper”.
But overall, the play had a beautiful interconnectedness – scenes from the beginning intersected with scenes from the end (sometimes subtly, sometimes not) to create a holistic and well connected story. As well, the play was thoroughly engaging and interactive for the audience; in fact, at one point everyone had to take out their phones and record themselves. “All of my plays have moments of direct address. That’s not like a rule I have for myself or anything, I think it comes from the fact that you can only do that in theatre. You can’t do that in any other story form,” said Dineen.
In a play, the audience is able to actually be a part of the moment; their responses are actually heard and can affect how the cast reacts. “MSR” provides an excellent example of how the theatre environment creates a sense of personability and connection with the audience that other mediums aren’t able to provide.
In a way, this sort of connection to the audience is exactly what the play seeks to comment on. Often people lose track of themselves in virtual reality and began to recognize their virtual selves more than their actual selves. However, Dineen’s play isn’t trying to spread an anti-technology message, or say that we need to abandon all social media. Rather, we need to be more cognizant of our use and understand social media as something that can be implemented to enhance social interactions and not diminish.
“There’s definitely a way in which technology shapes the way we use it, but I don’t want say don’t use technology! turn off the internet! Its not that. What I wanted to point to with the ‘Duper’ car and ‘Flintr’ date, is that those are both uses of technology, but they put people in the same room. So it’s not there’s something inherently wrong with how were connected . . . the part to lose is the part that makes you forget how real the real world is,” Dineen added.
In the end, “MSR” was an incredible success, and it is unfortunate that there were only three shows, ““I think people enjoyed themselves, people were laughing hard. Hopefully they connected with something, or felt some sort of critique of narcissism, or too much trust in virtual representations of yourself.”
Like many student-produced events, “MSR” was made possible by Theatre Workshop, and Dineen encourages everyone to make use of the resource: “Theatre Workshop can fund anyone’s show, and people should come ask for money from Theatre Workshop, because we have a lot of money. It’s a really great resource and anybody who wants to make any performance happen, we can make it happen.”