Emma Newman staff writer
Theater Arts Workshop (TAW) will perform ‘Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind ‘(Too Much Light), a performance of 30 plays in 60 minutes, on Friday, Oct. 14 and Saturday, Oct. 15 from 7:00-8:10 p.m.
The plays, broadcasted over Zoom, will be performed in an order chosen through a Facebook poll sent out to those on the call five minutes before the play. Each play spans about two minutes, utilizing one to five actors each, with one play showcasing all 21 TAW students. The performance is based on forum theater, a concept that contains aspects of politics, satire and socio-culture.
Due to the new online format, some of the audience participation that was in the original performance could not be replicated. However, drama teacher Karen Chandler is still excited about the random-order aspect of the plays.
“Those actors have to turn their cameras on and be ready to go,” Chandler said. “I think that’s going to be a lot of fun for my actors [because it will] keep my actors on their toes, and I think it’ll be fun for the audience.”
Some of the plays involve history, which include a play about Henry the Sixth of England’s mental instability, while others incorporate modern events. One of Chandler’s favorite pieces is a political debate that was adapted by TAW to include aspects of the first 2020 presidential debate.
“A really fun piece that we were just laughing so hard at the other day is a political debate, and within the political debate, the commentator is asking questions, and the two people debating are getting nastier and nastier to each other, and start swinging names,” Chandler said. “Does that sound like anything that’s happening now?”
Because of the connections between the fictional and real-life debate, Chandler got approval from Too Much Light’s playwright Greg Allen to insert lines that reference the presidential debate.
“He said, ‘Look, if something starts to spin into something that’s going on right now in this world, that’s the nature of this show. It’s to try to shine a light on what’s going on in this world,’” Chandler said.
Senior Noa Brenner has two favorite plays she is performing in: “Prestidigitation” and “Hair Director”. “Prestidigitation”, directed by senior Parsa Farnad, is about the many different roles that hands play in society. “Hair Director”, according to Brenner, is difficult to explain and a “really stupid, funny piece.”
Farnad’s favorite play is his monologue called “Mr. Science Demonstrates Othello,” which Brenner directed. The play explains different Othello characters by using everyday items like Oreo cookies and candles.
Twenty-one of the 30 plays are directed by students. This aspect is one that Farnad particularly enjoys about the preparation of the Too Much Light performances because the shortness of the plays makes the directing experience less stressful than other theater performances.
“I like having the opportunity to have student direction without the higher responsibility that comes from if you did it in an actual show,” Farnad said. “In Too Much Light, every scene is…very short, so it gives an opportunity to practice directing without worrying about too much responsibility in creating the direction.”
Not every aspect of the play’s production has been perfect, though. One issue that Farnad has noticed with the play’s preparation process is the amount of performances that theater students are doing in a short amount of time.
“A lot of people in the theater department…feel overwhelmed because we’re always trying to do our academic stuff and then at the same time [we’re in] the theater department,” Farnad said. “I love doing theater and I wouldn’t be committing to all of these things if I didn’t enjoy it, but having another thing is difficult to balance sometimes.”
Brenner noticed a different problem: to her, the rehearsals have been “a bit crazy.” This is not only because of a limited time to prepare, but also the new Zoom norms of performing.
“We had to figure out all of the technicalities that are really new to everybody over Zoom,” she said. “We have to figure out this new idea of blocking and apply rules of composition that worked a certain way in the real world to this new platform and this new way of doing things, so we’ve had to do a lot more than we anticipated.”
Chandler has also seen students struggling with this, and the online aspect of the production is what she sees as the biggest challenge thus far.
“The biggest problem is trying to adapt to the Zoom space, to physicalizing, to not having your hands cut off, to coming forward, moving backwards, being loud enough so that your microphone can pick you up anywhere you are,” Chandler said. “Our biggest problem has just been that: just trying to make it more lively and entertaining while trapped in this little time box.”
However, Chandler is still extremely enthusiastic about the production of the play. She thinks that students should come see it because at the high school, there are no other major extracurricular events going on at the moment.
“I think that this would be a wonderful time to reconnect with us,” Chandler said. “There’s always so much stuff going on at Beverly High School. This is a time when people can say, ‘I haven’t really seen much that the theater program has done outside maybe going to the musical. Maybe this is a good change to see something and see what these guys are up to.’”
Brenner also sees the show as a good way to experience live theater in a time when live performances aren’t an option.
“If you want to experience any sort of live theater, then you should come see this,” Brenner said. “It’s really more of that type of experience than we could have anticipated and it’s super fun. It’s just going to be a fun thing to watch and like [nothing] you’ve seen in a long time.”
To Farnad, this play is the perfect way to see what differentiates television from live performances .
“‘Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind’ is a fantastic example of what makes theater special and why somebody would want to watch a live play instead of just something that’s been made and edited on Netflix,” Farnad said. “With live plays, you can get away with doing something that’s weirder, and less natural and edited. It feels more human.”