No Replica was my senior thesis project at Wesleyan University. I devised a performance that used nineteen speakers in lieu of actors as way to investigate the role of technology in a performance context. The performance materialized as an immersive experience guided by limited narrated instructions. A pre-recorded voice led a small audience through various actions and spaces under the false premise that the audience's behavior affected what sounds or instructions would occur. No two performances were the same, both because I changed the audio slightly each time and because the audience's actions were wholly unpredictable.
Director/Sound Designer: Gabriel Drozdov
Stage Manager: Drew Weiss
Scenic Designer: Ava Calabrese Grob
Properties Designer: Capri Gehred-O’Connell
Narrator: Maddie Ulevich
Stagehand: Nika Litt
Publicist: Ramsay Burgess
Production Manager: Rebecca Foster
Thesis Tutor: Calvin O’Malley Anderson
Technical Advisor: Tony Hernandez
Each of the ten performances began with the audience entering a small area enclosed by curtains. Two speakers initiated the performance, providing some basic ground rules that were meant to be broken. The two microphones in the space served no purpose as their cables lay unplugged on the floor. This phase of the performance included prolonged moments of silence or repeated music meant to be both boring and awkward, potentially encouraging the audience to act without instruction and explore the theater.
Most audiences refused to move without explicit instructions. After some time, the speakers instructed everyone to pass through the curtains into the main space. This main area was composed of multiple immersive sets littered with broken or malfunctioning technology, as well as numerous speakers distributed throughout. Much of this equipment was plugged with cables, but the only devices that actually worked were a select nineteen speakers. I included tens of unused speakers, as well other devices like illuminated soundboards controlling no equipment.
The first phase in the larger theatrical space consisted of the pre-recorded narrator reading an ingredient list, encouraging audiences to interact with a grocery store-inspired set. Throughout this phase, the voice would give indications that the audience's actions were being monitored (which wasn't true).
The audience was then encouraged to mimic a driving experience, as if they were taking their groceries home. Individuals selected their "car" and the aural atmosphere of a road immersed the theater. This soundscape frequently stopped, indicating that an individual was not performing properly and as such the performance theoretically could not continue (which also wasn't true).
Finally, the instructions led the audience to a library-esque area, but the narration provided little direction at this point. Instead, I wanted to see how the audience would interact with the space when given no additional direction. The results varied from uneventful to chaotic—individuals sat and did nothing, talked into microphones for no one listening, and destroyed the food from the grocery store. In one performance, a group of people wrapped the grocery shelves entirely with tinfoil. In another, many people gathered on the stage, which was a true off-limits zone as I was sitting operating the show right behind a curtain. Finally, once an audience member chose to exit the theater, an usher would enter the space to blow an airhorn signifying the end of the performance.
Putting together No Replica required the help of so many others who I owe endless thanks to. Below, you'll find a few behind-the-scenes looks at how the performance came together. Additionally, No Replica was both a performance and a research paper, which you can read in its entirety here.