This past summer, playwright Joshua Mikel was asked to write a new play for LC students to perform on the theme of technology.
“I usually don’t like writing about technology because it dates your plays,” Mikel said, “but writing this piece has made me realize that no matter how outdated the technology might ever feel , if it’s a good piece of writing, it’ll stand on its own and will resonate through generations.”
It turns out, however, that it’s pretty difficult to write something relevant to current students without involving social media.
The title of the new play, Lillian Likes It, comes from the practice on Facebook of liking something that someone else has posted.
The play’s protagonist, Lillian, receives a mysterious box left to her by a former co-worker at the coffee shop she manages. This co-worker, Larry, recently passed away but has professed his unrequited love for Lillian. To unravel the mystery of Larry’s message, Lillian uses an online program called “Lazarus” to recreate Larry through an algorithm of all his social media interactions.
Students helped Mikel create Facebook archetypes. “The person you are on Facebook or Twitter is kind of a plastic version of you,” he said.
Mikel came to LC in September with about 10 pages of his proposed script written. Then he spent about three weeks meeting with students three times a week to rehearse and find inspiration for the rest of the 120-page script.
“If I could write every play that way, I would,” Mikel said. “The students have been fantastic.”
Mikel is an award-winning playwright whose works have premiered at the New York City International Fringe Festival, The Kennedy Center, and Endstation Theatre Company. Mikel has done three plays for Geoffrey Kershner at his Endstation Theatre Company.
Kershner, who is an assistant professor of theatre at LC, said, “Josh and I set out with the LC students to explore the question, ‘Who are we online, versus who we are in real life?’ The play explores this in a dramatic and theatrical context. This has been a great project to work on with college students. They live so much of their life online and this has been a fantastic examination of contemporary life and identity.
“What has been really exciting about this process is allowing students to see the creation of a play from the ground up. So often the students are working with established material. My hope is that a process like this will inspire our students to create work of their own. My hope is to continue this New Play Development Series into the future, inspiring our students to self-generate work.”
The play will be performed in Dillard Theatre November 14, 15, and 16 at 7:30 p.m., and Nov. 17 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $5 and may be purchased at the LC Box Office, 544.8380 or www.LynchburgTickets.com.
Read more about Lillian Likes It in The Burg.