About one month ago, my acting/directing class performed Caryl Churchill’s Love and Information. The production was produced through the Residential College’s drama department, one week before SMTD’s production of the same play. Both productions were done in accordance with the Caryl Churchill festival happening around Ann Arbor, which featured a weekend of free staged readings and lectures to celebrate the ingenious playwright.
To give some background, Love and Information is a jam-packed play consisting of a multitude of short vignettes. The scenes give a glimpse into the different lives of lovers, family members, and friends, evoking laughter, sadness, and more. The script for the play, as well as several others by Churchill, is unique in that it is structured in a way that encourages creativity. There are little to no stage directions, no scene numbers, and no named characters.
When rehearsing the show, the lack of information was a blank canvas that—while incredibly intimidating—forced the director and actors to think for themselves about the direction each scene went when rehearsing it. With limited punctuation and lines interrupting each other, it was initially daunting to successfully define the messages we wanted to send. Besides understanding the text, we were challenged to present a story within a short scene. Additionally, as artists, we weren’t the only ones being intellectually and emotionally challenged; audience members were often left to draw their own conclusions for the stories on stage.
By being both an artist and audience member for this show, I had the opportunity to view the stories through different lenses. To see different renditions was thought-provoking and entertaining. The build up and collapse of relationships between the scenarios varied greatly upon interpretation. For my performance, I played a high schooler, sister (revealed to be a mother), lover, friend, and girl in love with artificial intelligence. It was interesting to see these same roles executed by the SMTD cast. Some scenes were taken in a different direction, whether more comedic or serious than my drama class’s.
Apart from the structure of the play, the stories themselves spoke volumes. The play questioned the balance between knowledge and love, particularly with modern technology. Can one exist without the other? What happens if a person ignores one to rationalize the other? The short scenarios brought life to different characters, situations, and storylines that sparked these questions. Additionally, the use of technology by characters in the scenes acted as either a boundary or a tool in their attempts to communicate with one another. This use of modern technology added an extra layer that contributed to the play’s thought-provoking manner. Overall, through performing scenes, watching other students’ work, and seeing SMTD’s production, I gained an immense appreciation for Churchill’s play, Love and Information.