Merely Players

Hyperlink’s Exploration of Our Lives Online: An Interview with Director Rachel Peake.

 

Elbow Theatre’s brand new show Hyperlink explores how lives have changed in the digital age. It will be playing October 4th – 14th at The Firehall Arts Centre. Here is Rachel Peake, director of Hyperlink, in our interview with her.

Can you tell me a little bit about the concept of Hyperlink?

“The show is about our lives online and specifically about the two creators, TJ Dawe & Itai Erdal, and who they are, and their online persona versus who they are in real life. The performers play themselves so they’re not playing characters, they are themselves on stage, and they’re using stories from their own life and their personal dreams and the things that they want in life, and how that is linked to their lives on the internet.”

Why do you think Hyperlink is an important piece to see and discuss?

“Well, I think that we are spending more of our time online, and I think it’s an interesting time because Facebook has been big for around 10 years, so it’s become pervasive, but at the same time, we’re now in a place where we’re questioning it. Questioning how we want to engage in it, and how much we want to engage in it. So I think it’s a question that’s really on people’s minds. So, examining that is really exciting.

There are people who have now been using the internet and social media for most of their lives. So, there’s that too. There’s the progression of people – Itai and TJ are both in their early 40s, they came to this world of the internet as they became adults. So they’re really in that tipping point of having their whole growing up without the internet, or without common use of the internet, and then a quick switch over as they became adults and using the internet for everything. So I think they’re really good “bridge” people for the life before, and the life after the internet.”

How do you think the medium of theatre helps to explore the issues in the show?

“What’s wonderful about theatre is not necessarily technology, it’s being live in a space and sharing an experience with other people. So in a way, it’s the opposite of what the internet does. That was sort of a point that we started from, was how could we use technology within an environment that is not technological in a way. So we are using projection, and a ton of video and internet sources, but ultimately, we are using them in this physical, real world, kind of way. That’s also what we decided with our sound design. We actually brought in a composer and musician named Mark Haney, and Mark plays double bass so there is some electronic sound, but the majority of the sound is produced acoustically, it’s produced live, it’s produced in a sort of analog way. So we are playing with the juxtaposition between digital and analog in that way.

There’s a fair bit of live music and a couple of movement sequences that our choreographer is working on. We are integrating a lot of different elements to the piece. The piece itself is kind of a pastiche of different scenes and moments, sort of a collage, but all adding up to the stories of these people.”

 

I know technology has affected generations and age groups differently. Is this show mainly focusing on a certain age group?

“Kind of, but we are trying to represent a broader perspective. Of course, they can only write from their own perspectives. So you know, hopefully it’s speaking to people of all ages. I think everyone will relate to different things, and not to other things. That’s part of the conversation. We really want to engage the audience in thinking about their own experiences of social media. Not in a bad way, not judging it, but just thinking about it, being conscious of it.”

Discussions around technology are often aimed at teenagers, kids, or parents, and it can be more of a negative conversation, but is sounds like Hyperlink explores both sides. Is that true?

“We’re definitely not saying “this is bad, we should spend more time face to face”. That is something some people might take away from it, but it’s definitely not our message as creators. During the process, someone introduced the term “digital immigrant” and “digital native”. So for people who are digital immigrants, we sort of grew into the world that was the internet, and technology. Whereas, the young people today are digital natives, they’re playing with iPhones when they’re only a year old. We just thought it was really interesting to look at that experience of discovering what the internet is. What is it to have an online identity vs a real life identity, in a way that won’t be possible in 10 years, because those people will have never had a real identity before they had an online identity. They will have always been synonymous. It’s more about a fascination with that.

I think that what’s great about the piece is that ultimately, it’s about human beings. It’s about our quest for love, our quest for acceptance, trying to find a place in the world, all those really big questions that are what theatre’s been about from the beginning of time. So, I’m really excited about looking at those things that make theatre so exciting, but inside this context that is unusual, that doesn’t have a fourth wall, where the actors play themselves. I think it will give people a really great access point.”

Dates: October 4th-14th | Venue: Firehall Arts Centre | Tickets: $20-$33