A STAGE PLAY IN THREE ACTS
In this world premiere of Kristin Goodman’s dark comedy; Brooke Haven (a cunning social media influencer mom), wrangles her younger sister, Chelsea Haven (an unemployed alcoholic), into starring in a reality television show based on their childhood. As their TV show gains success, the two sisters are forced to confront not only the shared trauma of their public past, but also their current “private” struggle to find human connection and meaning in a world that no longer seems to be real.
#UnderTheInfluence wrestles with the question: if current society tells us that our reality is based on one’s perspective, how do we know what is real and what is fiction? With the creation of social media, came the creation of one’s social media self. Every American on any given platform is selling their “followers” or “friends” a narrative of who and what they are, regardless of the truth. But as we all know, social media only tells one angle of our story – the one we want everyone to believe, or rather the one we want everyone to buy. And so, as a society we are at an impasse where lies have been described as alternative facts and reality television is shaped and edited to tell a fictional narrative.
#UnderTheInfluence is centered around two sisters who grew up with the same mother but have differing memories on how that experience was and how events unfolded. This is a common argument among siblings and parents. Memories of how things unfolded often lean in the direction of the person remembering the events. As families argue about what is real and what is a distorted version, we, as a society have amplified that discussion on multiple platforms giving us the opportunity to lie to the world – or as some might say, embellish the truth – about our looks, our success, our economic status, our education, our relationship status, and a hundred other aspects of who we are. Why have we abandoned our authenticity for fantasy? And what does that mean when we are in an actual relationship with someone sitting across from us, asking us to be honest and true? Can we forfeit the fantasy and be real? And if we don’t know what is real, where do we go for truth? Another layer of this play is the very real understanding that social media is a drug. It is as addictive as most addictive substances, giving its users – yes, users – a dopamine hit each time they post, like, receive a like, or add a comment. Like rats on cocaine, it emboldens the user to post offensive comments or intimate details of their lives just to get another hit – never differentiating between good or bad feedback. The hit has the same effect – continued engagement with whichever device the user is on. Because the thrill is all the user is looking for initially to get high. Just like a cocaine addict getting high, this addiction is not thought out from beginning to end. It shoots through our nervous system like a rollercoaster hounding us to engage, repeatedly, regardless of who we offend, hurt, or out, causing rifts between friends and family members oftentimes over information that is false and created specifically to cause chaos and engagement.
#UnderTheInfluence takes the audience through the pitfalls of social media and addiction, and its effect on actual human relationships. And asks: are our relationships with other people and the intimate relationship with ourselves being hijacked by the distorted data we have created online? And if the answer is yes, are we willing to quit social media to find an authentic connection instead? Or are we so addicted that we will forfeit what is real to stay high?