This is On Record was a theatrical performance by Applied Mechanics, a radical theatre troupe, that addressed the challenges of documenting a historical moment. The performance simultaneously followed the narratives of 6 different characters, all of whom lived in different time periods in history.
What made the performance so special is how it was adapted specifically around the VCAM space. At the beginning of the performance, which started at the Screening Room, one person stationed outside constantly repeated, “Welcome to the VCAM!” in an echoing, robotic voice, which was especially strange to hear as part of the performance of a non-student run, independent theatre group. Once we were inside, an actress satirically introduced herself as the “Visiting Professor” at the college and proceeded to give a speech laced with dark humor and critiques of modern consumerist societies. She talked about subjects ranging from reality television to her “plans for the semester,” occasionally voicing nonchalant quips like “Non-fiction is a loose term that has lost its meaning today.”
While we were all expecting to sit down and ease into our chairs as we watched a show, the audience was instead asked to move around and told that was the way in which the performance was to be viewed. The actors were spread out all across the building, upstairs and downstairs, and the audience almost seemed to be a part of their performance as they interacted with the same space and plot as the performers. The narratives of the characters sometimes overlapped in interesting ways – the display of text messages and video calls on one end of the room while the distribution of pamphlets happened in the other juxtaposed two different eras of communication, for example. There were also other times when the narratives occurred disconnectedly at different spots in the room, and what a member of the audience got to see was a matter of their choice.
The performance was interactive and experimental, and I most enjoyed the way that it defied convention and required the audience to be displaced, the way that it broke the fourth wall and actually forced people to engage with what was going on. Through moments of juxtaposition and disruption, This is On Record made a point of the subtle overlaps and stark contrasts between the different periods of time in which its stories were set.
Written by Noorie Chowdhury ’21, Mumbai, India
Edited by Anna Mehta ’18, English Major, Auburn, Alabama