'Dis/Connected' opens at New Conservatory Theatre Center
The exciting Teen Summer Stock opened July 26 at the New Conservatory Theatre Center in San Francisco with a four day run of 'Dis/Connected' through July 29. Written by Bennett Fisher and directed by Jessica Holt, the play is an innovative exposé on bullying at school and through social media on the Internet. The ensemble actors are excellent and work well as an engaging team of storytellers with a smart script and direction. 'Dis/Connected' appeals to both teenagers and parents and deals with the phenomena of texting and social media that has preoccupied young people ever since cell phones with mobile networking became affordable in the 90’s. The opening lines of the play address how elderly people look back on their past whereas young people try to put it behind, especially memories about being picked on and bullied at school.
The teens wind up having to go get an online education when their school is closed. This is a disturbingly grim reality today for some students due to educational cutbacks. The school administrators - Supervisors Nelson and Wilson, (Alia Anaya and Rachelle Highbrou), a modern Tweedledum and Tweedledee, engage in double speak on all aspects of the increasingly deteriorating situation of their school and morale of the students. Their exchange reveals the stark reality of school boards who are able to justify cutbacks through deceptive language.
Top Hat (Tess Greenham) royally bullies the ill named Snot (Rebecca Huges) aided by her gang - Rabbit (Regina Leon), Tiptoes (Zoe Zapata) and Mumbles (Casey Alter). Top Hat has her eye on Buzzy (Joseph Weinberg) who becomes more and more intrigued by how Snot turns her life around in front of her peers and begins to become empowered. Since she has suffered as a social outcast for years, she decides to hit back with real potency by demonstrating through a self-designed app how students can randomly become unpopular on the Internet through rumors and hearsay. Top Hat is the first to lose her reputation in this way, though Rabbit and Tiptoes who have followed the leader are given a chance to change ways and atone for bullying Snot. Meanwhile, DD (Forest Nolan) confers with Buzzy about the relationship that seems to be budding between him and Snot that is moving him away from Top Hat and her bullying. He also expresses his own feelings towards Buzzy in the painful process of coming out.
'Dis/Connected' addresses the homophobia, sexism and racism that lies dormant among unconscious and insecure teens. Insensitive social exchange can cause scars for a lifetime. However, in this play the real threat is social media, cell phones and the Internet, which increasingly replace human contact. This group of actors successfully and evocatively bring these messages home and awaken many of the thoughts that everyone is thinking today about how far will it go as cyberspace and smart phones continue to take over meaningful social engagement. There is also the problem of malicious commentary in social media. The recent expulsion of a Greek athlete by her country from the 2012 Summer Olympics for a racist tweet is an example of the power of inappropriate usage.
An abridged version of play is part of the YouthAware Educational Theatre touring repertory slated for K-12 schools for 2013-2014.