Last Friday and Saturday night, the Andover Theater Project, a new student theater group, presented “Error 404,” a student-written, produced, directed and performed production. Grappling with the social complexities of adolescence in a digital world, the play examines the plight of a girl who accidentally releases a nude photo of herself on the Internet and her struggle to control the damage and save her reputation.
In the realm of the production process, the play faced technical and creative problems, according to Eliana Kwartler ’12, one of the play’s lead actresses and a 2011-2012 Drama Lab Producer. Formulating a script and blocking a technically complicated production proved to be more difficult and time intensive than expected. These problems led to a two week delay of the show’s premiere.
The problems that “Error 404” students faced throughout the creative process are not unlike those faced by the typical faculty-advised Theatre 520 production. But with “Error 404” came invaluable experience unattainable through a prefabricated script. “Error 404” represents a more authentic end result–both in its content and in its approach to crafting a play.
In the end, “Error 404” proved to be more meaningful and relevant to Andover than any recent Theatre 520 production, regardless of the challenges of its creation. The show’s thematic conflicts were easily translatable into the Andover context and offered commentary on the role of social media, both as an agent of interpersonal destruction as well as a means of communication.
The student produced script, the struggles of the creative process, the rush of performing such a personal and relevant piece of theater and the critical social value of a large-scale student play all offered this student body an opportunity to express its voice and analyze the challenges of adolescent life.
For theater to remain relevant at Andover, the program must continue to satisfy this core purpose of critical work in theater: to investigate its society. “Error 404” tested those waters and crafted a poignant message just as significant to the Andover audience as Shakespeare, a Sophoclean tragedy or a big-budget musical.
To re-create and refine this profound effect, student groups should be encouraged to create shows like “Error 404” as major term-long projects. Beyond creation, these groups should be given access to the deep creative and financial resources usually reserved for faculty-directed Theatre 520’s.
This Editorial represents the views of The Phillipian Editorial Board CXXXV.