This weekend, Hinman Production Company (HPC) will present a production of M.J. Kaufman’s 2015 play, “How to Live on Earth.”
The play follows the family life and relationships of four main characters who compete to win a spot as one of the first settlers on Mars. “How to Live on Earth” transports viewers into a world comparable to that of Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey,” with strong use of technical elements such as sound and lighting to enhance production. However, in an age where cars are being sent to the moon and interplanetary settlement is increasingly discussed, Kaufman’s play seems all the more realistic for its time.
In her directorial debut, Kristen Kurlander, a senior majoring in nursing, has taken the helm of this production. She said that HPC has embraced the artistic liberty it was granted due to a flexible and somewhat ambiguous script, which gives cast and crew members the chance to be innovative and original.
“We got to make a lot of choices, and we got to be very creative,” Kurlander said. “There was nothing about set, nothing about sound cues — and so we added a bunch of things that made it our own.”
Erin Stahley, a junior double-majoring in English and political science, is cast in the role of Eleanor, a librarian who wishes to leave the planet in a near-existentialist search of meaning. She said the production is not only unique to the theatre, but to HPC as well.
“I think something really unique about this production is all of the work that has gone into the technical aspects of it — we have a lot of people working on film, lighting and sound, which makes our show really unique because we combine different types of art with film, theatre and acting,” Stahley said.
Assistant directors Hannah Nathanson, a freshman majoring in English, and Jacob Parker, a sophomore majoring in music, similarly attribute the production’s strength to an application of multiple artistic platforms.
“What’s really special about this show is the multimedia usage, which we haven’t really done in HPC before,” Nathanson said.
Parker not only works as an assistant director to the show but also uses his skills in music to create original transitional sound for the production. He said the most gratifying part of the show for him is tech week when editing, lighting and music are added to the production.
“Right at that spot is when everything starts to really come together, and that’s a really cool feeling,” Parker said.
The show features original film and animation done by students such as Alex Romero, an undeclared freshman, and Tom Morzello, a senior majoring in human development. The show’s lighting was directed by Jonathan Cuda, a freshman majoring in economics, whose job is vital to the production’s unconventional presentation.
Nathanson said that HPC was taken aback by the student community’s willingness to be part of the show.
“We sent out an email [in search of] animators, and we weren’t expecting anyone to respond to that, but so many people wanted to be involved with the filming of the show,” she said.
Cuda said he is excited to work on a show that is largely based on modern technology, which separates this production from others he has worked on in the past.
“We just had the new LED lights set up, so there is a lot more color involved, which is really interesting and fun to work with,” Cuda said. “It brings a lot of creativity and dynamic lighting to the show, making it all the more visually appealing.”
Kurlander said the cast and crew have brought ingenuity and a modern twist to the script.
“I think this show is about finding a home and settling, but in the good sense,” Kurlander said. “It’s totally modern, and it deals with real people. We have definitely tried to play that up, and we have added all of these cinematic technical elements, which actually only added to the theme of humanness.”
“How to Live on Earth” will be performed at the Hinman Commons on April 4 and 5 at 8 p.m., as well as April 6 at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Tickets will be sold at the door at $5 for students and $8 for general admission.