The Hinman Production Company’s (HPC) production of “The Theory of Relativity” by Brian Hill and Neil Bartram premiered on May 6. With tickets available through B-Engaged, the musical ran until May 8 on ShowTix4U, an online streaming platform. The musical uses Einstein’s laws of relativity to display the chances of people meeting each other in random moments, focusing on characters who are college or graduate students dealing with romantic experiences and parental expectations.
Sydney Perruzza, a senior majoring in psychology, pitched the show to HPC this semester and explained how its plot interested her.
“There is relatability in the stories that they tell, where you’re moving away from home and leaving behind that life and thinking that school is gonna be this weird place,“ Perruzza said. “But then it turns into [the idea that] home is such a universal feeling and that’s just one example. I felt like somebody that was watching could find a piece of themselves in the show.”
Parker Chafetz, director of the show and a senior majoring in psychology, said that the characters’ stories had to be told in a different way due to the show’s virtual format.
“I feel like a lot of the stories really speak for themselves in the lyrics,” Chafetz said. “The most creative expression that we really used was in editing and sometimes set design, so for example in [the song] ‘Me & Ricky,’ we had a big discussion about what the set would look like. We really wanted it to look like a claustrophobic, tense environment, so we used LED lights and a black backdrop to kinda make it look like an interrogation room vibe.”
Focusing on the environment helped create a unique tone and setting for each musical number. In “The Theory of Relativity,” actors either filmed themselves or were filmed by the production staff, one by one. While this limited the cast’s interaction, it also meant there were a lot more backgrounds to consider, as the show was completely virtual.
“[There was] nothing specifically that we wanted to change from the original format,” Chafetz said. “It was more just taking the message of each song and transforming it into what virtual theatre can do as opposed to what regular theatre can do.”
Virtual theatre creates new opportunities for creativity, and the editing created some remarkable moments in the production. For the song “Great Expectations,” the lighting, choreography and editing were used while the actors’ individual boxes on the screen were moved into a triangle formation and the main soloists were cast in their own colored lights. For the song “Lipstick,” the concrete background broke open and switched to a background full of hearts, signifying the soloist went into a daydream, before the entire process reversed and the soloists were back to reality with the grey concrete background once again. To connect actors to their characters, Chafetz found ways to give them more freedom in their acting choices.
“We gave a general idea of what we wanted for each character, and they would send us ideas of what they had in their wardrobes,” Chafetz said. “So yeah, that was another really fun collaborative part of the process where people got to kind of create their own character and make it feel like their own.”
Each scene was carefully edited to close this semester’s HPC season.
“We’re really, really, really proud of ourselves for making this show happen along with two other virtual shows this semester,” Chafetz said. “HPC has been a family and a home for so many people over so many years, we actually just had our, what, 40th anniversary last year, and the pandemic really scared a lot of our current E-Board members as to how HPC would survive. I’m really, really proud of HPC as a whole, in putting on virtual shows and kind of keeping the spirit of HPC as alive as possible throughout this pandemic. And we’re really excited to see where it goes once we’re on the other side of this.”
HPC has been a home for many BU students and as the seniors have their final production, new faces will be brought in and HPC will have more room to grow and change. Theatre is an art form that has been struggling in this pandemic, and this production has worked to exceed the limits of the virtual format by turning those limits into an asset.