Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
[Photo by Miles Skorpen]
Thursday night as part of the class of 2011 orientation Dean Larimore presented YouSpace Book, the 2007 orientation play. Directed by Lars Jan ’00 with stage manager Abigail Graber ’08, the play was as always entertaining. The writing overflowed with pop culture references and hilarious lines such as, “if you like fascism, tyranny, and sexual deviancy, vote for the human RA.”
The evening began with a serious presentation of the themes later present in the play. Dean Larimore began with his familiar, “Konichiwa. Maruaweka. Howdy. Hello.” After introducing the deans, he focused largely on issues of academic honesty. The late arrival of Registrar Martin Warner merited an additional applause.
The cast of the orientation play consisted of: Mia Adjei ’08 as Hilary; Twan Claiborne ’08 as Justin and Isaac; Melissa Cruz ’10 as Diego and the human RA; Jesse Gottschalk ’09 as Jon and Abraham; Chris Klaniecki ’10 as Sylvester; Nadja Mencin ’10 as Laura; and Jonathan Peters ’09 as the Director of YouSpace Book and the virtual RA. They arrived during orientation and put the entire production together in seven days. “We count on everyone to do a little bit of everything–acting, writing, getting props, etc.–and the cast has really risen to the occasion,” said Graber.
It’s easy to see why when watching Lars Jan ’00 coach the cast during rehearsal. “This is the grandest line you’ve ever delivered–let’s have it reach Alpha Centauri!” Jan graduated from Swat with a double major in English literature and theater studies. His continued professional involvement in the theater world has included narrative filmmaking, as evidenced in the structure of the play.
–Jonathan Peters ’09, with strong theatrical emphasis
The plot centered around a dystopic vision of the class of 2011 in which YouTube, MySpace, and Facebook have merged. The product, YouSpace Book, aims to render face to face interaction obsolete. Video segments are presented in which characters create reality TV-style audition tapes for the new YouSpace Book program. Alternating sections show what befalls them upon their acceptance. Confined to cubicles, half of them struggle to escape the clutches of the virtual RA or, as he likes to be called, HAL. After weeks of solitary digital confinement Klaniecki cracks, prompting an expert Gollum impression and the intervention of the human RA. The play culminates in a hilarious battle between the human and virtual RAs. A walk-on role played by Daniel Jamison ’08 heightens the epic battle.
[Photo by Miles Skorpen]
This is the third year in which Jan has been involved in the orientation play. Each year the administration provides a bullet list of issues and policies to present in partial coordination with the diversity orientation workshops. “We don’t try to solve any of the issues that we raise—we just try to pose interesting dynamics and situations that may spark deeper discussion in the workshops,” said Jan. This year has seen extra attention to issues of gender identification. The character of Diego, portrayed excellently by Cruz, chooses to present hirself as a giant clam on YouSpace Book rather than face gendered assumptions.
Graber also stated that there was some discussion of what exactly should be thrown to the audience after the ever-popular safe sex song. Last year concerned students asked if the play could include dental dams as well as condoms. When Graber acquired condoms this year from Worth she was told that dental dams had received little interest last year and were as a result not well stocked.
The play included the traditional favorite, “Whatever you do or say to me, I am still a worthwhile person.” YouSpace Book set the Freshmen class off on the right track as they begin life at Swarthmore.