Transference & the art of randomized storytelling

Theatre project brings out the authenticity of its performers

Transference challenges the notion that rehearsal is necessary to put on a successful show.

Slotted across three performances with four different actors per show, the self-described experimental theatre project seems like a paradox: it’s a carefully controlled environment for spontaneity.

This experiment is created by randomizing what actor is given which specially prepared script submitted by anonymous writers. Without any time to rehearse or interact with the material beforehand, the selected unprepared actors are thrown on stage and the show begins.

Before the Wednesday show performance in a sleepy Kingston Hall room, the producers of Transference, Scott Forster, MA, and Andreea Ionescu, ConEd ’17, clarified their show was purposefully unscripted and unprofessional. They were careful to explain the thought process behind their artistic decisions.

Forster took the audience through the audition process as well, as their decision on actors was based off their ability to be vulnerable. In addition, Forster noted the only instruction the playwrights were given was to write in their authentic voices — the length, subject matter and format was completely up to them.

Most importantly, the producers stressed no one except the playwrights had set eyes on the performed pieces prior to the show.

The experiment’s procedure had the show’s actors Cole Roe, Remira Pryce, Jeff McGilton and Stacey Bondareva come up one at a time, break the ice by answering a personal question and select an envelope holding one of the secret scripts.

The atmosphere leading up to each piece was lighthearted, each actor unexpectedly having to describe their first kiss or recall an event that changed their lives before choosing their envelope.

In the style of a game show, Forster then announced, “your fate is sealed and the room is yours!”

With each new scene, the juxtaposition of the actor’s personality and of their newfound characters was overwhelming. A handful of the scripts had seemingly confident actors fold into an insecure version of themselves voicing intensely private thoughts.

One of the more notable moments of the Transference experiment was that half of the playwrights had chosen to write their scripts in the first-person, forcing actors to directly take on the roles of their respective playwrights. While detailing highly personal and vulnerable thoughts, they also acknowledged the nature of the show and drew attention to its own creative process. 

The pieces themselves ranged from an unflattering Yelp review re-telling of Jonah and the Whale to intimate portraits of insecurity and self-doubt.

Despite the fact that the actors were performing a cold read, their small choices and quirks lent an authentic, dynamic theatrical experience. There were performances where actors began the piece assuming aspects of their character before evolving and changing their demeanor to fit the interpreted needs of the script.

Mannerisms like tight smiles, well-placed air quotes, paced nervous breathing and the stressing of certain words were used to inject the actor’s own personal touches and, most importantly, felt natural.

The actors’ differences in style and disposition and the varied content of the script and intimacy of the atmosphere yielded an engaging theatre experience that kept the audience on their toes. 

That Transference’s core hypothesis is the elimination of inherited interpretation and direction of a material can spawn raw authenticity and a totally unique perspective — and its Wednesday show affirmed just that.

 

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