The audience decides the characters’ fate in the inaugural production from Spork in the Road Theater Company, “the state of being happy” written by theater sophomore Grantland Tracy. The show will premiere April 12 at 8 p.m. in the Performing Arts Center pavilion.
“the state of being happy” tells the story of Charlie Briggs as he has the opportunity to return to Earth after dying. He is given the chance to spend three days making something of his life so those in the “afterlife” can decide where he goes. However, in this choice-based narrative, Charlie’s decisions are not his to make. As the play embraces technology and involves the audience, those watching will be able to vote on key moments that change the fate of the play.
“The choice-based part of the show comes into how he is given the opportunity to go back to Earth and change his fate and where he ends up,” English sophomore Mackenzie Shorter said.
Technical Director and computer science junior Ethan Kusters coded a website for the voting elements of the show. The audience will have 15 seconds to choose the option they like best for the characters, and the website will send a message to the stage crew and actors to let them know the audience’s choice. During voting, the show will not stop, and actors will have to quickly remember the show’s new path. With 281 different ways for the show to play out, each show can be different depending on how the audience votes.
“It’s been very different. There’s nothing that has prepared any of us for what we are trying to do,” theater senior Garrett Lamoureux said. “We have to memorize every single path we could go down, whether we see them or not.”
Funding for this show has come from the CPConnect grant and crowdsourcing through Indiegogo. Because the production team is entirely student-run, Spork in the Road has depended on support and resources they had to find themselves. While coming up with the money for the show has been stressful, the school has been supportive of this endeavor, according to Navigato.
Rehearsals for the production take place once campus use of facilities has ended. This means the actors can be found running through the show at 1 a.m. before heading to bed for class just a few hours later. This balance of school and rehearsal, as well as other elements of college life, is something many of the cast and crew said they struggled with. However, their passion and dedication to the project pushed them to dedicate their spare time to the show, even if it meant being tired the next day.
“Being a student-written-and-run show, I’ve been able to bond with the company and the crew and the members in a way that I wouldn’t have if it were a school-run show,” Shorter said. “Everyone understands we are all in the same position, and we all going into this have a drive to make it a good show.”
This is the first production from the new theater company on Cal Poly’s campus.
Started by a group of five friends, the Spork in the Road Theater company aims to bring new and exciting theater to all audiences.
“We decided that in January we wanted to start this theater company and that we wanted to work together to make a show happen this quarter,” theater arts senior Tricia Navigato said.
Although the company is composed of a group of Cal Poly students, it is not an official Cal Poly organization. Once all of the members graduate, they hope to see the company reach beyond campus.
“We’re not tied to anything, so I think the advantage is that it allows us to be really agile,” Kusters said.
Kusters said the company has yet to discover more about itself outside of their first production. When the show wraps, they plan to work out details on the path to becoming a fully licensed, non-profit company. However, Kusters said they do see a clear mission of bringing theater that is captivating and entertaining to all audiences.
The team of students that make up the company presently are theater arts seniors Navigato and Emily Kluger, computer science junior Kusters, theater arts junior Sammy Boyarsky and theater arts sophomore Grantland Tracy.
“Spork in the Road focuses on original productions and then productions that are leaning towards interactive productions,” Kusters said.
Tickets for “the state of being happy” are available for purchase through pacslo.org for $8 for students and $10 for general admission.