Nine students sit in chairs facing a podium from which Headmaster Anthony Meyer would soon address them. The students chat amongst themselves, but the constant presence of phones distract them from the important issues, such as the lack of girls in the science classes, a concern that only two students discuss. When Headmaster Anthony Meyer enters the stage, all conversation halts, and those who didn’t already have their phones immediately pull them out to snap a selfie with the distinguished headmaster.
The BETCo (Brookline Educational Theater Company) show, titled “Sheeple Magazine,” took place this past Friday. It was engaging and entertaining while addressing serious issues, which left the audience questioning the way they see celebrities and how they let these powerful people affect their lives.
This year’s show involved multiple skits. Each skit had a different message about the way our society views celebrities. These included themes of citizens feeling ownership of celebrities, celebrities distracting people from their jobs, magnifying celebrity death and themes of celebrities using their platforms to distract from national emergencies.
The sets of the skits were spare, as were the costumes, and the lighting and sound made it clear that the focus of this production was on the quality of the acting and the messages the actors wanted to share. The minimalist approach to costumes and tech made the quality of the students’ acting shine even brighter.
Most of the skits were light hearted. One woman played by Devasha Solomon was giving birth, while the doctor played by Mayavati Prabhakar gossips about Jake Paul’s videos in a corner. Kanye West as president was played by Courtney Lima, who was concentrating more on promoting his Yeezys than dealing with the wildfires in California. Despite these skits, the play ended on a more serious act.
The final skit featured Alec Shiman as a video blogger and Romy Meehan as his camerawoman. Shiman stood center stage in a tan leather jacket and black khaki pants, while Meehan stood a few feet ahead of him with her video camera held tight up against her eye. During his video, the vlogger spoke passionately about sexual harassment and how wrong it is that all of these stars are using their power to harass their coworkers and others. The video finished, but he insisted that they film it one last time, despite the camerawoman persisting that this take was good. They recorded it once more, but after the camera stopped rolling, the vlogger made his advances. He referred to his camera woman using objectifying language and the show ended with him grabbing her butt, leaving her a victim.
The BETCo performance did a wonderful job of capturing difficult, real-world issues and making these problems accessible to the high school audience. Luke Geiler’s scene, for instance, made me ask myself, “Why do I care where Taylor Swift ate her lunch yesterday?” I was left pondering my own “relationship” with celebrities and troubled by the degree to which frivolous celebrity gossip and “news” occupies our attention.