From Dec. 1 to 3, the Theater and Dance Department produced “In Worlds, As If,” a collaborative senior honors project by Hee Won Youn ’23, Nick Govus ’23E, and Julian Brown ’23. The performance combined interpretive dance, projections, and an impressive set to imitate a haunting dream world.
The show was split into three parts: “Lacuna” by Brown, “Synapse” by Youn, and “[Beyond]” by Govus. As in a dream, there were no distinct divisions, and the audience was unaware that the scene had changed until the show had already changed. The set featured a single bed in the center of the stage and walls covered in screens, each projecting videos of the mundane, like a calm walk through campus or a serene starry night. Brown’s character, who remains unnamed, rises out of bed in an old-fashioned dressing gown and hippo slippers, haunted by the dreamlike world around him. A commanding voice resounds throughout the space, and the screens flash glimpses of dancers intruding on the previously empty scenes. Though he tries to soothe himself, the character soon slips into madness, running around the stage and pulling the bed off-set before disappearing.
Three dream apparitions then appear as interpretive dancers on the empty stage: Ayo Eniola ’24, Eva Tsitohay ’24E, and Neviah Waldron ’24. They fluidly switch roles as they dance, imitating each other. Once they disappear, Youn’s character arrives, dressed in a white dress that she soon replaces with a gray outfit. Her face is painted gray like the other dream apparitions, and she dances alone with bells clutched in her palm.
The performance concludes with Brown’s character succumbing to his fears. He throws the sheets off his bed and screams into bowls of water, which he then dumps all over the set. The last, haunting image shows him weeping on the floor, wrapped in paper towels and surrounded by bed linens, while the dream apparitions stare down at him.
“In Worlds, As If,” truly felt like a dream sequence, so much so that, after the performance, the entire audience sat for two minutes in silence, as one lies in bed after the end of a particularly intense dream. The clear, expressive performances of the dancers were bolstered by the set, which gave a lucid, ever-wavering feeling. It was impossible to touch and even more difficult to rationalize; the lighting and sound contributed even more to the effect. The loud bass interspersed with delicate sound effects were crucial to the mood, as did the lighting and projections.
The three producers are all Theater and Dance majors, but Youn is also a Chemistry major, while Govus is a joint Computer Science major. When approaching this project, they wanted to explore the intersection of artificial intelligence, chemistry, and theater, according to Brown, and kept arriving at dreams, which have “just enough malleability for a narrative to appear there with those themes.”
It’s rare that any thesis, even in the Theater and Dance department, is completely collaborative. Others may help produce it or star in it, but it is unusual for three people to work together in a thesis setting to create a show. Brown noted that it was stressful at times but incredibly rewarding. “What I found in this process is that collaboration during a joint thesis project is asking this question again and again: how can we add all our pieces together in a way that is interesting and expresses what we want it to feel like?” Brown said. “We’re all working toward a goal, and as long as you allow everyone to have the freedom to go towards that goal in their own way, and the collaboration process is a combinatorial technique, then you have a successful project.”
The students’ styles mixed well, so that the final result was a firm representation of a dream with fantastic production quality and impressive performances from all of the dancers. It was an experimental, innovative senior project that inspired every audience member to watch their dreams closely that night.