On October 29, 30 and 31, CounterBalance Theater performed their eerie and subtle play, Elsewhere in Tamkin Hall 110, a lecture space normally used by medical students. Over a hundred people from different parts of campus plus the community attended each night. Performances were followed by talk-backs with the director, designers and cast plus professors in science and the humanities who discussed the ethical dilemmas raised by this tale of cloning, organ donation, and the use and abuse of science.
Crossing the Humanities and the Sciences
by Celyn Matienzo English and Bio Sci
Counterbalance Theater's Elsewhere was absolutely stunning, and the performance left me speechless; I'm still working to find the words I want to use to talk about it this morning. Having seen The Odyssey, I came to the piece with certain ideas of what to expect on the stage. The movements with last night's performance, however, were much more subtle. It felt less like a display of a story through the movements of the body and more like a traditional play that I am accustomed to, much quieter in its exploration of the human body. While the play dealt with the impact of scientific advancement on the constitution and the meaning of the human body, the inhuman roles of the actors on stage were less obvious, and perhaps all the more horrifying because of it.
As someone who is fascinated with the junction of the humanities with the sciences - minoring in biology while being an English major - the play was a chance to see some of the things that interest me the most performed on a stage. Professor Loui's comment that the acceptance of the children from Hallsham about their fate was interesting. During their time at their school, and even as they went out into society, they were aware that they were perceived and treated differently than other people. They used language that defined them as different, looking for "possibles" who marked their genetic origins, becoming "carers" rather than what we might refer to as nurses as they cared for "donors" like themselves who were brought into this world to give up their organs. To them, death was not referred to as death but "completion," a word with many possible meanings and resonances. It meant a completion, not only of their donations but of their lives and their accepted purposes. When they were released into the real world, they had a chance to escape their fates, to run away and never look back, but none of them ever did. That may have been the scariest aspect of the entire play - science had made something so horrific a possibility, and nobody seemed to make a move to stop it or to raise any objections. Hallsham had been created to treat the clones humanely, but “the guardians” did nothing to stop what was essentially the creation of human life solely for the use of others.
The disparate pieces of the human body that were hung on the board throughout the entirety of the play also made me quite curious. I had expected that they would be interacted with somehow, but they were simply there. I took them as an eerie symbol of society's view of the clones: nothing but limbs and bits and pieces that they could gather when needed.