“Life Is A Dream” plays out in the Twittersphere

Aleksandar Lukac
Aleksandar Lukac

Glendon theatre instructor and award-winning director Aleksandar Lukac is continuing his quest to blend the physical and virtual worlds with a new presentation of Life Is A Dream, a play by Pedro Calderón de la Barca.

Premièring March 9 at Theatre Glendon, Lukac, is taking students enrolled in his political theatre course deep into Calderón’s philosophic allegory on life’s mysteries. The twist for the audience is Lukac’s innovative use of social media to expand the boundaries of this play which was written in 1635. The performance encourages participation with the audience through Twitter using the hashtag #‎HeySegismundo. The set design by Duncan Appleton, technical director of Theatre Glendon is a video game – a combination of influences derived from Super Mario and other games combined with interactive videos and music.

The key question is why? Why incorporate social media into a play written in 1635?

Above: A scene from Life Is A Dream
Above: A scene from Life Is A Dream

“In this case what we discovered to render itself to social media interaction is the fact that many of Life Is A Dream‘s themes and issues are familiar to the contemporary audience through a variety of shows that range from ‘Game of Thrones’, ‘Vikings’ and similar faux historical spectacles including video games that enjoy great popularity,” explains Lukac. “As such, we can count on the audience’s ‘authority’ on the given topics, which will allow them to multi task, enjoy the performance and yet be able to participate in it by adding their own commentary.”

Above: A scene from Life Is A Dream. The prince is in the cage
Above: A scene from Life Is A Dream. The prince is in the cage.

Life Is A Dream follows the story of Sigismundo, the prince of Poland, who is imprisoned for 27 years by his father because of a prophecy foretelling Sigismundo’s role in the death of his father and the ultimate destruction of the country. One of Calderón best-known works, the play was written in 1635 and depicts the tangled struggles between a father and son, prophecy and reality, and free will and fate. The audience becomes a part of the play once Sigismundo is released from his prison, unleashing the Twitter sphere as the audience is encouraged to actively tweet throughout the play.

“We will have the narrator invite the audience to be ready and offer their contributions at the moment when Sigismundo is about to be ‘unleashed’ upon the world. The audience, both in the theatre and at home, will be asked specifically to tweet their ideas as to what Sigismundo needs to know about the world,” says Lukac. “The tweets are not filtered so I anticipate that Sigismundo will have a lot to deal with before he decides how to proceed as a ‘good’ king. Of course, the students have also written this whole segment of the play where they offer the future king their own vision of our contemporary world. Simultaneously, the tweets are projected on the giant screen allowing everyone to see the oncoming ideas.

Above: Audience members are invited to tweet about scenes such as this one
Above: Audience members are invited to tweet about scenes such as this one

“There are many aspects of this experiment. The students will explore the interactive nature of social media and investigate the potentials it offers,” adds Lukac. “I am imagining that this goes beyond the ‘hit and run’ dynamic of anonymous tweets − people who send us messages will be able to, for once, see how the message is received, how it is reworked and finally, ‘forwarded’ both onto the stage as well as into the cyberspace. I that besides the social media aspect of the performance, the audience will be able to discover the universality of this classic master piece. In a political sense, that the ‘civilised world’ has been repeating mistakes for a much longer period than we usually think. And also, very importantly, they will have the opportunity to laugh at our own folly.”

To view the livestream of the performance, go to: https://www.youtube.com/user/TheatreGlendon. To tweet into the show, use the hashtag ‪#‎HeySegismundo

The play opens March 9 and runs to March 12 at Theatre Glendon, Glendon campus, at 7pm. Tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for students. Call the box office for information at 416-487-6822. Note that tickets are reserve only and full payment must be made at the box office.

More about Aleksandar Lukac

Aleksandar Lukac graduated from the Belgrade Faculty of Dramatic Arts. He has an MA in Drama from University of Toronto and an MFA in Directing from York University. He is currently working on his PhD thesis on political theatre. He has directed more than 100 productions in Canada, Holland, the former Yugoslavia and Serbia. He also held the positions of Artistic Director of the National Theatre, Belgrade, Theatre Zoran Radmilovic, Zajecar and the independent political theatre, Plexus Boris Piljnjak, which was a catalyst of political controversy in Belgrade during the break-up of former Yugoslavia. He is a recipient of a number of directing awards. Several of his Toronto productions have been invited to international festivals in Hong Kong, Ukraine, Russia, England and Serbia.