Stage Notes: Feeder, A Love Story

Tom Murrin
Playwright James Carter had a really great idea here: a transmedia theatrical event. terraNOVA Collective is presenting it, and Jose Zayas directs.  First you have the stage play, which follows the relationship of two people, as live video plays in the background. But then you also have the blogs, which date from 2009, and delve into the characters' backgrounds and expand the story-telling experience considerably.  So, you can log on here either before or after the show. I spoke with Carter.
 
Hi, James.  I understand this is a two-character play.  Could you tell me first about the Feederism aspect, and then tell me about the transmedia aspect of the play?
 
Yes.  It's about a couple, Jesse and Noel; they meet online, fall in love and get married.  The difference is that they engage in a fringe fetish lifestyle called feederism, where one person feeds the other partner and helps them gain weight.  Essentially that can manifest itself in many different ways.  It can be simple, like a very light weight gain, a few pounds; or it can go to extremes, where people set weight gain goals.  These goals can be several hundred pounds.  In this situation, Jesse is trying to gain weight to become 1000 pounds.
 
Wow!  Is that a record?

It is a sort of unattainable goal that nobody tries to do.  It's not a record because some people have weighed more than 1000 pounds.  So far as the story of the play goes, she is more involved in the feederism community than he is; she shares it with him, and together they decide that she will go for 1000 pounds.
 
How are we going to see this on stage?
 
The story of the play is mainly told through monologues, stories and flashbacks.  One person is video blogging and the other person is doing a video diary for a TV show.  And through these two elements the two characters tell their stories.  They start a blog, the feederism community rallies around them.  Then something happens, the woman character is taken away.
 
OK, now let's get into the transmedia part of the show.
 
The way it works, the characters have a blog that they can both write on.  I call it a pro-blog, instead of a prologue.  It's a blog that's a preparation for the play.  The idea is that we encourage audience members to check out the online blog before they come to see the play.  There are stories on the blog that take place one year before.  Jesse is taken away and Noel starts a video blog on their blog.  There are several video blogs leading up to the play, which takes us into the play.
 
So, in our minds, as theatergoers, we will be aware of all this before the curtain goes up.
 
There's a cliffhanger before we get to the show.
 
Do we have to see the blog to get the play?
 
No.  As far as transmedia storytelling goes, you shouldn't have to experience one to understand the other.  In my mind, transmedia is a way to create backstories for the characters you experience on stage.  If you see the play without the pro-blog, you'll understand the story in and of itself.  There are stories in the blog that are not in the play, and stories in the play that are not in the blog, but these may be referenced.  So if you go to both, you will get a whole.
 
For me, it's a way of engaging the audience in a new media way.  We theater artists are forever trying to get people to come to the theater. I'm trying to get people to engage with the characters before the show, so they will want to come to the theater.  When you turn on the TV, you are engaged with the characters immediately.  So, if we can engage the audience before, with the blog and the video blogs, then maybe we can engage them to come to the theater.  And, I might add, the transmedia experience will continue after the play too.
 
HERE, 145 Sixth Ave., (212) 352-3101, Mar. 6-26, Thurs.-Sat., and Mon., 8:30 p.m., also matinees, Sat. & Sun., 4 p.m. Tickets are $15-$20 and available here

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