Berkshire Country Day School production imagines life without digital devices



Among a group of teenagers, one young man suggests a "digital detox." He opens a large leather chest, indicating they should store their smartphones and electronic gadgets away in it.

The kids slowly creep up to the trunk, consider the thought, peer in, then dash away. They circle around the thought and eventually give in, except for one girl; she sneaks into the chest to nestle in the trove of technology.

This kind of separation anxiety from today's technology is just one of the sub-topics among the themes of communication and social media presented in Berkshire Country Day School's new original student theater production, "Two Cans Connected by a String."

The play is performed by members of the BCD Upper School Theatre Ensemble. The 10-member group has dubbed itself the "Theatre Ten."

"Communication has changed so much in the past 30 years. No one had an iPod in the ‘80s," said 15-year-old Margaret Butler, a ninth-grader at BCD.

Students began developing the production back in November. BCD theater and film director Amy Brentano gave the students articles and studies to read and discuss, and assigned the students to interview their family members about the ways they communicated when their family members were younger.

Stories emerged about using rotary phones, pay phones and buying extra long cords to take phones into another room for privacy.

These days, the students observed, preoccupied text messaging and use of digital media while in the presence of another person is practiced by kids and parents alike.

Students used their research and ideas to create skits, write dialogues and improv these changing ways of communication.

"All these thoughts were a bunch of pieces we had to fit together," said eighth-grader Will Harris-Braun, 14.

The group also integrated scenes inspired by Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet" and Thornton Wilder's "Our Town."

" ‘Romeo and Juliet' used this beautiful language where our generation uses these brief words like ‘idk' and ‘omg,'" Butler said.

As for the digital detox concept, the group tried to do it in real life -- no phones, no television, no computers, not even digital clocks.

"I tried," said eighth-grader Ruth King, who will soon turn 14. "I made it three hours."

Eighth-grader Cameron Sweener, 14, was one of the students who upheld the challenge for nearly a day. Though he doesn't have a phone to distract him, he said television was a challenge.

"I sat behind my couch to listen to the TV," he admitted.

Brentano commended the students for undertaking such a process.

"I'm impressed with them. They've risen to another level of what theater can be," she said.

Eighth-grader Hanna Yurfest, 14, said she hopes the show makes the audience think. "We've learned the best theater doesn't have to answer questions," she said, "it poses them."

To reach Jenn Smith:,
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