We are all consumed by something in our lives. We all have our obsessions. To quote Daniel Radcliffe, "If you’re going to be obsessed with something, being obsessed with a series of books or films is pretty good…some people are obsessed with heroin."
I think Consumed is about our obsession with power, with distraction, and with action without consequence. We live In a world that was set up and given to us by the generation before us. What will the world we leave be like for the next generation? My father was always scared of what the world would be like when I got older. It's only been 25 years, and I cannot imagine with the next 25 will bring. It's very scary for me to think about bringing a child into this world. It almost feels selfish.
We're setting up a completely technological world, which seems to be the natural progression of our species. We are immersed in this virtual connection that we have with people from around the world. Information about anything or anywhere is at our fingertips in a moments notice, but we are so enveloped that we are oblivious to the immediate connections and events that happen directly around us.
This show began as what seemed to me as a political warning to the world. However, since we began rehearsals, many things we were going to touch on began to actually happen. The process then took a natural turn in a more specific direction. It's still political and social, but now it tackles more pedestrian and public issues.
Consumed focuses on our generated self-appearance. It's not about who we really are, it's about who we create for the world to see. We begin with exaggerated versions of ourselves, and strip down to our downfalls, our ticks, and our mannerisms, to show who we really are behind the mask we put on every day. There is a sense of connection between all of us, but it's overpowered by the isolation of ourselves.
This show touches on some of the servants that exist in our society today: a workaholic mother, a forgetful old man, a priest, a schoolteacher, etc. It has been an incredible journey to learn who these characters are in their professional life versus their public life versus their private life. I, personally, am playing the character of the priest, and I've been faced with the question of how a priest deals with hopelessness. What happens when a priest loses his congregation, or his faith? Coming from a physical theater background, I focus on a lot of character work and intentions, so it has been quite insightful to build this character from the ground up and then tear him right down. However, it's been difficult to avoid the stereotypes that deal with corruption in religion and to focus on the individual at hand.
Consumed also deals with distraction. We are constantly seeking a way to distract ourselves from the problems in the world around us, and instead we just point the finger at everyone else. One of our biggest downfalls is our inability to let ego go, and except total responsibility for the things we are a part of.
I'm excited to see what the audience will experience and take away from this piece, because it handles so many different topics, yet at the same time it leaves so much room for the audience to color in with their own crayons.
In thinking about “Consumed” the show and actually BEING consumed, I’m sad. I’m sad because I reflect on years' past when smart phones, iPhones, tablets, kindles, and androids didn’t exist. I look back on my years in high school and college when people made use of their day by studying, rehearsing, TALKING, or learning by doing; not by talking to Google, Siri or Alexa – robotic computerized voices which, honestly, terrify me.
I remember when hands were free of rectangular devices with a glow flooding one's face for hours on end; those were good times. They were times when people weren’t scared to start a conversation with a stranger, when you would actually watch the news and have a deep, poignant and meaningful conversation about what was happening; when you could get to know someone!
Sharp cut to today. No one talks on the train or bus. People almost walk straight into traffic because their Snapchat stories are just too interesting to look up and see that the light has changed, and the person about to hit you is ALSO on their phone texting someone. I have to reference the movie, “WALL-E,” and the scene where every human left on the planet is overweight with shrunken bones floating around on hovercrafts staring blankly at a screen; this scene sent me into a panic. I honestly could see that being reality in the future and it scared me to my core.
Not only does Consumed touch on technology and media but it firmly holds onto the aspect of missed connections and relationships. Look up from your device. Do you think the person next to you had a great day? Did they just get fired? Are they pregnant? Where are they going? What did they have for lunch? For those people who complain about online dating or dating apps, maybe that’s the problem! Talk to someone at the bar. Ask that co-worker that you find attractive what hobbies they have.
In terms of what’s currently happening in the world, we couldn’t be more removed. Even our president is tweeting everything. THE PRESIDENT IS TWEETING. Consumed will show how distant the characters are from what’s happening around them. Yes, we are intent on self-preservation, but at times there needs to be a little bit of a selflessness and “letting down of your guard” to unite and see the bigger picture. What does the future entail? Come find out for yourself...
For me this show attempts to address so many different aspects of our daily behaviors and how they’ve been affected by technology and our culture of consumerism, it's difficult to succinctly write about how I feel about it.
Forgive me while I begin with an anecdote. My little sister (both the youngest and the only girl among my siblings) was, what I would consider, raised quite spoiled. She was brought up believing consumption was expected, admired, and even revered. For a brief period of her younger years, I watched as she obsessed over the American Girl dolls - which so aptly package contemporary consumerism into a single box (or several if you can afford the accessories). I remember being struck by the concept that families were spending hundreds of dollars so that their children could simultaneously own and become their doll. Dressing to match and acting out prewritten fantasies that you could purchase for yet a bit more cash. For just over $100, I watched my sister consume herself. She loved it.
Although the years between us are not excessive in number, I sometimes feel as though our childhoods were driven by completely different motives. Perhaps sparked by societal norms, personal preferences, or the general disillusionment of my parents, I (very unlike my sister) spent most of my childhood afternoons on my bicycle with friends. I know I also consumed as a kid. We all do. But I remember consuming adventure and experience equally from the back of my bike and the manipulations of a video game controller rather than through the acquisition of material things. I seem to notice that the volume of items consumed by the average person has only increased since my sister’s or my childhood. I have to ask if this increase (whether invented or actual) in consumption is inherently wrong, or if it’s just the way of that elusive ‘progress’ we all want to make.
We live in a society where we consume more than we produce - we’re forced to. Whether we buy into it or not, we are part of a culture that spends an average of 8 hours a day staring at a screen (according to 2014 research by internet analyst Mary Meeker). That number is bad enough on its own, but layered into those 8 hours are the majority of the 5000 ads we see every day (NY Times). Even as I look around I can visibly count more than 10 product names and brand symbols from where I’m sitting… in a park.
I’m writing this post on my laptop while I listen to music on one device and text two friends, one in California and one in London, on another. We spend so much of our waking lives plugged in and awaiting instructions from our devices that it's hard to imagine a world without them. I read the other day that more than half of millennials would rather give up their sense of smell than their smartphones. I look to the future with great awe of the technological advancements we have yet to accomplish, and great hope that we as people will not lose sight of our human connection in pursuit of them. To me, this project represents that hope - or at least a piece of it. Consumed reminds me to address our culture of consumerism with a grain of salt. It has been that ever more necessary reminder that I need to take a break from the screens and spend some time with the people around me. I hope it makes you think about doing the same.
Hi ya'll! Im Maggie Robinson and I'm so excited for you all to see Consumed! I am pretty new to Chicago (I moved here from Tennessee just in time to see the Cubs win!) and working with Chicago Danztheatre Ensemble has been such an affirmation that moving here was the right choice. I have a background in Musical Theatre and have also choreographed/taught theatre and dance for a while- but I have never had the opportunity to be a part of such a political, personal, and purposeful piece before. It has been a ride and a huge blessing, that is for sure!
I moved here just before the election- and the auditions for Consumed were exactly a week after Election Day. I remember going up to Ellyzabeth and Sara and just saying "Thank you for letting me dance and not think about how scared I am for a couple of hours." This political climate is intense and concerning to say the least. I feel like I would be crippled by my fears of where this nation may be headed if it weren't for Consumed being such a huge part of my life these past several months. This piece, this company, this ensemble of artists making a message about what consumes our lives has provided an outlet that allows every. voice. to. be. heard. In a time where we must be so vocal and stand up for all that is right and all that we believe in- it is just as powerful to dance it out, too. I have been able to reground myself and reconnect with the roots of my spirit again, and the credit is due to Consumed.
This process has been a challenge because we all have created movement, that you will see, at every rehearsal. Now, if you needed a sexy, Jazz/MT Dance I could lay one down for you in a flash... But, ironically enough, creating a narrative and then also creating movement to compliment that within a modern style has been challenging. But that's a beautiful thing! Challenge is how we grow!
I don't want to give too much away about the piece itself... but I do want to say that YOU should see it. Not for us- but because I am willing to bet there is something in this piece that you could relate to. There is something for EVERYONE in Consumed- because, in some way, we are all consumed by something; whether it's our fears, our things, our work, our families....we all have something that has a stronghold in our lives. So, let's connect. I sure hope to see you there!
Are you really living the story you created online?
Addictive media and technology have entangled us. How do the people of tomorrow make the choice to begin consuming culture objectively?
By disconnecting and reconnecting with one another, can we rise up, redefine our modern American Dream? Through movement, multimedia, and satire, Consumed follows personal stories of distraction and the downfall of Americans just like you.
Throughout the process of creating this work, I have had the opportunity to share personal experiences, insights, and perspectives of my interpretations on what it means to be “consumed.” And, as I learned about the widely diverse backgrounds of each cast member, I realized that everyone’s idea of the American dream is quite different. Yet, despite the variety, we all hold the same belief that media and advertising molds and skews that view.
So, once we began to delve into character developments and movement innovation, this concept of looking at an individual in connection to media influence really connected with me. I took into consideration the contrast between the average individual’s every day routine in combination with idly “consuming” media—via constantly checking social media platforms, advertisements in public places, etc.—versus being mentally present, putting away all forms of immediate and readily accessible information, and forming individual thoughts derived from newfound freedom of sensory and cognitive overload. I found that, in any given day in the life of Ansley, I tend to get unconsciously stuck in this “routine.” Whether it’s looking at Facebook on my commute to work, reading seasonal slogans on retail store windows, or heading down the Pinterest rabbit hole in the small amounts of spare time I do have, I fall into a mindless cycle of consumption—it’s inevitable. However, since coming to this realization, I have made a more constant and conscious effort to do the opposite of that. As cliché as it may seem, meditation has helped tremendously, as well as indulging in self-care, having meaningful and tech-free conversations with friends and family, and simply setting aside time to go for a walk.
I will admit that, since reevaluating my connections to these outside sources of influence, I have found value in exposure to media and advertising to some degree. However, I have also learned that how we consume these stimuli directly impacts our way of life. It helped me to question how I was influenced by them, as well as to what degree certain adverts made an impact on my daily activities.
All that being said, I ask this—what consumes you? Are you consciously and objectively consuming all that is around you? Come see the show and see how I, and the rest of the Consumed cast, process and react to these influences.