New Play by Stevens Professor Premieres at NYC International Fringe Festival
“A Thousand Deaths”, a new play by Prof. Anthony Pennino (Assistant Professor, Literature), premiered in New York City to great review. The play is part of the 2014 New York International Fringe Festival, a jury-based selection of plays that takes place over the course of two weeks every August on several stages across Manhattan.
Adapted from the science-fiction short story by Jack London of the same name, the play features a scientist on a remote island in the Pacific who discovers a cure for death itself. To test his discovery, he kills one subject again and again – basically performing clinical trials – to ensure that it worked.
“The play asks questions,” Pennino said. “If such transformative piece of medical technology could be built, should it? It also actively wonders if we could change our intrinsic biology, should we also then change the nature of our souls, our selves, and our psychological make-up?”
To adapt the short story into something that worked on stage, Pennino centered the play on the ethical dilemma of technology on society, specifically on having the ability to die and come back to life.
“Like London’s story, I wanted the play to focus on the ethics of discovering something that could be good for humanity, but causes individual suffering in its creation,” he said. “What remains is the thematic core of the original: what are the ethics of discovering something that could be a good for humanity, but causes individual suffering in its creation?”
The play ran from August 13-23, and is now in the process of being published by Indie Theater Now. Pennino plans to use the play in the courses he teaches in theater and film, both of which are minor options offered by the College of Arts and Letters for all undergraduate students.
"The development of the theatre since Ancient Greece is as much a product of technology as it is art. When we consider the journey from the Odeon of Herodes Atticus in Athens to Broadway in New York City or the West End in London, it is essential that we also consider how changes and innovations in technology informed the evolution of performance and, equally, how the art contributed to new directions in technology," he said.