Mnemonic: Device Devised for Theater

Prior to last week’s theatrical performance, for many Colgate students, the idea of the word “mnemonic” was probably linked to such favorite devices as “Kings Play Chess on Fine Glass Stools” or “Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally.” However, in the hands of Colgate’s Masque and Triangle theater group, “Mnemonic” was expanded far beyond the simplicity of childhood methods used to ace a test. During the four performances in Brehmer Theater, the cast of “Mnemonic” complicated the idea of memory with their portrayal of a series of interwoven plots and characters. While the common definition of mnemonic involves “assisting” the memory, Masque and Triangle’s performance of Complicité’s “Mnemonic” focused more on the construction or reconstruction of memory, and established a mosaic of varying, yet interconnected, recollections between a medley of characters.

 Under the direction of senior Ben Hoover, “Mnemonic” proved to be a reflection of his own background in theater and his studies while abroad. Hoover’s introduction to “devised theater” while in Manchester proved to fuel his interest in the direction of “Mnemonic.” This unique style, which Hoover described as a collaborative form of theater in which a group of actors is intrinsically linked to production development and performance, was successfully transferred to the Colgate stage both in the rehearsal process and the later performances.

“I wanted to see if I could cast a troop instead of picking parts exactly,” Hoover said, when describing the casting process for “Mnemonic.” 

The question of identity that Hoover sees as existing in the show was also evident in his unconventional means of casting, calling the entire process “organic.” While the characters within the show depicted this idea of uncertain identity, the actors portraying the roles also seemed to have experienced a similar sense of indefinite identity during the early weeks of rehearsals.

“About two weeks into the rehearsal process, we figured out who each character would be,” Hoover stated, reflecting on his decision to allow for a more freeform, natural evolution of characters. 

The selected troop of actors spent the initial weeks of rehearsal reading as different characters in order to allow the cast to determine their own levels of comfort and compatibility with a particular role. However, by the time the cast reached opening night, they demonstrated not only a strength as a group, but also a strong association with their own character. From the moment viewers stepped into Brehmer Theater, the “troop” dynamic of the cast became apparent, as the actors warmed up and energized each other onstage prior to the start of the production. The actors seemed equally as well acquainted with their own roles as they seemed to be with one another, reflecting positively on Hoover’s implementation of such a unique form of casting. While Hoover’s success in directing the show was visible as the production flowed seamlessly on the stage, he was eager to share credit with the participants both onstage and backstage.

“Everyone was directing and carrying their own weight. I didn’t want to be an external force. I wanted it to be an enclosed process,” Hoover said, furthering the idea of the group bond existing between the cast and crew.

Yet perhaps the greatest success for the cast and crew of “Mnemonic” was their ability to impart their own goals and efforts as a theater troop to audience members. 

“I really appreciated the way the actors all seemed very in tune with each other,” sophomore Annette Shantur said, adding, “They did a lot of nice things with movement.” 

Shantur’s echoing of Hoover’s hopes for the show elucidate the acting, directing and production abilities of all those involved in “Mnemonic.”  Perhaps the only criticism of the Masque and Triangle performance can be that of false advertising. Compared to dramas such as “Equus” (which forced viewers to examine Harry Potter’s Daniel Radcliffe in, shall we say, an extremely “intimate” light) the advertised potential nudity in “Mnemonic” was positively G-rated.