HARTFORD — TheaterWorks Hartford in Hartford and TheatreSquared in Fayetteville, Arkansas announced today that they have joined forces to digitally produce Sarah Gancher’s timely new play about the everyday banality of destabilizing democracy, “Russian Troll Farm: A Workplace Comedy.” With additional support from The Civilians — NYC’s experts of theater “at the intersection of the theatrical and the real” — the collaboration creates a “site-specific work for the internet” inspired by the actual transcripts from the Russian government-backed Internet Research Agency in the run-up to the 2016 election, according to an email from organizers.
Billed as a unique live theater experience with “digital magic,” the highly collaborative project is a cross between theater, film, and multimedia design. Led by directors Jared Mezzocchi (co-director, multimedia designer) and Elizabeth Williamson (co-director, dramaturg), the live performances will test the limits of digital performance and are the capstone of an intensive period of socially isolated, virtually connected, new play development.
At the infamous (real-life) Internet Research Agency, professional internet trolls worked for days at a time to influence American popular opinion, creating the illusion of consensus — or conflict. “Russian Troll Farm: A Workplace Comedy” imagines the daily lives of these workers as they invent characters, stage conflicts, and create conspiracies. What happens to their grasp on the truth when the whole job is lying?
“The trolls are out in full force right now,” said playwright Sarah Gancher. “I want everyone on the right and the left to be able to spot them and to see what they’re doing — or at least wonder: what happens to a democracy when the voices of real citizens are drowned out by fictional characters?”
“For a play about how state-backed, professional trolls did their best to wreak havoc on an American election, it felt appropriate to do our best to hack Zoom,” said TheatreSquared Artistic Director Robert Ford. Added TheatreSquared Executive Director Martin Miller, “This summer, audiences tuned in from England to San Francisco as the creative team debuted the first act. What better time to finish the story than right now?”
TheaterWorks Producing Artistic Director Rob Ruggiero added, “We couldn’t ignore the timing, either. With the upcoming election and life as we’ve known it these past four years, producing this work has never mattered more. And if we can tell some part of the story and help people laugh along the way — even better. This collaboration provides such a powerful opportunity in partnering with TheatreSquared and The Civilians — two teams that know how to do this best — we’re really grateful for it.”
“Sarah Gancher’s play is precisely the kind of work The Civilians exists to champion,” said The Civilians’ Artistic Director Steve Cosson. “Sarah is boldly engaging with immensely important real-life stuff and doing so with a keen sense of storytelling and exuberant humor. And through the alchemy of theater, she gives us a fictional story that makes the otherwise unbelievable truth of our political situation feel real. It’s a remarkable feat — to create something that’s both wildly entertaining and a bracing wake-up call.”
The cast for “Russian Troll Farm: A Workplace Comedy” includes Danielle Slavick playing Masha, Obie-winner Mia Katigbak (“Henry VI,” NAATCO) playing Ljuba, Haskell King playing Egor, Ian Lassiter (“War Horse,” Lincoln Center Theater) playing Steve, and Greg Keller (“Halfway Bitches Go Straight to Heaven,” Atlantic Theatre Company) playing Nikolai.
Additional members of the creative team include Brenda Abbandolo (set & costume design), Andre Pluess (sound design and composer), and Amith Chandrashaker (lighting design).
“Russian Troll Farm: A Workplace Comedy” will stream to a password protected platform for five live performances. The schedule is Tuesday, Oct. 20 through Saturday, Oct. 24, at 7:30 p.m. For those unable to attend a live performance, encore viewing is available during an on-demand window from Oct. 24 to Nov. 1.
“Tickets for Russian Troll Farm: A Workplace Comedy” can be purchased online at www.RussianTrollFarm.com or by calling 860-527-7838. Members of TheaterWorks Hartford have tickets included as part of their 2020-2021 membership. Single stream passes are available for $20.
For more information contact the Box Office at TheaterWorks at 860-527-7838 or email email@example.com.