In an era where performance has become nearly synonymous with one’s presence on the internet, the Round House Theatre’s “TikTok (a period piece),” written by Stephani Kuo, seeks to understand GenZ’s evolving relationship with online communities and the digital age. Opening Feb. 25, “TikTok” will feature performers from Round House’s Teen Performance Company and will commemorate the theater’s 20th Sarah Metzger Memorial Play.
In conversation with District Fray, Shaelyn Edwards Eck, who is casted as creator Elli Martin, says the storyline maintains an air of levity whilst discussing the ins and outs of having a viral social media presence. However, the play primarily explores more nuanced themes related to teen identity and the dangers of online curation.
“My character really benefits from the social media aspect of this play,” Edward Eck says. “They really do hide their struggles, and try to show off their best curated self as comedic relief.”
Emulating the TikTok creator collectives based out of Los Angeles, there is a certain irony exhibited in youths performing an in-person play about online performance, especially because the individuals cast in the play are teens themselves. However, “there’s not just a duality between social media and real life,” they say. In Hype House, “there’s a duality between how they present themselves on social media, how they present socially with friends, and then what they hide.”
Lead teaching artist at Round House Ian Coleman relayes there couldn’t be a more appropriate time for the youths part of Teen Performance Company to stage “TikTok.” So much of GenZ’s expression has been defined by social media, and for this reason, the teen performers at The Round House “can connect to it so well, they can really bring their sense of self,” he says.
The themes conveyed in “TikTok” provide insight for intergenerational audiences to understand the contemporary challenges faced by Gen-Zers.
“In our world, they’re fictional characters, but they have very real needs, are at critical turning points in their lives and are making the hard decisions,” Coleman says.
What’s so transferable about the messages conveyed in this performance, not only for other generations, but for the students themselves, is the awareness of one’s relationship to the internet brings about a new perspective on the digital era.
“When theatre is done well, the students have a newfound sense of self,” he says.
It’s about providing students the opportunity to “look through the stories that we’re telling, to see how they can be better people in their day-to-day life, and have an opportunity to walk in someone else’s shoes,” Coleman explains.
“With every single show, you’re becoming more human,” he says.
Though, the importance of compassion is tenfold.
“We have such a diverse world and lots of diversity of thought, that if we can focus more on reaching across the table, and understanding one another, then we’ll probably be in a happier place,” Crosby says.
Round House Theatre’s Director of Education Danisha Crosby echoed this sentiment, remarking there couldn’t be a better time to stage “TikTok.” From an educational perspective, conceptualizing GenZ’s relationship with social media is a figment of “21st century skills, and this idea of critical thinking, communication and collaboration,” she says.
Collectively, theatre is the perfect place to explore all of those skills. Performance “builds empathy and understanding both for the other artists you’re creating with, and for the characters that you’re exploring,” Crosby remarks.
Buy tickets ($25) to “TikTok (a period piece)” here.
Enjoy this piece? Consider becoming a member for access to our premium digital content. Support local journalism and start your membership today.