ACUMEN Spring 2022

COLLEGE OF ARTS AND SCIENCES 7 aberration exists in an assortment of programs and material that viewers find acceptable is malleable depending on the social situations. “By looking at people at the extremes, we can learn more about the center of social life,” she says. “To bring it to reality TV, you might think, ‘Oh, these are just like kind of wacky people.’ And obviously, these shows are curated, they’re cast, they’re manipulated. But, by looking at these people who behave in these extreme ways, we can really see these fundamental aspects of our society amplified— like our racism, our classism, our sexism, our heteronormativity. “It’s definitely not a pure mirror of social life by any means. These shows are clearly put together by producers, very specific people are cast for the shows, but at the same time, nothing is a pure mirror of our social life,” Lindemann says. “Reality TV, though distorted, can show us more about ourselves because it is ourselves, but kind of dialed up to 11.” THEATRE TRANSFORMATIVE SPACES Creating any new work for the stage is a collaborative effort involving the playwright, the director, designers and actors. Writer and director Lyam Gabel draws on this process and adds interviews with queer people who lived through the 1980s and 1990s and long-term survivors of HIV to produce their latest production, a picture of queer care from the early years of the AIDS crisis through COVID-19. Gabel, assistant professor of theatre, will tour the dance floor, the hospital room, and the kitchen table, in which a queer family navigates these environments and their relationships to each other. In the production, based on an archive of 50 oral histories, the characters interact with each other and learn from a chorus of voices during critical moments in the queer liberation movement to examine what unites and divides members of the LGBTQIA+ community and suggests an ideal landscape of the spaces between them. The play takes place in spaces where queer care happens, where the community organizes itself, they note. Those spaces are vital to ways the queer community has organized itself over time—fundraising spaces, organizing spaces and places of both treatment and transformation. “The past is impacting the present,” Gabel says. “The people who lived through that past have a lot to learn from the present. The present can vibrate backward as well and help us understand the past in different ways. There were gender-variant folks, there were trans folks, there were people we now call nonbinary living through this crisis. They were integral parts of the community. As we look back, we can understand it in a different way.” Through this production, Gabel also wants to entice people to dive deeper into the archive. “We want to give people access to that material,” they say. “We want to get people involved in the production and make it immersive. We’re creating an app that uses augmented reality during the performance. The app connects people to the archive and can be a way for people to explore the interviews in browserbased virtual reality as well.” Though Gabel did the initial research and wrote the initial script, artists brought on to the production have helped reshape the text. The production process was a truly shared effort, they add. Many performers are still part of the cast. “People get really invested, really involved in the work,” Gabel says. “This type of history work is really transformative for people personally, to be able to hear and understand yourself in a lineage as a queer person.” LISA O’CONNOR / GETTY IMAGES, LOUIS STEIN Danielle Lindemann examines reality television in her latest book. Gil Rodriguez, Simmone Joy Jones, and Miller Krapps in the dancefloor, the hospital room, and the kitchen table at Carnegie Mellon University.