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Student Blog: The Formula Behind 'The Theory of Relativity'

One collegiate theatre company's journey to putting on MTI's popular, pandemic-proof musical

Student Blog: The Formula Behind 'The Theory of Relativity' If you go onto the MTI website in search of musicals available for licensing, the song cycle The Theory of Relativity is currently the #1 trending show on the call board. Why, you ask? Well, other than being a "moving and unconventional song cycle" geared specifically towards college-aged students, it also translates well in the world of virtual theatre.

The Harrington Theatre Arts Company, based out of the University of Delaware, has been working for months on end to make this show happen. Artistic Director Sammy Simon chose to put on this production out of several other options for accessibility in terms of blocking, editing, and streaming, but also for opportunity. She explains,

"The Theory of Relativity is perfectly structured to be able to convert to a totally online production. You don't have to worry about creating the illusion that each actor is in the same space (for most of the show) since so much of the storytelling is based on individual stories. It actually offers the ability to get super creative in how you create a visual space for each song when you produce this show virtually, and that was part of the appeal for me."

Music Director Rachel Hansen echoes Simon's sentiments. As the point of contact for all things musical from auditions to the final days of recording, she knows that storytelling and connection are at the root of the score (and production as a whole). Hansen adds,

"In a time when we're socially distant from one another, it's nice to showcase characters that are connected to one another."

The staff and cast bonded throughout this collective learning environment, despite not being in the same space, let alone on the same stage. And there was plenty of learning to be had. Production Manager Andrew Bank notes that while there were definitive challenges about piecing a virtual show together, the entire team triumphed and has created an amazing final product. He recalls,

"The most challenging part of this process has been keeping morale up through the recording process for this show. Since each cast member recorded their material individually, they felt pressure to get perfect takes for each song. Also, as Production Manager, it was my job to solve recording problems as they arose, which was more difficult in the virtual setting."

In spite of it all, The Theory of Relativity holds a special place in the cast and staff's hearts. Bank, graduating next month with a degree in Mechanical Engineering, reflects on his final show with HTAC.

"The core of human identity is an amalgamation of how we are perceived by everyone around us, hence the recurring phrase in the show, 'I am nothing without you.' As a college senior, this show's message has made me reflect on the relationships I have now and helped me value them as well as learn to be more empathetic towards others."

While Simon and Hansen have more time in their college careers, they, too, find significant meaning in this show, as well as the journey of putting it together. Hansen says,

"My favorite part of the process so far has been getting to hear the music start to come together, as well as getting to know the cast in my rehearsals with them...everyone who's on this show, both in the cast and on the staff, is putting their whole heart into the show and I know it's going to come together beautifully."

Simon agrees that the show will be emotional for both the Theory of Relativity team and for the audiences who get to enjoy it.

"People should come see this show to laugh, cry, and cheer all within a bit over an hour's time. It's a fun, heartfelt escape from reality but also a reminder of how lucky we are to have one another in our lives after all of this isolation."

Streaming access to The Harrington Theatre Arts Company's The Theory of Relativity can be purchased at The show will have performances on Friday, April 30th and Saturday, May 1st at 8pm and Saturday, May 1st and Sunday, May 2nd at 2pm. For more information, check out their social media @htactheatre and their website #NothingWithoutYou

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