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BWW Review: SELFIE! THE MUSICAL at The Vortex

The production runs through April 17th. See it now!

BWW Review: SELFIE! THE MUSICAL at The Vortex

The Vortex Theatre in Austin is currently the host of a world premiere musical. On the surface, Selfie! The Musical seems like it would be a snippy critique of "selfie culture" that boomers everywhere would flock to, but the questions it asks and the discussions it aims to start run much deeper.

The show opens with Lead Influencer, a god-like, band backed, accordion-playing character, lamenting about news articles about people who died while trying to take that perfect selfie, all while the real articles are projected one by one on the screen behind her and her (incredibly talented) band. Four such unfortunate selfie-chasing, now dead individuals are presented before Lead Influencer. She tells them that they have died and have now entered a "buffering zone" where she will present them with lessons and tests that, if they pass, will grant them the opportunity to go back to living.

Dude Face, played by Keyshaan Castle, an extreme selfie chaser who climbed skyscrapers for likes, has ended up in the "buffering zone" after an unfortunate slip up at the top of one of these skyscrapers. Ugly Selfie Girl, played by Allegra Jade Fox, who utilizes the medium of selfies to reject the mindset around them has ended up in the "buffering zone" after an unfortunate incident involving a firearm. Finally, we have Chasing Sunsets Wife, played by Eryn Gettys, and Chasing Sunsets Husband, played by Trey Deason, a husband and wife duo who travel the world while #ChasingSunsets. They met their end while standing too close to the edge at the Grand Canyon. Chasing Sunsets Wife embodies toxic positivity and never posts anything that makes her seem remotely normal.

Chasing Sunsets Husband is more down to earth than his counterpart and this creates some considerable tension between the two. As the characters make their way through their lessons and tests they learn more about themselves and what it means to be human. They question whether or not being told their whole life that they are special was actually a bill of goods. They learn that "attention is power" and "delusion is currency." The company also takes time to question "Are selfies art?" but never comes to a consensus, leaving the audience to decide for themselves. This new and fun work brings a whole new realm of possibility to the table of theatre and presents audiences with the opportunity to have fun while questioning themselves and the world around them.

BWW Review: SELFIE! THE MUSICAL at The Vortex
Steve Rogers, photographer

I was fortunate enough to sit down with Rembert Block, who authored the piece and plays Lead Influencer, and Keyshaan Castle, who plays Dude Face to discuss Selfie! We began by discussing one of the central themes of the piece, the idea that humanity stays the same while technologically advancing.

Rembert responded, "I kept seeing these reports of people dying while taking selfies and I didn't grow up with iPhones so I have seen this all arise and emerge. And I taught seventh grade for a while and I saw it come in more and more to my students and it really affected their minds, the way they paid attention, and the way they thought about things and themselves and it changed the way they communicated. Then I saw these stories of people dying in these crazy ways taking selfies and it just seemed really poetic, tragic, and so supremely human and so supremely now, but also somehow timeless."

I then asked Keyshaan if he felt that Selfie! is more of a critique of the current culture, or does it allow for a live and let live mindset, or both.

"I definitely feel the critique because of ideas like 'The phone eats first.'" Having never heard that phrase before, Rembert and I laughed at how befitting it was.

He continued, "I was at Disney World with some friends and we were served some beautiful plates which they took pictures of, but I wondered if they are ever going to look at them again?"

Rembert responded, "We're just documenting, but we're out of the moment... It's become this performative action of living life." She later continued," There's a critique aspect but there's also an observation aspect. This isn't all bad. Is there a way we can find a balance? There can be a sharing element that is wholesome and not only performative or envy-inducing."

Keyshaan then posed the question, "Can you be an influencer in real life? What are you embodying away from the phone?"

Each of these topics is on full display at Selfie! I highly recommend seeing it before it is over.

BWW Review: SELFIE! THE MUSICAL at The Vortex
Stever Rogers, photographer

Selfie! The Musical runs through April 17th at The Vortex which is located at 2307 Manor Rd #2135 Austin, Texas 78722. Arrive extra early if you plan to park, but the theatre is also accessible on Capital Metro bus route #20 and is wheelchair accessible. The Vortex requires masks and proof of vaccination to attend. Strong language is used throughout the show and maybe unsuitable for young children. The show also features fog, flashing lights, and brief moments of gun violence. The show runs approximately 1 hour 20 minutes and is performed without an intermission.

All photo credits to Steve Rogers.

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