Sad kids and queer love: that’s how Sam “Swift” Shuker-Haines ‘14 describes their Honors Playwriting Thesis, read at the Lang Performing Arts Centre last week. Titled “The Real World Will Never Arrive,” the staged reading was directed by Professor Adriano Shaplin from the theater department and featured performers from Applied Mechanics, a Philadelphia-based troupe.
“Teenagers are living in the real world, and for the love of God, stop telling them they aren’t,” Shuker-Haines said with a laugh.
Frustrated with the concept of adolescence and the construct of the “real world,” Shuker-Haines first found inspiration for the play after speaking with a friend from another liberal arts college. Confronted by the repercussions of an acquaintance’s suicide, Shuker-Haines’s friend found himself spiralling into depression and having to withdraw from college
“I found myself thinking of what seems like a solitary act. People think that suicide is an act that only affects you — but it doesn’t. You leave people behind,” Shuker-Haines explained.
An Honors Theatre major and Psychology minor, Shuker-Haines has been working on this concept for over two years and yet “The Real World Will Never Arrive” is filled with a deep ambivalence. Until recently, this doubt was purely artistic in nature – Shuker-Haines found themself oscillating between loving and hating the concept, revising the play several times. Continuing to rewrite while disliking the project was the most challenging part of the writing process.
Now, almost certain that the play is strong, Shuker-Haines is attempting to reconcile the narrative with what they see as the potentially problematic political messages of the show. Dealing with themes like gender and sexual assault means that they have to make tough choices between representation and ethical statements, especially considering that the ideas in the work are still in development.
“I’m trying to find situations that are true and alive. I’m trying to access truth, and I think that’s what art should do,” they said. “I’m trying to capture people.”
Aware of the problems posed by the politics of the play, Shuker-Haines is still rethinking the content, and is open to changing bits of the show. While the Theater Department no longer has any affiliation with the play, Shuker-Haines is looking to professionally direct “The Real World Will Never Arrive” in the future.