POST: Dylan Marron and The Human Symphony.

After experiencing The Human Symphony twice (both as a performer and an audience member) I had to ask Dylan Marron, the show's creator, some questions:

Q: What was the inspiration for The Human Symphony?
A: When I turned 24, I really wanted to have a massive dance party. But I wasn't cool enough to know about clubs and even if I was I would want them to blast my jams which can only be described as Top 40 jams from the early 2000's. No self-respecting DJ really wants to do that, so the only space that I could afford was my mom’s living room. Blasting music wasn't an option so I figured I’d do a silent disco, where everyone would listen to the same mix and dance the night away without bothering the neighbors. I made a mix that I was super proud of but then I realized that many of my friends didn't know each other so I figured I’d start us off with a little ice breaker exercise. I wanted everyone to feel uninhibited so I figured I’d record the instructions at the beginning of the track. As I watched this happen before my eyes, I was mesmerized by the image of people silently moving in synchronized motion. 

As a new member of the New York Neo-Futurists I was interested to explore this style through short form pieces that I began to write for our weekly show, Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind.

I was curious to apply this idea to unsuspecting audience members. Couldn't they perform one of our two minute plays if we found away to feed them tasks? The answer was a resounding “Yes!” It was entertaining and the audience got a total kick out of it.

But I needed to see if this form could exist beyond the gimmick. Sure, it’s entertaining, but how can it grow to be not only a cool party trick but a means to tell a story?

I got the opportunity to expand this style into a one-act piece (that was ultimately the first draft of the fourth movement in The Human Symphony) for a puppetry workshop lab that the Neos curated in 2013. I began to think of these audience-members-turned-performers as puppets. And of myself as the puppeteer, guiding them via pre-recorded instructions. 

So it made sense to use them as the projections to tell stories. 

In puppetry we project so much onto the blank faces of these inanimate objects, we fall in love with shapes that we’re told represent characters that live and breathe as we do. I was fascinated to use actual people as these puppets. And to use them to tell true stories I had been collecting about finding sexual partners online. It felt appropriate to use people linked by synchronized audio tracks to represent people linked by internet algorithms.

When I began to think about expanding the piece I was thinking about it musically. The randomly selected audience members are the instruments, the tasks they are given are the notes they play. When these notes are played in unison they tell a story. The rest of the audience is hearing the beat, or the collected stories that these notes illustrate. In structuring it as a symphony I got to explore both a new structure and a new way of thinking of long-form music.

Q: The Human Symphony places a lot of trust into the hands of complete strangers. Has this ever made you nervous while watching performances?
A: I am terrified during every single performance. But that’s what I love about it. Every night is a risk.

Q: Tell us about a memorable experience from the creative process of The Human Symphony.
A: I don’t think I can pick any one moment. This creation process has felt less like a collection of moments and instead just one huge blur of building and experimenting and failing and succeeding. I will say that I loved interviewing my parents. Spending hours at a time with each of them, recording their narration of their relationship and ultimate divorce was such a cool experience. We all reach an age when we realize that our parents are real people, too. While I’ve already had this realization, I got to probe them about a time in their lives when I saw them strictly as my parents. 

Q: What do you hope that performers and audiences will take away with them after the show?
A: I hope the performers feel taken care of and respected and special. They get to experience something totally rare that so few viewers of The Human Symphony get to experience and they give themselves to the performance. So I hope they’re having fun. And I hope audiences will come away more open to meeting strangers and less inhibited in how they engage with strangers.

Q: What would you change about New York City theatre to make it more accessible to young people?
A: It’s all about rent. Subsidize the rent for theaters so that theater companies can afford space so that ticket prices can be cheaper so that more people can see it so that more people can be inspired by it so that more people can want to do it so that the theater community will then be comprised of all kinds of voices rather than the privileged few that were encouraged to explore their theatrical inklings. 

Q: Who are the unsung heroes involved with The Human Symphony and what are their contributions?
A: I love this question! Thank you so much for asking it explicitly. So many times the writer/director gets to have their name on a show when it would never have been possible without all the unsung heroes. Alright, let’s sing their praises.

      Ben Ahles is one of my dearest friends and an extremely talented artist. He designed all the physical stage mechanisms for The Human Symphony. We have a standing coffee date every Monday morning at 7am to kickstart our weeks. He was the person that I first would talk to about expanding this idea of instruction-led theater and he was one of my strongest early supporters. Being around him makes me feel like I’m becoming a better artist; I have such respect for him and how he perceives the world. He is such an inspiration to me.
Sophie Kurtze is our stage manager and every day I am totally knocked out by what a wonder she is. I could never have done this without her. She has truly been with me every step of the way and I’m lucky to work with her.
Sarah Livant has done a tremendous job designing our lights but also listening to every draft of this play. Her work ethic is one I love being around.
Hadley Todoran is our production assistant and just such a source of joy and comfort for me. I feel so lucky she said yes to working on this piece.
Kyra Sims, who composed the music, is some sort of art-creating machine who never sleeps and always is working on something with someone. She is outrageously talented, endlessly patient, and a wonderful new friend I’ve made in this process.
Meg Bashwiner, our production manager, is not only so organized but she has an uncanny ability to make my gut hurt from laughing. She is an immensely gifted writer and performer and somehow manages to be one of the most responsible people I know. Some people really can have it all. 
Nicole Hill is such a dear friend of mine and a spirit guide as well. She is wholly and fully an artist who approaches everything in her life as an intentional piece of work. She has been instrumental in helping me keep perspective.
Daniel Mirsky illustrated the shadow projection in the third movement and he has so much focus and talent and drive that I am thrilled just by watching him think. 
Chie Morita is the managing director of the Neo Futurists and she was a champion from the beginning. She has been such a guide to me in this process and a true support system. I really could never have done this without her brain and being.
Yoshi Kuroi, the assistant managing director is a dreamboat who brings light into all the rooms he walks into.
Our interns past and present, Natasia, Luke, Rachel, and Sydney, work harder than we will ever know and somehow manage to always be present and focused and wonderful people. 
Bradley Rolston and Carl Riehl are board members who have offered so much legal advice on this tricky play. Darla is the landlord of a building in Crown Heights where we got to put this play together in the three weeks leading up to opening. She was so generous to us and I am eternally grateful.
I’d also like to especially sing the praises of Todd Clayton, my fiancé. I don’t know how to do justice to the support and listening and love he has given me throughout this process, but I am stronger as an artist and person for loving him and being loved by him.



New Ohio Theatre
thru Feb. 14th