Fuchs’ Small Planet Response
Mold the play into a medium-sized ball, set it before you in the middle distance and squint your eyes. Make the ball small enough that you can see the entire planet, not so small that you lose detail, and not so large that detail overwhelms the whole.Elinor Fuchs, “Visit to a Small Planet”
World of the Play
It’s claustrophobic. It starts in total darkness and as the play goes on, a gray-green, fluorescent light illuminates more and more patches. It’s isolated. Metallic or concrete. Municipal. Man-made. Meant to serve a function rather than be inhabited. It’s a maze of shelves and boxes and grey walls that no matter how long you spend in it, how much you study it, you will never find your way out. You can never escape the smell of mildew.
There is no daylight so time is kept by artificial light and clocks and an imitation of the habits that humans keep day to night. Time has slowed to a glacial pace if not completely stopped but we continue to be conscious. The effect is that an hour can feel like a week and a month can feel like two days. Humans have become unmoored from a sense of time here. Only the artificial time-tellers and our stomachs communicate any changes. My guess is that the play takes place over the course of 4-6 weeks.
In spanish they call it mojado. Wet. It’s not humid. It’s damp. Dank. Chilly. Stale. Mildewy. No air circulation except through dusty ventilation systems built over a decade ago. If I had to describe it as a season I would describe it as a summer in San Francisco even though I’d bet we’re just off the East Coast literally speaking.
Mood & Tone
The mood is tense. It’s stressful. It’s this feeling of impending doom mixed with agonizing boredom. Or maybe not boredom but… slowness? Like in a nightmare where you’re trying to run away from the monster but it’s like you’re running through molasses. Like that feeling when there is so much work to do, not enough time to do it, and if you don’t do it then you will literally drown. It’s like a panic attack: tunnel vision, not enough air, paralysis but an overwhelming compulsion to DO something. It’s being at the bottom of the Marianas Trench. Suffocating pressure.
There’s an immense sense of loss, loneliness and isolation––interpersonal as well as geographic. It’s post-apocalyptic. It’s horny. It’s wanting to overcome the loneliness.
It’s depression mixed with obsession. When you’d rather stay home and watch your favorite movie for the 30th time than go out. It’s writing fanfiction about your favorite pop-culture property. It’s posting depression memes on tumblr or reddit.
What is hidden?
The rest of the facility/labyrinth. It’s unnavigable without something to keep track of where you’ve been. It’s filled with cultural ephemera but also food. But the food is not seen as food but as a certain subset of that cultural ephemera.
The world outside of the facility/labyrinth. We hear that it’s located underwater, a very far swim away from a coast. It’s in the United States.
The “evaluators.” In a sense the audience is hidden. Who they are is hidden. What they stand for is hidden. The power they wield is unclear.
Theo’s past and intentions.
Drips of water. Metal buckling. Screeching of metal on metal. Flushing sounds of rushing water pressure. Human taps and footsteps on metal. Paper and plastic wrappers. Synthesized voices and alarms.
Huey Lewis, “The Power of Love“
Very private. Paranoid. Isolated. Intimate. Awkwardly so. And yet everything everyone does is completely on view for everyone else to see. So… is it possible to be intimately public?
Classes & Power
Clear hierarchy. This is the dying remnants of a bureaucracy. Minna controls all. Dallas is the connection to the fractured former order of things and the outside world. He brings sustenance, both spiritual and bodily. He is the emotion where Minna is the logic. Theo is the usurper. He brings chaos and violence whether he means to or not. Ari is the original destabilizer beyond the present moment of the play but is the thing that is at the center of the power dynamics in the current circumstances. However she is the only one without preconceived notions of who is supposed to have the power in each scene based on the rules of the world that once was but is no longer.
Mostly pairs. Specifically a female pair. It shocks the system when either man comes into play. They are destabilizing to Minna’s established order.
Figures & Appearance
Everyone wears standard issue industrial work clothes. Here it is about functionality. It doesn’t matter what you look like and in fact any piece of individualism or flair has to be catalogued for future reference. It’s what’s being cataloged that’s important, not you.
These are shells of former people. They are fully formed individuals but they used to be. Now they exist only in the service of the facility/labyrinth.
Interaction & Language
There is a family dynamic at play, but a toxic one. Every interaction is about protocol and power. It’s very professional, institutional.
That said, Ari infuses a pop-culture familiarity. She views everything in reference to the culture she has consumed. It’s a drastic counterpoint to the aforementioned institutionality.
There is also a frankness to everything she says while everyone else seems to be speaking about a subtext that she knows nothing about.
- Number of people in the facility/labyrinth
- Ari’s sexual expression
- Things being flushed turns into people being flushed
- Minna’s externalization of her stress
- the number of dead bodies we see
Why was it essential to pass through the gate of the central image to get from the first to the last?
First: Minna and Ari reparing to open the airlock
Central: Ari and Theo recreating the lift scene from Dirty Dancing
Central: Minna flushing the trumpet and Oklahoma!
Last: Ari talking with a Twinkie in her mouth directly to audience; “We’re going to be okay.”
The insulated, institutional world of the facility/labyrinth needed to be broken apart and exposed in order for our characters to change their circumstances.
Description of the Play
Artifacts of Consequence is about priorities.
Artifacts of Consequence is about how we decide what is important in life.
Artifacts of Consequence is about a woman and a teenage girl who are surviving in a post-apocalyptic world within a facility constructed to preserve human cultural knowledge, including sedated people who are considered experts in their various fields. The girl was brought to the facility as a child by the man responsible for acquiring artifacts worth preserving. The woman starts quietly killing some of the experts when they start running out of food. A young man convinces the girl to let him in and she falls in love with him. The man discovers the organization they worked for no longer exists and there are no more rations to be found. The woman kills herself and the young man abandons the teenage girl in the self destructing facility.