Passengers: Touching the Hearts of an Audience

“Theater is a varsity sport,” Groton’s theater director Laurie Sales once said, and I couldn’t agree more. The involvement of physical movement and concentration of the mind are more than crucial to a successful production, both onstage and backstage.

Our theater crew gathered eagerly along the steps outside the Campbell Performing Arts Center on a Saturday afternoon, anticipating the arrival of the bumblebee yellow school bus. We were heading into Boston to see Passengers at the Emerson Cutler Majestic Theater, by The 7 Fingers Circus. As the bus door creaked open, the students hopped on one after another, discussing the possible inspirations the performance could bring to our own play, Antigone.

When I first heard that we were watching a circus performance, I was hesitant of the correlation it had with our play, and I wondered what it would bring to the students. While I continued to ponder as I flipped through the playbill at the theater lobby, my thoughts were interrupted when the lobby staffer directed us to the entrance, filing the students in as quickly as she could. The performance had begun by the time we sat down; the stage was bare black, with a single source of light illuminating a young lady hanging in the air on gleaming white aerial silks. It was death defying, but her effortless performance made her seem like one with the silks. Her performance was quickly followed by a series of others, each its own acrobatic masterpiece.

As a member of Groton’s Stagecraft crew, I was in awe of the use of lighting and props. I had never felt so strongly about the illusions light could create, the emotions it could convey. A simple stencil placed in front of a light source combined with a faded video of a town view was enough to create a scene on a train. Saturated lighting color filters formed totally contrasting atmospheres onstage within seconds. A few matte black metal frames could act as train seats, trucks, and trolleys all at the same time. I slowly began to redefine what perspective meant to me, both in the theatric world and in reality.

Passengers was unlike any other acrobatic performance I had seen—it combines the essence of music, acrobatics, and dance; more importantly, every scene delivers a message and does not bring mere entertainment and shock to the audience. While Passengers does not have a central plot, every scene offered insight about traveling and constantly reminded us of the myriad of challenges we come across in life. It is the messages of wisdom that Passengers successfully presents that allows it to resonate with the audience, and I am sure that our theater crew will grow much from this experience.