half girl/ half face
Zoe Erwin-Longstaff’s Half Girl/Half Face is a fascinating journey down the rabbit hole into the Social Media Alternative Reality that encases the lives of teenagers, both during and after school. I think that this play is the most likely accurate representation of the complexities and twisted, subtle, confusing dynamics associated with Cyber Bullying that I have ever seen.
Young Girl is a normal High School student. She considers herself to be well liked, she says she doesn’t feel targeted or victimized while at school and she appears to be involved in school activities and to have friendships with her peers. Suddenly, a mysterious Online Presence crops her face out of a random photo from a party which eventually morphs into a meme that goes viral, spiralling Young Girl into Internet Superstardom. The meme isn’t witty, or necessarily funny, nor is it obviously mean. Young Girl doesn’t seem to be sure whether she’s being set up as the object of people’s envy and attraction or as the target of ridicule or hatred. She can analyze the photo to accentuate all her own perceived flaws and she can, just as easily, turn it into the lustful fantasy of horny boys jerking off. The reaction to the meme is just as varied, she receives creepy correspondences from those who seem to be stalking her mixed with emails lambasting and slut shaming. She is thrown onto the pedestal and torn down from it in one single continuous motion. Yet, she doesn’t necessarily consider any of this bullying, stalking, horrifying privacy invasion or psychological terrorizing, words adults likely would immediately jump to.
Why? That question is what is so fascinating because Young Girl’s feelings about the meme and, ultimately, her own self image, could not be more convoluted or complex. On the one hand, she feels offended, outraged, violated and defensive concerning every negative thing that has been said about her by the anonymous throng on the Internet. The more vehemently she denies caring about what other people’s perceptions of her are, the more obvious it is that meeting the perceived expectations of others and of society is an all consuming obsession for Young Girl. Yet, she is also immediately addicted to the fame the meme has afforded her. She holds on to every “Like,” every “hit,” every affirmation as though her entire worth as a human being hinges on it. The more she boasts and tries to be humble brag and be nonchalant about it the more glaring her crippling insecurity becomes. Young Girl honestly doesn’t know whether the absurd and awful consequences of this stupid meme is the best or the worst thing that has ever happened to her. Thus, she does not seek help in handling the situation and risks making choices that will only drive her deeper and deeper into the darkness of the Internet Lynch Mob.
Erwin-Longstaff has a beautiful command of the teenage language and Arlen Aguayo Stewart transforms entirely into Young Girl, with constant flipping of her perfectly straight long shiny hair and all the perfect nuances of care and, like, totally don’t care, sarcasm and bitchiness, vapid longwinded self obsessed tangents and a beautiful mixture of being articulate and mature and then sounding like a spoiled, clueless child and, of course, Internetspeak. I found myself continually oscillating between being utterly annoyed by Young Girl and feeling intense compassion for her, which, I think, is exactly how I would relate to her if I encountered her IRL as well.
This is a play that refuses to simplify the teenage experience and in its depth it raises questions and concerns that the media so seldom acknowledge and it speaks powerfully about the society these young people are creating for themselves Online and the one, just as fucked up, that they have inherited from us.
Half Girl/ Half Face plays at Emotion Picture Gallery (5182 Bishop Street) at the following times:
SUNDAY, SEPT 1 • 8:00
MONDAY, SEPT 2 • 7:00
TUESDAY, SEPT 3 • 8:30
Tickets are $5.00 and are available in advance online at this website or 30 minutes before each show at the venue on the day of the performance. All tickets bought in person must be purchased with either cash or credit. For more information please visit this website or call 902.422.7604 between 10:00am and 5:00pm.