CHICAGO: Regina Taylor’s stop. reset. is a commentary on technology and its negative effects on the literary world—with technology playing perhaps the biggest role in the show. Taylor also directs the production, at Goodman Theatre through June 21.
The play was inspired by a loss that was literally close to home.
“I would go across the street to my bookstore to get a cup of coffee, browse the aisles and put my hands on a book,” Taylor recalls. “One day I got back into town and the bookstore was closed—I started looking for the nearest bookstore—and that’s when I noted that a lot of bookstores were closing.”
That was about five years ago. The resulting play, about a businessman trying to save his beloved Chicago bookstore from extinction in the face of e-readers and digital publishing, was first developed and staged at Signature Theatre in 2013. The trends portrayed in the play have only advanced since she wrote it, and now, with the play’s remount in the town that inspired it, stop. reset. has reached beyond the stage.
“What is very different about this is the expansion of the story, which is outside the theatre itself,” says Taylor, a Goodman resident artist for the past 20 years. “I started working on the online aspect of the piece with the first production, but really took off with it here.” With live presentations, tweet seats, dinner symposia and an interactive microsite, the production has indeed broken through the walls of the Owen Theatre.
At the dinner symposia, artists, sociologists, publishers and tech-savvy people have conversations about how technology has changed their fields in the last decade. Taylor is also working with artists across the Windy City to create short films, spoken word and music with the theme of technology, all of them featured on stopreset.org.
The production is both “high-tech and high-touch,” says Taylor, with a corridor leading into the theatre that is filled with objects from the play for audience members to interact with. In addition to the microsite, audience members can use #stopreset to comment on the show while it is in progress. “They are tweeting for the first time at the Goodman Theatre—there is assigned seating in the balcony for those who tweet,” says Taylor excitedly.
Despite the new wave of technology, the object of theatregoing remains the same; there’s just an added twist. The production is “bringing communities together in an actual space where people share actual breath, and bringing communities together in terms of the virtual,” says Taylor.
It’s clear that technology is changing the way people create and experience theatre nearly as much as it’s changed their relationship to the printed word. And while stop.reset. is in part about the end of something, it’s also about the potential for new beginnings and new connections.
“I think we are here—our society is here and I don’t think we will be going back,” says Taylor. “It has been a wonderful journey for me as an artist to witness the changes that are happening right here, right now—to be able to witness and to be able to speak on the changes that are occurring in our society.”