In an alternative but satisfying fashion, the Brooks Center for the Performing Arts and the talented Clemson Players student ensemble strike while the iron is hot, building their newest production, “LOVE, 1918,” out of the people, locations, stories and letter excerpts of those battling the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918. The Clemson Player’s control of the virtual platform, along with the pathos and logos of the viewer in a similar struggle, makes an all-too-relatable show and reminds us that, while things are certainly rough during COVID, we aren’t the first to stand against the front lines of an alien disease. The show is breathtakingly thorough, interesting and empathetic, leaving viewers equally educated and stunned.
This production subtly points at the similarities between the influenza and COVID-19 crises, describing the misinterpretation of the former virus’ severity by the media of the time, the struggles and ultimate failure of many individuals to defend themselves from the virus, the individuality and vehement nature of the virus, the towering lack of favor facing the common people and the acceleration of social unrest due to the unfortunate circumstances.
The production’s 30 pieces preserve the life and times of the characters they describe via the writing and performances of some of Clemson’s most talented thespians. The 90-minute production’s historically-fictitious narrative via the voices of the actors provides the perspective and context. Further, the adaptations of the cast and crew to fit the new reality of theatre productions feel calculated rather than forced, despite their decision to move away from their originally scheduled fall production because of the Brooks Center’s semester shutdown.
This production’s central message, while sad, seems to be one of hope. The parallels between the show and our current climate obviously cannot go unnoticed, and though we long for the times when “there wasn’t a bench between us... when we had express embraces and could parade around town wherever we pleased,” we see that we’ve already gone through something arguably more severe. The optimism of actually producing such a play via an online medium is just as symbolic and hopeful as the production itself and gives hope that our circumstances will heal over into a brighter, more prepared future.
The production ran its last show Sunday, October 11th. For tickets and more information regarding future shows, visit the Brooks Center’s website at https://www.clemson.edu/centers-institutes/brooks/.