BergImmersive brings their latest piece to campus

The organization put on “12 Ophelias” in the Hoffman House

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Photo by Carolina Sutton-Schott ‘24. BergImmersive staged “12 Ophelias” as an immersive theatre piece in the Hoffman House.

On April 11 at the Hoffman House, the new theatre organization on campus, BergImmersive, debuted its latest piece, “12 Ophelias,” written by Caridad Svich – who also wrote this fall’s departmental show “The Labyrinth of Desire” – and directed by Rozie Hoff ‘24.

Those who were on campus last semester will remember BergImmersive’s inaugural production entitled “Love in Idleness,” an adaptation of Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” which transformed the second and third floors of Moyer into a fraternity house. In that production, audience members were free to roam the space as they wished, and they were free to interact with the characters. This semester’s show is certainly different, though it was just as engaging and impactful. Alex Piteris ‘27, who played H in “12 Ophelias,” put it like this: “‘Love in Idleness’ was a phenomenal performance and, to be completely honest, will stay with me for the rest of my life. On the other hand, ‘12 Ophelias’ is not ‘Love in Idleness’ and it shouldn’t be. It has its own format, aesthetic and lessons.”

This show is very important to Hoff. “12 Ophelias’ has been a piece that I was originally exposed to [in] my sophomore year, and I have since come back to time and time again,” she said. “I have looked at it through the lens of an actor, a Shakespeare enjoyer and an adapter. I [originally] wanted to direct this play this year as a capstone project for my undergraduate degree. On the other hand, I had such a great time being a part of ‘Love In Idleness’ last semester, and I knew I had to work BergImmersive into my spring somehow. Bringing ‘12 Ophelias’ to BergImmersive unlocked so many creative avenues I wouldn’t have even thought of in a more traditional format. It was truly a ‘trust the universe’ moment. I am so pleased with how everything worked out.”

Audiences were ushered into the Hoffman House through its back patio by R, played by Lacey Cataleta ‘26, and G, played by Sam Hoffman ‘27, the characters who guided people through the space. Aside from a prologue wherein the audience was invited to answer the prompt, “In a word, define Ophelia,” by writing on Noelle Simone’s ‘26 arms and legs with washable markers, the audience had no direct interaction with the characters… at least on a surface level. The play’s themes of sexuality, consent and violence forced one to question the morality of the audience’s mere presence, let alone their watching and witnessing of the story. This is the aim of immersive theatre: to make the audience unendingly aware of their presence within the story and to ask what the effect of that presence is, whether the characters can see them or not.

“12 Ophelias” is a reimagining of “Hamlet” which asks what would happen if the character Ophelia, relegated usually to the role of a doomed damsel, emerged from her watery grave and fought to regain her agency.

The production process was rewarding for both cast and crew. Maya Handler ‘27, the assistant director and co-producer, said, “Being involved in this production was very rewarding from start to finish. Watching ‘12 Ophelias’ come together was nothing short of magical as our cast got comfortable both with each other and the text itself.” 

James Goodwin ‘27, who played Rude Boy, also praised the process, saying it consisted of “…students coming together and using everything they had at their disposal to create a piece of art as a collective…It was a beautiful collaborative process that I hope more people get to experience in their lifetimes.”

The process was not without its challenges, though. The location of the performance was not known for a while, and this created puzzles that the creative team had to solve. Hoff said, “…I was unable to block the show until I knew what space our show was going to take place in. In immersive theater the surrounding structure is the world. 

Taking this time was required due to the heightened language of the script. “‘12 Ophelias’ isn’t traditional, but also isn’t fully Shakespearean,” Hoff continued. “It is highly stylized speech that has a lot of nuance and gray areas. So we were able to spend as much time as we needed answering any questions we had and specifying everything to our production.”

BergImmersive produced an impressive final product. Elliot Griffiths ‘27, who saw the show on opening night, said that it was “…easily the greatest play I’ve ever had the privilege to see.”

The collaborative nature of the show extended to the aftermath of rehearsals and performances. “One other thing I’ll say about the behind-the-scenes process was the setup and strike every day was an all-hands-on-deck situation,” Hoff stated. “All of the designers, producers and crew would work together to either set up or take down our world every day. One of our goals as an organization is to be immersive in the moment, obviously, but also as noninvasive and respectful as possible to the space that was lent to us.”

BergImmersive is only just getting started. Handler, who will be the president of the group next year, said, “BergImmersive will continue to produce independent student theater! Following ‘Ophelias,’ our club will be working with its members to develop an equitable constitution. From there, we will begin the application process for our next production!”

Each member of the cast and crew hoped to pass on various messages to the audience. Said Handler, “I hope audiences will walk away feeling resolute and whole. The ending of ‘Ophelias’ is very emotional and inconclusive but peaceful in its ambiguity. Unlike most shows, the cast never takes a final, fourth-wall-breaking bow. The show simply ends, the actors leaving their characters behind where they stood.” 

Hoff was more interested in creating a world and being inspiring: “I wanted to create a world that reflected the entire ensemble’s understanding and values that developed from the process. That being said, I hope fellow creatives walked away with ideas of their own of how they could break the mold, and of course never forget how badass female and AFAB [Assigned Female at Birth] creators are.” 

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