Student’s science-inspired play debuts at Fringe Festival

Senior theater major Lyell Hintz wrote a play that explores genetic modification.

When Lyell Hintz first tested out his play, “Simone R.P.T. 8,” there were no costumes, props or set designs. His actors read from scripts placed on music stands.

Months later, the science-fiction production came to life on stage: last weekend, “Simone R.P.T. 8” resurfaced as part of the Philadelphia Fringe Festival.

The play explores personality modification in a futuristic world.

“As a society, we’ve been transforming and deconstructing the natural environment to suit ourselves,” Hintz said.

Hintz, a senior theater major, originally wrote “Simone R.P.T. 8” for a class assignment in spring of 2016. The screenplay was performed as a simple read through with Temple Theater Sidestage, a student organization that helps actors and playwrights hone their skills.

“It was really interesting seeing that show grow from its infancy to, like, an actual thing that people paid money to get into,” said Michael Stahler, a junior theater major who starred in the play.

For Stahler, the read through process was frustrating and grueling — but when he found out he’d be performing in the Fringe Festival, he felt honored, he said.

“It kind of just reminded me that any kind of small role or any small production that I regret doing initially, you never know where it’s going to go,” Stahler said.

The idea for Hintz’s play came accidentally.

While writing, he heard his roommates — neuroscience majors — listening to a podcast about ‘CRISPR,’ a groundbreaking form of gene-editing technology. After some research, Hintz began crafting the 90-minute production.

“Simone R.P.T 8” centers on the titular character Simone, a woman subjugated within a dystopian world. In the story, a group of scientists attempt to extract her ability to experience happiness and sell it to members of a depressed society. The play suggests that Simone lives only to offer genetic improvements to others.

“The whole show is about people that are made as, almost like cattle, producing emotions for other people to use for themselves,” Stahler said.

Hintz said he tried to imagine how gene-editing technology may shape society.

Stahler played the role of Ranto, a lab assistant who saw personality modification as heartless and immoral.

“My character’s the one that says, ‘This isn’t right,’” Stahler said.

The small five-person cast for “Simone R.P.T. 8” began rehearsing in mid-August. The performance featured Carleigh Spence, David Thomas and Mackenzie Kyle. Sarah Kiernan, a senior theater major, also starred in the production.

Hintz, who said he hopes for positive feedback in Philadelphia, plans to premiere the play in different locations in the future.

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