Today Is Your Birthday is an inquiry into the labor of both forgetting and remembering across generations as viewed through the lens of American Individualism. Rather than define the performance primarily through fixed dialogue and action, Today Is Your Birthday invites the audience to coauthor the story through the lens of their own experiences with the subject matter as they walk through a series of immersive, scripted environments.
This piece was created and launched in a time of quarantine, when the meaning and privilege of private spaces and the labor that takes place within them were at the forefront of the national conversation. It was intentionally designed to have both a virtual and a live identity, and is still available as a virtual walkthrough with embedded video.
The original script traces overlapping family histories across the Atlantic to the present day, intertwining the realities of routine life with private fears, dreams, traumas and family memories. From the Great Famine in Ireland to the coal mines in Pennsylvania to the daily grind of a modern-day 9 to 5, it all culminates in one event: the break-room birthday party. A demarcation of individuality, originally intended as a celebration of survival, the birthday is both the largest and the smallest day of the year. “Today Is Your Birthday” asks what it means to survive and thrive in the United States of America.
The story was written through a collaborative process built upon an exchange of individual and shared living histories, and was conceived in direct response to the events leading up to the capital riots. Each Chapter was then translated into an immersive, interactive room. 5 interconnected spaces were constructed, each with their own original soundscape, and arranged in a specific spatial configuration. The resulting work is a script written through sound, space, and light, one that is heavily influenced by viewer’s individual associations, experiences and identity.
Today Is Your Birthday is a post-immigration story for a post-Trump reality, a rumination on American whiteness, and a reflection on the consequence of positioning our current identities within the mythos of the past.
DTLA – Los Angeles,CA
Playwright – Eli Smith
Authors – Eli Smith, BRD Driessen
Director – Eli Smith
Scene Design – Eli Smith
Lighting Design – Eli Smith
Media Design – Eli Smith
Assistant Media Design – BRD Driessen
Sound Design – Avery Orvis
Tech Director – Thomas Orvis