Rediscovering youth: Writer-director Jared Mezzocchi on The Lost World

This blog post is by Emily Schweich, junior broadcast journalism major.

The Lost World

The Lost World photo by Jared Schaubert

The Lost World isn’t your typical coming-of-age play – unless your idea of a coming-of-age play includes a secret world of dinosaurs under the bed. I spoke with writer and director Jared Mezzocchi, an assistant professor in the School of Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies design department, about his inspiration for the play and the multimedia aspects of the performance.

"I think the biggest challenge has really just been making sure that everybody is seeing the same thing in their head as we’re building it. It’s a really complex landscape, because it’s all kind of a memory play, set in the mind of our narrator, who’s telling the story."

Emily Schweich: Where did you get the idea for The Lost World?

Jared Mezzocchi: I grew up in New Hampshire and then slowly moved my way down to DC. Every summer for the last seven years I’ve been writing and directing my own work that is multimedia in New Hampshire at a children’s theater called Andy’s Summer Playhouse in Wilton.

I was approached back in 2011 by DJ Potter, the artistic director at Andy’s Summer Playhouse, to write a show, and they offered me a bunch of ideas…I love dinosaurs, I grew up fascinated by Jurassic Park…so I was like, “Oh, I’ll do that!”

It’s a children’s theatre, and so…I didn’t want to just adapt the (Arthur Conan Doyle) story because it’s a bunch of older people – scientists and journalists and stuff – and I had ages 8 to 18 in these performances… So this adaptation is about two kids growing up…and they at an early age discover that dinosaurs exist under their bed.

It’s twins, Oscar and Olivia – they hold that as a secret through adolescence and through high school. One of them chooses to tell their friends and the other does not, and you see the repercussions of both. In the end it really has less to do about dinosaurs, and more to do about just the everyman’s childhood development, every woman’s childhood development…what it means to cultivate, harness and embrace your imagination without losing touch with reality.

So back in 2011 we put it on [at Andy’s Summer Playhouse.] It was a super fun time, and a lot of those kids ended up authoring a lot more of their character than was in the initial script, and I adapted it…based on what they were coming up with. Then coming here, once it was selected, I then really tore it apart and had a lot of people reading it and challenging me with questions that were still unanswered in it. Of the hundred pages about a third of it has been completely tossed out and rewritten.

ES: Is multimedia a big part of this play?

JM: I’m always trying to explore new ways to incorporate multimedia into storytelling, not just as a backdrop but as a necessary part of the story. So in this, we use two video cameras, and then we use two mini cameras the size of my thumb. We have news reporters, and we do live camera stuff with them…Other times, when they are descending into the lost world, you’ll see those little tiny cameras moving through a terrarium we have onstage. As that camera’s moving through, it’s projected across the whole stage…Another way we’re using home videos of one of our actors to show the progression of her childhood, and it’s mapped on bed sheets or books or things like that. We’re pulling out all the stuff that we’re learning in class here and trying to incorporate it the best we can into the story.

ES: What has been the biggest challenge that you’ve faced in this production?

JM: I think the biggest challenge has really just been making sure that everybody is seeing the same thing in their head as we’re building it. It’s a really complex landscape, because it’s all kind of a memory play, set in the mind of our narrator, who’s telling the story…My mentors as directors growing up have been the ones who have been the best enablers and coaxers of everyone in the space kind of co-authoring the piece. How do I make sure that what we are all imagining allows for fresh, new ideas that still fit in our sandbox? It’s been challenging, but I think it’s been great.

ES: What’s been the most rewarding part?

JM: I kind of told my story, my whole upbringing, why this play is important to me, to the cast and design team…Watching them offer me stories from their lives…and watching how that has empowered them as young artists has been really awesome. I really love watching people go through “aha moments.”

ES: What do you hope is the audience’s biggest takeaway from the show?

JM: I hope that the story allows everyone to look back on their own life and ask what they’ve left behind, and feel giggly and youthful again, to bring some of those art-making tendencies of an eight-year-old back into their life. Really, it’s a look back on life to charge us forward, to say, “Let’s not let go of the kid in us.” It’s not a kid’s show, it’s not a children’s show, it’s a show about children, and so I hope that audiences of all ages can take that emotion along…It’s a sense of empowerment no matter what background you come from, to hold on to the kid in you.

…Predominantly, my class is focusing on design, but to have this opportunity to work with the actors, work with the designers, to really put forward a piece that is multimedia and multi-genre, and bring a bit of the flair that I miss from Brooklyn and from New Hampshire into this new home that I have here…It’s just been the best classroom I could have ever asked for.

The Lost World opens Friday, February 13 and runs through Saturday, February 21 in the Kay Theatre. Tickets are $25 Regular/$20 NextLEVEL/$10 Students. You can follow the dinosaur characters @t_rexygram on Instagram and @ApataTWEET on Twitter.