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Drama students to explore issues of online identity

Carleton University student Nadia Kajouji was just 18 when she threw herself into Ottawa’s Rideau River in March 2008. In May this year, a Minnesota man was sentenced to jail for his role in encouraging her suicide after he struck up an online friendship posing as a young woman and proposed a suicide pact.

A group of UWindsor drama students will explore this tragedy in an original play to be staged October 15 and 16 in the Jackman Dramatic Art Centre’s Studio Theatre.

Fourth-year acting students Christina Bryson and Margaret Evraire say that their short experimental work, titled White Noise, deals with a number of issues – from mental illness to advancing technology to questions of identity.

“We are advancing so quickly with technology that society can’t keep up with assigning responsibility,” says Evraire. “The cyber aspect of it facilitates the physical actions. Who is responsible for the outcome?”

The issues raised hit close to home for both students, who call Ottawa home.

“We didn’t know Nadia, but we both know people who knew her,” says Bryson. “It’s so close to us – mental illness among youth, people our own age, dealing with technology. For young people, it’s like there is almost no escape from the online world.”

At the same time, they don’t intend to condemn technological advance. Their research while writing the play relied heavily on information from the internet.

“It is important for students to consider their online actions, and be prepared to take responsibility for such actions,” Bryson says. “Typing on the keyboard is an action that has an effect on reality.”

Although the duo has been working on the idea since the summer, the play has also been shaped by contributions of other cast members as they rehearse. They hope to stage it at fringe theatre festivals, including Ottawa’s.

White Noise will premiere in the Studio Theatre, Jackman Dramatic Art Centre, at 8 p.m. on Saturday, October 15, and 2 p.m. Sunday, October 16. Admission is $5 at the door.