Playwright Steven Dietz poses this question as he explores the idea of "missed connections" in his play "This Random World: The Myth of Serendipity." The play will open the School of Performing Arts' 2022-23 theatre season and will be performed in the Squires Studio Theatre from Sept. 29-Oct. 4.

“How do we not see each other — how do we miss each other?” Dietz wondered in a Courier Journal interview. “There are people who believe that nothing is an accident. This play attempts to explore the flipside of that: What if everything is an accident?”

The playwright began to explore the notion of kismet when he and his wife unwittingly sat on the same flight, a mere two rows away from each other, traveling back to their home from two different cities. “If the day I met my wife we were two rows apart, my life would be completely different now.”

Amanda Nelson, the director of the play and associate professor in the School of Performing Arts, relates to the feeling of happenstance and “the way that lives often run parallel to each other.” She said, “How many times are we missing wonderful opportunities to connect with someone new or reconnect with someone we haven't seen in a while? In an age of technology, when our noses are in our phones, I think for me the play serves as a reminder: What if I had looked up from my phone? Who might I have met?”

The universality of this idea is interwoven into the fabric of the play, Nelson said. “Usually character relationships are revealed to the audience slowly. The actors on the stage have the knowledge of who is who and who connects to whom. In this play that's flipped The audience is keenly aware of how the characters are related to one another. They understand the connections between the people portrayed onstage, connections that the characters are unaware of.”

“This Random World,” a seriocomic play, premiered at the Humana Festival of New American Plays, one of the biggest incubators for new theatrical works, at the Actors Theatre of Louisville in 2016. The story winds between Scottie Ward, an elderly woman with one last, big wish; her daughter Beth, who seeks adventure; Scottie’s son, Tim, who can’t seem to get it right; his ex-girlfriend, Claire, with troubles of her own; her ex-boyfriend, Gary, who wants to get away; Rhonda and Bernadette, sisters who aren’t on the same page.

The cast features seven undergraduate students in the School of Performing Arts, but a twist in the traditional casting process involves several secret cameo appearances. The Squires Studio Theatre will welcome a different special guest onto the stage to act alongside the cast. The mystery member of the Virginia Tech faculty, staff, or greater Blacksburg community will be revealed before each performance.

Dietz, one of the most produced American playwrights, according to American Theatre Magazine, builds a world of sliding doors, which the technical theatre design team wanted to highlight.

Theatre chair and set designer John Ambrosone brings to life the purposefully disjointed journeys of the players through a revolving, automated turntable. Laura Copenhaver, the technical director, along with a large graduate and undergraduate crew, has engineered a 28-foot-wide rotating set that transports the actors seamlessly from one scene to the next.

So, whether it be by fluke, fate, or just dumb luck, this show will leave you wondering: What paths are you intersecting unknowingly?

Tickets and parking

Reserved seat tickets are $15 general and $12 for seniors and students and may be purchased through the Moss Arts Center ticket office in person or online. Tickets will be available at the door in the Squires Student Center beginning one hour prior to the performance. For online purchase, find ticket links here.

All university community members and visitors will need to display a parking permit, use the ParkMobile app, pay a fee, or pay using an hourly meter to park on the Blacksburg campus unless otherwise noted by signage. Find additional parking information here.

If you are an individual with a disability and/or desire an accommodation, please contact Susan Sanders at least 10 business days prior to the event.

The 2012-23 School of Performing Arts Theatre series will present "Describe the Night" by Rajiv Joseph Nov. 10-11 and 13-15 in Squires Studio Theatre. Tickets for all performances are now on sale. 

Written by Liz Gray, a graduate student in arts leadership in the School of Performing Arts

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