Like ants marching to a nest, eager audience members filed into the sold-out Studio Theatre at the University of Connecticut Friday evening to see the world premiere of Anna Lindemann’s art-science performance piece “The Colony.” Deriving inspiration from ants and their communication styles, the show told the story of two sisters learning how to communicate after a falling-out.
Mona (played by Anna Lindemann, an assistant professor in the Digital Media and Design department) hasn’t spoken to her sister Hennie (played by Lucy Fitz Gibbon) in almost a year. After a disagreement between herself and Hennie, the lonely Mona must find a way to reconnect to the sister she was once close with.
While Mona dictates a message to her Flutterdex (a sort of Rolodex with Siri), she calls herself a “bad aunt” to Hennie’s child. The Flutterdex mistakes her words for “bad ant,” and begins to show Mona suggestions about ant communication. From this point on, Mona looks to ants as a model of good sisterhood and effective communication.
She learns about ant societies, about how certain classes of ants perform certain functions for their colonies and about how certain conditions can predispose a larva to become a queen, worker or soldier. Mona pictures her sister as an ant queen, constantly receiving attention and praise, and herself as a humble worker. At one point, Mona raises a swarm of ants that ends up carrying her message of loneliness to Hennie, and the sisters reconcile and agree to listen to each other.
Ant imagery and facts were prominent throughout the performance, and many audience members expressed an increased knowledge of ants by the end.
“I learned a lot more about ants,” Matthew Shirvell, a seventh-semester math and English double major, said. “I like the way they connected ants to sisterhood.”
“The Colony” was an ambitious piece, combining theater, opera and digital art, but this certain blend worked to express Mona’s pain and desire to reconnect. The main story was told in spoken performance, with operatic singing and projected animations used to convey Mona’s underlying feelings, her increasing knowledge of ant society and a close-up view of her ant colony growing from larvae to adult ants.
Though the show’s tone was somber as Mona yearned for connection to Hennie, it was not without its humorous or lighthearted moments.
In one scene that the audience particularly enjoyed, a projected video depicted Mona shopping for food for her larvae in the Storrs Price Chopper. Mona imagines the shopping trip as an ant raid on the store, and other actors play these “ants,” rhythmically picking up grocery items, marching through the produce section and pushing Mona around the store in a shopping cart full of food.
By the time the swarm delivered Mona’s message to Hennie, “The Colony” had delivered its message to the audience: Good communication is vital to good sisterhood.
“I think it was really interesting, and I learned a lot about ants,” Valerie Cheung, a first-semester theatre studies major, said. “I learned about sisterhood and being there for each other, not letting anything get in the way.”
“The Colony” is a part of AntU, the series of projects inspired by the Carl W. and Marian E. Rettenmeyer Army Ant Guest Collection.
Stephanie Santillo is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.