Interactive exhibit.

Andrew Gitchel, production manager, checks out an interactive screen that reacts like the brain when processing information.

Photos by Jon Chase/Harvard Staff Photographer

Arts & Culture

A way in

3 min read

Students turn sorrow to art in ‘I Have a Door Up There’

A visit to grandpa in an augmented reality. Listening in on an angry plant. Playing a self-care video game. Eavesdropping through someone else’s voicemail.

These real and imagined experiences were but some of the stops on a multimedia experience of grief presented by the Theater, Dance & Media Department online and in a physical installation at the Smith Campus Center last month.

The production, “I Have a Door Up There,” was created by Alice Findlay ’22, Isaac Heller ’23, and Noah Gold ’22, students in the spring production course “New Species: A Hybrid Studio.” The three worked in collaboration with their instructors — multidisciplinary artists Phillip Howze and Tara Ahmadinejad — to develop a three-part, interactive theater experience focused on loss and sorrow. The creators enlisted fellow undergraduate and graduate students, alumni, TDM staff members, and professional actors and designers to create the multiplatform piece.

“Grief is something we’ve all been experiencing in great quantities,” said Howze, a lecturer on playwriting. “To be able to see how this work of art is providing a sense of care and is drawn from the students’ desire to really connect with each other — and also with an audience that they don’t even know — is a real gift.”

An interactive audio display triggered by a call from the user’s cell phone.

Interactive audio exhibit.

During “What Grows,” visitors interacted with the production through the windows of the Smith Center and the online portal. The second part, “The Gathering,” was a live virtual event. In “Reorientation,” visitors could individually experience the website and physical space, which was reconfigured to incorporate the ways people interacted with the components. “Reorientation” also included a digital guide of resources to help people cope with grief, including community-based organizations and online assistance.

“I am very struck by the ways in which this project is such a specific expression of this group of three students. This is their first time in collaboration with each other and working together, so the time spent in collaboration was very intense,” said Ahmadinejad, a visiting lecturer in TDM. “They were very generous, caring, and thoughtful, and wanted to respect each other’s ideas. At the same time, they each nudged the project in a certain direction, and the resulting experience is something that only these students could have made in this way, at this time.”

The design team also included Matt Wolff and Nilas Andersen for website design; Darien Carr, M.Arch. ’23, and Emily Majors, M.Arch. ’23, for installation design; Cha See for lighting design consultation; Sarah Espii Proctor for audio, video, and AR design; Eli Schleicher ’18 for stage management; Gabby Preston ’20 for dramaturgy; Andrew Mitchell for technical direction and fabrication; Joe Short for technical and physical production; and Angel Hoyang ’23 for assistant stage management.

The physical installation closed after 10 days, but the website will remain active for the next few months.