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Sunday, December 21, 2014

Theater Logs in to the 21st Century

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By Frida Salazar / New Mexico Daily Lobo

Harrison Sim, who plays Sergio Gomez, sits on the audience stairs while he goes over his lines before rehearsal starts.

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Sergio Gomez has 125 Facebook friends. His profile says he likes Florence and the Machine, that he works at the Century Rio 24 and is “in a relationship with” Stevie Ryan.

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Theater Logs in to the 21st Century
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Theater Logs in to the 21st Century
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There’s only one thing – Sergio isn’t real.

False identities on social media and their consequences is the subject of “Simon as Sergio,” a student-written play performed by UNM students, which fuses the primeval form of theater acting with the modern phenomenon of social media.

Barney Lopez, a dramatic writing graduate student, said he wrote “Simon as Sergio” after being inspired by a class that focused on plays about technology.

Inspired by the integration of technology in society, this play is based off of interactions that take place half in the real world and half in the cyber world, he said.

“Social media is an entirely new world all of its own, with its own rules, its own advantages, and disadvantages. It’s a place where we can create who we want to be, and not necessarily who we are,” Lopez, said.

As part of the performance, the cast of “Simon as Sergio” set up fake Facebook profiles so fans of the play can follow what these fictional characters are doing via social media.

Watching these characters live outside of this play is interesting, he said, because they exist in the cyber world and they interact with each other as these different personalities.

“It’s kind of like an identity switch, and I was really interested in this idea of changing who you are just online, and the ability to take on a different persona,” Lopez said.

Part of his fascination with social media is how easy it is for someone live in the online world and to shift their identities, he said.

According to Facebook’s terms of service, users are not allowed to have more than one Facebook personal account or make accounts on behalf of others; however, many people do just that.

Estimates of fake accounts from Facebook’s annual report represent a huge range — the difference between 5.5 percent and 11.2 percent is 70.11 million accounts — showing that Facebook not only struggles to fight the fake accounts, but also to figure out which accounts are real and which are not.

Junior fine arts major Harrison Sim, who plays Sergio, said a surprising number of people have accepted Sergio’s friend requests.

“A lot of the media that’s being used in the show is grabbed from our Facebook profile, so a lot of Sergio’s pictures are my pictures,” Sim said.

Teenage Sergio is a masculine individual with tastes that are very different from Sim’s, he said.

“The Facebook persona is a lot of fun. Playing a character that isn’t a lot like you is very liberating,” Sim said. “This character is actually posting stuff on Facebook and people are actually reading it.”

The characters in “Simon as Sergio” were given Facebook profiles two months ago and even though the play opens tomorrow, they already have followers.

“It’s easy to become frustrated with who you are, and so I think it’s almost like a reprieve to be someone else and be completely fake, pretending to be another person,” Sim said.

Estevan Munoz, who plays Sergio’s younger Brother Simon, said he added little details to what his character would like on Simon’s profile.

“There are similarities between me and Simon, but we are different on Facebook,” Munoz said.

Oddly, more people have requested to be friends with Simon on Facebook than they have on his real page, he said.

The play is a modern twist on an age-old plot – Simon pretends to be his older brother, Sergio on Facebook. While doing so, he meets Erin and the two fall in cyber-love. The antics begin when Simon must decide if he should admit to Erin that her dream guy isn’t who she thinks he is.

Simon as Sergio
Experimental Theater, UNM Main Campus
Friday and Saturday. April 11 through 19 at 7:30 p.m.
Sunday. April, 20 at 2:30 p.m.
Tickets: $15 general/$12 seniors/$10 UNM staff and students
For more information call 925-5858