M.F.A. Actors Go Viral in Clickshare

By Taylor Steinbeck

What Happens Next Will Shock You! 17 Tricks That Will Change Your Life! Clickbait titles such as these have infested the internet landscape. Clickshare, the M.F.A. production running September 28–30 at The Strand, aims to expose the clickable content to which we fall prey everyday. This new comedy, directed by Stephen Brackett, centers on Clickshare, a news media company parodying sites like BuzzFeed and The Huffington Post. At Clickshare, overworked twentysomethings pump out articles about pregnancy rumors and wardrobe malfunctions. But chaos breaks out when a story on Sun Flu—a rapidly spreading disease—goes literally viral.

Artwork for the 2017 M.F.A. production of Clickshare.
In 2016, Macquarie Dictionary named “Fake News” the word of the year, and for good reason. With baseless stories blown up by mainstream media, Americans have grown increasingly wary of journalism. “Clickshare is poking fun at what journalism has become, what stories grab people’s attention now,” says third-year M.F.A. actor Justin Edward Keim. Clickshare writer Lucas Kavner capitalizes on this public mistrust by giving audiences a behind-the-scenes peek at the content creators who clog our Facebook feeds. Kavner himself was a staff reporter for the Huffington Post for three years, inspiring this hyperbolized satire. Keim plays Milano, Clickshare’s otherworldly, androgynous CEO. “It’s a fun character to play,” says Keim. “Milano is part Arianna Huffington, part James Bond villain, part crazy monster.” 

A.C.T. has been involved in Clickshare’s development from page to stage since its early drafts. In its initial in-house reading at A.C.T., Keim played the character of Colin (now played by third-year M.F.A. actor Justin Genna). The cast of M.F.A. actors later had the opportunity to work closely with Kavner as he fine-tuned the script. “It’s always been an enjoyable show, but now it feels more cohesive,” says Keim. “Lucas is a hilarious writer. His rewrites had us cracking up the first time we read them.”

Last spring, Clickshare was performed at the headquarters of the nonprofit tech company Mozilla, as part of Friday Drafts—a new play reading series wherein M.F.A. students present staged readings of new plays for a tech audience during happy hour. Keim, who read stage directions, noticed how receptive Mozilla team members were to Clickshare. Mozilla employees were active participants in the creative process, listening intently and offering feedback to the playwright. This engagement led to Mozilla co-sponsoring Clickshare’s production. “On the very first day of rehearsals we had props that we normally wouldn’t have so early on,” says Keim. “Because of Mozilla’s contribution, we were able to more clearly see what we were trying to create and just dive right into it.”

Lily Narbonne (L) and Justin Edward Keim (R) at the Mozilla hosted staged reading of Clickshare.
Clickshare is a bitingly clever commentary on the internet age and the people consumed by it. Holding a mirror up to our culture, Kavner spares no one as he illuminates the flaws of fast journalism, success-hungry millennials, and efficiency-obsessed corporations. 

Clickshare runs September 28­–30 at A.C.T.'s Strand Theater, 1127 Market Street, San Francisco. Click here to purchase tickets.

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