SALT LAKE CITY — As a novice to the Great Salt Lake Fringe Festival, I was very interested to see what this experience would be like. As I usually do when I attend plays, I hoped for a theatrical experience that would be new and thought provoking. My hopes were fulfilled when I attended One Self, a new play by Taylor Jack Nelson and masterfully directed by Kacey Spadafora.
One Self tells the story of a woman (played by Hannah Scharman) as she interacts with a newly created artificial intelligence. The fascination of looking at life and experience as it is newly created and the difference between knowledge and experience made the plot and execution of this play very intriguing. The actors did an excellent job of portraying a group of people wanting to separate knowledge, experience, collective experience, and individual existence. Scharman superbly portrayed intrigue, fear, and compassion as the woman and the other characters learn about what it is to exist. I want to commend Nelson for taking an innovative take on a common theme of creation.
The concept of the show was intricate and deep, and the actors were rooted into the roles that they played. As the show progressed, I was pleased at the way the story was able to incorporate the ideas of human interconnectedness with the desire of individuality. It was impressive to see how knowing all and seeing all may not be as valuable as being authentically One Self. Additionally, I had a new appreciation develop for the experience that we can get in a live theatrical setting, and how it is completely different to experience something rather than read about it or have a theoretical understanding. Looking at the world through the eyes of information, rather than experience, as artificial intelligence would, gave me a new appreciation for the beauty of art as experience.