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College of Arts and Sciences

Sci-fi thriller “The Nether” questions ethics in virtual worlds

By: Lindsey White
Department of Performing & Media Arts
March 3, 2020

Note: The Saturday, March 14, performance of "The Nether" has been cancelled. The Friday performance will take place at 7:30 pm as scheduled.

When there are no consequences, who draws the lines? That's a question considered in “The Nether,” a play by Jennifer Haley to be presented March 12–14 by the Department of Performing and Media Arts. The play presents an eerie alternate future in which realms and avatars become increasingly real as laws and morals fade away online. The play includes mature themes, such as issues relating to sexual ethics, age, and consent versus abuse, appropriate for audiences older than 14. Lyn Staack from The Advocacy Center of Tompkins County, who wrote a resource guide for the show’s program, will be doing a talk-back after the Friday night performance.

In “The Nether,” an ecological disaster has effectively ruined the natural world; the online realm becomes a virtual wonderland of sights and sensations that no longer exist in reality. One of the darkest corners of "The Nether "is The Hideaway, a picturesque Victorian manor run by Papa, or Sims as he’s known on the outside. Sims is interrogated by Detective Morris, who seeks to impose real-world consequences for Sims’ virtual behaviors. Throughout the investigation, Morris learns about other inhabitants of The Hideaway: both their real-world personas and the avatars they hide behind.

For director Bryan Hagelin ’20, “The Nether” is an opportunity to combine his academic interests as a double-major in information science and performing and media arts. “I am fascinated by the prospect of using theatre to explore the ways in which rapidly developing communication technology shapes our society and relationships,” Hagelin said.

Performances of “The Nether” are March 12 at 7:30 p.m., March 13 at 5 p.m. and March 14 at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. in the Black Box Theatre, Schwartz Center for the Performing Arts. Tickets are $7 at schwartztickets.com or at the Schwartz Center box office, 1–8 p.m., Monday–Saturday. Suitable for ages 14+. The Schwartz Center for the Performing Arts is located at 430 College Ave. in Ithaca.