Senior Actor Training Program student and SAC President, Cece Otto, is presenting her one-woman show, Hyperthymesia at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, August 4-19, 2017.
Cece was awarded a UROP grant two semesters in a row, allowing her to fund the project under the supervision of her mentor and Assistant Professor in the Department of Theatre, Robert Scott Smith.
The monologue piece Hyperthymesia is about a woman who is one of only a couple of dozen or so people who have been diagnosed with a condition characterized by highly superior autobiographical memory (HSAM). Her work explores the power of the brain, and how the ability to forget is a key element to living a happy life.
As part of the annual East to Edinburg series, Cece presented her work at the 59E59 Theaters in NYC on July 12-16. Her work was then commended by Marti Davidson Sichel, an award-winning entertainment journalist and contributor to Woman Around Town. Joseph Winer from A Young Theatre publication and company that nurtures emerging creative talent called her work, “Beautiful.”
Review from Woman Around Town:
Where Tales suffered from stiffness and forgotten lines, Cece Otto’s one-woman show Hyperthymesia offers a dynamic narrator and a fascinating story. The monologue piece is about a woman who is one of only a couple dozen or so people who have been diagnosed with a condition characterized by highly superior autobiographical memory (HSAM). In these cases, a hyperthymesiac can recall even minute details about any day during their lives from the beginning of their memory on. While many people might think about how useful an ability like that could be, Otto’s show focuses on the other edge of the sword: Happiness is being able to forget the things that have hurt you. Breakups, deaths of loved ones, scares and disappointments — all feel as fresh as the day they happened. It’s no wonder someone in the position of possessing such an extraordinary memory would do anything they can to try to forget.
Much of the play runs parallel to the life of a woman named Jill Price, at least in terms of the techniques Price employed to try to calm her thoughts, like regular and extensive journaling. People with HSAM have talked about their memories crowding their heads in any calm, still moment. Otto describes it like a swarm of bees, and the amount of detail that she wrote into the play could be just as intimidating. In between descriptive and emotional recitals of life stories (and the dates on which they occurred), she performs various series of actions and gestures, borrowing from dance, that provide slow, smooth feeling to counterbalance her narrator’s sometimes frenzied words.
The stage design consists of a single chair, but Otto pantomimes whatever else might be needed, leaving the audience to form an idea from imagination. It’s a plain but touching performance about one person’s struggles with her own amazing mind. The script is thoughtful, and also asks the audience to question their own experiences with remembering and forgetting. There is empathy and kindness in the telling, making Otto a very endearing narrator. It’s a piece that demands a lot of her, both physically and mentally — which also explains the unusual running time of 40 minutes — but is very satisfying and ultimately very hopeful.