Amid Cold War tension in 1970s Washington, D.C., the Department of Defense secretly contracts four scientists to develop a supercomputer. Work ensues—as does subliminal manipulation—and as the project nears completion, the scientists begin to question the federal government’s motives and worry that the computer may not be used in the best interest of humanity.
To find out what happens next, plan to attend or view an early March world-premiere performance of The Ones Spared, a political thriller written and directed by Carson Honor ’21. Carson was inspired by the works of dystopian fiction he studied in English 2—including Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 and Kurt Vonnegut’s Welcome to the Monkey House—to make his first foray into playwriting. The result is a drama in which he offers a new perspective on history and explores the vital need to question everything that is presented to us.
Carson began writing the play when he was 16, and it took nearly the entire summer of 2019 to complete the 80-page rough draft. “There were days when I would write 2,000 words and others when I would write 200,” he said, reflecting on the playwriting experience. “The most important thing I realized is that you can’t force good writing; it must come naturally. If there are days when you’re not feeling it, close the laptop and try again tomorrow.”
He approached English and theatre teacher Craig Evans that fall with the possibility of bringing the play from the page to the stage, and, as he put it, “A year-and-a-half later, we’re finally getting it done. It wouldn’t have happened without Mr. Evans—he has provided much-needed support for me and ensured that I have all the tools I need to direct the production.”
Carson conducted auditions over Google Meet last fall, and the cast of six—including himself—rehearsed via the online platform during Blair’s period of virtual learning in December and January. Doing so was not as challenging as Carson thought it might be. “With an exemplary cast like this, rehearsals have been a breeze, and it’s been a joy to be a part of them,” he observed.
He describes cast members Alex Schamberger ’22, Michael Richardson ’21 and Grant Breckenridge ’24 as “perfect in their respective roles,” and expressed gratitude for their willingness to audition. Carson is also grateful to English department chair James Moore and English teacher Cally Queally, veteran actors who “didn’t hesitate for a second” when he asked them to audition, and who are bringing experience and expertise to the young cast.
Ms. Queally, who minored in theatre at Hamilton College, is excited to return to the stage in The Ones Spared. “Carson continually impressed me with his strong writing, interesting ideas and energetic spirit last semester in my narrative writing class, and now I’ve had the opportunity to see his screenwriting talent, too,” she said. “Participating in The Ones Spared has been an amazing experience! Carson is a great director, filled with the same energy he brought to class and eager to work with the actors to produce the best product possible. The student actors are likewise fantastic. This production is going to be something really special.”
Mr. Evans is also excited to work on an original, student-written and -directed play, noting that Carson was remarkable in his stage debut with the Blair Academy Players last fall, when he acted in Once Upon a Midnight Dreary. “I think audiences will be impressed with Carson’s breadth of knowledge exhibited in the script and in the way that actors are breathing life into the characters,” he said.
Health-and-safety protocols permitting, on-campus members of the Blair community will be able to attend a live production of The Ones Spared, on March 4, 5 and 6 at 7:30 p.m. in Armstrong-Hipkins Center for the Arts’ Wean Theatre. The performance on March 4 will be broadcast live via YouTube here for virtual audiences, and it will be filmed for later viewing, as well.
Carson encourages students and faculty to consider seeing The Ones Spared, whether they do so in person or virtually. “Fifty years after the time in which the play is set, the world still sees similar issues present in geonational politics,” he said. “I hope the play really makes audience members think about that.”
And, for those who are unable to catch a performance of this play, know that Carson is already at work on his next projects. “After I finished The Ones Spared, I was completely enamored with writing, whether that be playwriting or screenwriting,” he said. “So, I started writing a few episodes for a TV show and a screenplay about another historical figure. This is what I want to do—I want to tell stories.”