Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson alum M Sloth Levine’s ‘The Interrobangers’ explores queer survival through a culturally recognizable lens

Erin Crowley

On Jan. 27, “The Interrobangers” premiered at the Boston Public Library with the Company One Theater. This queer coming-of-age production draws inspiration from a variety of media that share the same universe, including “The X Files” and “Twin Peaks”—but its biggest inspiration stems from the beloved cartoon “Scooby Doo.”

“Scooby Doo” is a staple of modern-day pop culture. The 1969 series was an immediate hit among young viewers due to the bright colors, exciting music, and lovable characters. “The Interrobangers” aims to achieve that same level of adventure and excitement. But as the teenage crew works together to solve a chilling mystery in their small town of Foggy Bluffs, they also solve some mysteries about themselves. 

In an interview with the Beacon, Emerson alum M Sloth Levine ‘17 spoke about creating the show itself. 

“Although … the broad strokes of their personalities match up, a lot of their genders are not all the same, and the cast is racially diverse in a way that the cartoon is not,” said Levine.

Levine equates some of their current success to the incredible opportunities they encountered as a student. Through discovering relationships and utilizing available resources, Levine was able to make great strides in their career post-graduation.

“Emerson was how I was able to take my first steps in the Boston theater scene,” Levine said. “The connections I made at school were the connections that got me into some of those other rooms.”

Now, seven years after they graduated from Emerson, Levine’s production premiered as a professional show through Company One theater.

 “[The Theater] produces work at the intersect[ion] of theater and social change,” Levine said, referring to the theater company’s interest in social advocacy. “They’re intensely concerned with the wellbeing of their community.”

In this creative piece, the original characters of the “Scooby Doo” franchise have been revamped for a modern audience. Dani Bundy, Hank Mason, Zodiac DuMaurier, and Luna Jaffe fall into the archetypes of Daphne Blake, Fred Jones, Shaggy Rogers, and Velma Dinkley, respectively. And, of course, this fun cast of characters has their very own helpful pooch: Hoover!

The play presents themes of self-discovery, reconciliation, and chosen family. At the show’s beginning, Zodiac is abducted by supposed “aliens” and doesn’t return until the characters enter high school. When he finally returns, he discovers things have changed within the once close-knit friend group. Luna now identifies as nonbinary, and their friendship with Dani and Hank seems to have ceased. Zodiac’s return gradually brings the group together again as they face a new, sinister mystery to solve.

This show’s impact spans far beyond what is written in the script. The opening night audience was filled with queer and trans youth who watched as Levine’s relatable and inspiring work played out. The comedic elements in this play, such as Hoover’s lively personality, balance the more profound, more heartfelt scenes. Viewers follow along as certain characters grapple with their sexuality, such as Hank, the town’s golden boy.

“It’s important to show that there are all types of people in this world. We often put ourselves inside of a box,” said Jay Connolly, who plays the role of Hank. 

While Connolly himself identifies as a heterosexual man, he understands the impact of his character’s journey. 

“Playing a character like Hank, who is exploring [his sexuality] in a way that isn’t traditionally seen, is extremely important,” he said.

In handling the topics of gender and sexuality, Levine’s goal was always to present them in a fun and exciting way, as opposed to the morose depictions often present in feature films. In the world of “The Interrobangers,” queer characters get to go on an adventure and face off against frightening ghouls in a way that allows young audience members to feel included. Levine’s work has allowed everyone, regardless of sexuality, race, or gender identity, to enjoy the thrill of solving a mystery with friends.

Making conscious decisions to steer away from the all-white, heterosexual cast of the original “Scooby Doo” series came in large part from Levine’s own life experiences. 

“The world that I live in is wide and diverse, and so the world of the play, the group of people in this play, became that as well,” said Levine. 

Another important voice on the set, Regine Vital, worked to ensure that the script was authentically and effectively communicated through her work as the lead dramaturg. 

“I work with the playwrights to kind of help them solidify what the piece is, what they want the piece to do, how they want the piece to operate,” said Vital. 

She also works with the show’s director, Josh Glenn-Kayden, to “make sure that the cast understands what they’re saying.”

Having gone through a journey of self-discovery herself, Vital’s perspective has allowed her to understand the complexities of what these characters are going through. 

“As somebody who came to her own queerness a lot later on in life, it’s been really lovely watching these kids figure out that their queerness isn’t a big deal,” said Vital.

While this show covers some topics that are more sensitive in nature, Levine’s use of humor creates a lively energy in the audience that cannot be undone. In one scene, just as Zodiac is adjusting to normal life again, he looks at Luna and says, “So … you uh, got a new gender?” This comedic yet simple question reflects just a small portion of the hilarious scenes in this production.

Schanaya Barrows, who plays Dani Bundy, took some time before Saturday’s show to build up her energy and prepare her character. 

“The energy was there, I had a nice espresso before I came,” said Barrows. “I usually have a dance party by myself in the corner.”

While the actress may have been prepared to bring her own energy, she certainly was not expecting such an incredible response from the crowd.

“I got a lot of energy from the audience, and that is something that I was not ready for,” she said.

Chris Everett had the unique responsibility of playing both Tess Mason, Hank’s mother, and Bettie Roswell, the kooky thrift store owner. In between scenes, Everett quickly changed outfits in order to get into character. 

“When I put the clothes on, I just let it come over me. And then I just step into her, whichever one she is,” said Everett.

Company One Theater is partnering with The Theater Offensive, the Boston Public Library, and the City of Boston’s Office of Arts and Culture to bring this production to life. Additional community partners include BAGLY, the Massachusetts Commission on LGBTQ+ Youth, and the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition.

“The Interrobangers” will play at the Boston Public Library’s Central Branch through Feb. 24 with a pay-what-you-want ticket price. 

In creating this piece, Levine sought to shed light on the importance of queer representation, especially as politicians are passing more anti-LGBTQ legislation around the country. 

“In many ways, this play is about believing queer and trans kids when they tell you who they are,” said Levine. “I hope that this show can reach queer kids and their friends in a way that allows them to be at the center of adventure.”

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