Glimpsing Boston’s dystopian future through the eyes of Reagan Esther Myer
“IS YOUR THOTBOT GLITCHED?”
The question is posed on an ominous neon-green flyer hung on my commute through Harvard Square.
I ended up taking the “glitch test” that the flyer advertised during my hour-long ride home and discovered that my ThotBot, a fictional government-authorized brain implant, was broken.
I chuckled. It wasn’t the first time this gay man was told that my brain was “defective.”
Those five minutes I spent filling out this glitch test on my phone was just a quick glimpse into the dystopian world Rebecca Kopycinski has dedicated four years to carefully crafting and fine-tuning for the Boston community to explore.
“Instead of using the same media, I’m taking the same idea and taking all of these disciplines that I’ve learned, and I’m creating many different multimedia works on one topic,” said Kopycinski as she enthusiastically described her complex and imaginative creation. “So the universe, it’s like a black hole and everything just gets sucked in.”
Listen to Brian Choquet’s interview with Rebecca Kopycinski
Kopycinski’s sci-fi universe, best described as a living, breathing episode of Black Mirror, follows Reagan Esther Myer, an isolated woman who is being targeted by the government due to her broken ThotBot implantation. The world Myer occupies can be experienced by us everyday folk through an immersive, ’90s-inspired website and an eight-song soundtrack named after Kopycinski’s heroine.
Both elements act as sneak peeks into her upcoming one-woman show, Reagan Esther Myer, a multimedia play that fleshes out the world that Kopycinski has sunk countless hours into. The show is set to play from June 27 to 30 at the Center for the Arts at the Armory in Somerville and will be the artist’s first fleshed-out show in the Boston area since moving back to Massachusetts over four years ago.
“I really shut down my other performing for the past few years,” Kopycinski said. “I used to perform a lot … but this has been my main creative thing.”
Before returning to Boston, Kopycinski, a trained vocalist, spent 12 years in Vermont composing albums and performing in shows. While she loved making and performing music, she felt like the medium was limited.
“I really felt limited by what I could convey with music,” she said. “Sure, you can convey an emotion. You can put a vibe out there … but I really just wanted to tell a more robust and nuanced story.”
The jump to becoming the multimedia artist that she is now only happened four years ago when she performed with the Cambridge-based performance troupe Liars & Believers. It was the first time she ever acted, but the response from the audience prompted her to toy around with the idea of creating a character and narrative that she could flesh out on her own.
Thus, Reagan was born, and a dystopian rabbit hole opened up for Kopycinski.
To my surprise, though, Kopycinski admitted she was never too interested in sci-fi, but the genre “crept on” her when she started taking inspiration from the 2016 presidential primaries.
“I was like, ‘Okay. So what if Trump became president?’” Kopycinski explained. “Everything that’s terrible about our government was blown out to like the nth degree. Throw in an apocalyptic event, which is called ‘Impact’ in my show, and what would that look like?”
Since then, she has encapsulated herself in the works of Magaret Atwood, Black Mirror, and readings relating to Cold War hysteria. Despite these dark themes, she reassured me that the show wasn’t some sad spectacle. Instead, she wants the audience to laugh and enjoy themselves as they take a break from the horrors of the real world.
“There’s something cathartic about taking what can be a very anxiety-provoking world that we live in now and putting it into this pretend, make-believe world and making it a little bit silly,” Kopycinski said.
During our hour-long chat in her shared art studio, she listed off almost a dozen different directions she could take with her show. A video game? A podcast? A book? Maybe even a TV series, she said half-jokingly. “The frickin’ sky’s the limit!” she later exclaimed.
And like how the real world is an ever-evolving, bleak mess, Kopycinski’s alternative universe is constantly developing to fit the evolving fears of the American populous. The only difference is, Kopycinski has complete control over her world and the narratives that run amok inside it.
“This universe that I’ve created might be based on some of the things happening in our world today, but in my world, I have complete control over how it ends,” she explained. “There’s something very comforting about creating this sort of shadow version of our world where I have complete control.”