Quark’s The Nether 

The Nether director Tony Isbell compares the play's virtual world of dark fantasy fulfillment to the boundary-pushing online community Second Life where users create new identities, build new relationships, make new families, and pursue new occupations. "Only in Second Life you're still playing around with avatars," Isbell says, shifting gears and comparing a trip into the Nether to adventures on the holodeck in Star Trek: The Next Generation. "It's a place with no consequences," he says listing only a few of the attrocities considered in Jennifer Haley's speculative 90-minute dystopian detective drama and the ethically confounding internet of tomorrow. "Murder," he says. "Pedophelia."

The Nether's set at an unspecified time in a near future. There are very few trees left and not much vegetation. "In other words, the way the world might look in another 20 or 30 years if we're not careful," Isbell says. "People have begun to live more of their lives in a perfected online world virtually indistinguishable from real life."

click to enlarge Barclay Roberts and Molly McFarland
  • Barclay Roberts and Molly McFarland

Conflict arises as a shadowy authoritarian group seeks to acquire the code for a virtual realm called The Hideaway.

With a cast of Memphis A-list actors including Barclay Roberts, Stephen Garrett, and Jillian Barron, The Nether is the biggest show yet attempted by Quark, a troupe of like-minded artists dedicated to producing "Small, essential theater."

"It's very lean writing," Isbell says, trying to describe just how much information Haley's packed into her award-winning script. "I know people say that about plays all the time, but there's no fat."

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