By Dana Zhang
“Super Awesome World” alternates between moments of frenetic energy and deep introspection. At first it treads a cliché path: Amy Conway starts by citing several studies praising the benefits of video games. For example, playing Super Mario 64 promotes grey matter in the hippocampus in younger adults, and video games promote social skills and confidence. These facts don’t necessarily impress an audience that already likes video games. But then the show takes a turn, as Ms. Conway uses games as a lens to talk about mental health.
On a television set on stage, we are given the scenario that a “darkness” is rising up and we, as brave warriors, must defeat it. Ms. Conway plays mini‑games with the audience. These include gathering empathy, beating down disparaging thoughts, and encouraging trust in others. Through the games, she illustrates how every time the “darkness” – a stand‑in for a depressive episode – comes up, we navigate through mental blocks to come out on the other side, alive and ready for another day. Guided by a fairy similar to the one from the Zelda franchise, the mini‑games get the audience’s blood pumping and sometimes even get them on the edge of their seats.
The other half of the narrative is about Ms. Conway’s experience working with the Samaritans, a help hotline for people who need someone to talk to. Between the mini‑games, Ms. Conway receives phone calls from a young girl in despair. During their first conversation, Ms. Conway doesn’t make much progress in understanding why the girl is depressed. But ultimately, she figures out the right things to say to get the girl to open up.
We learn that the girl has no specific reasons to feel sad, but still finds life difficult. She is constantly tired, and worries that complaining to friends and family will mean that she is selfish and ungrateful. The show really hits home because although people sometimes think these exact thoughts, hearing them spoken out loud is shocking.
This performance is powerful in its ability to connect audience members with each other, as we work through the games together. When Ms. Conway asks for those of us who have felt alone and hopeless to stand up, most of the audience does, achieving solidarity and camaraderie. Ms. Conway encourages us to allow ourselves to feel sadness, and reminds us that accepting these negative feelings means feeling the weight and value of ourselves. She also teaches us that it is okay to turn to others for help. At the end of the day, it feels really good to have someone tell you that.
“Super Awesome World”
Written and Performed by Amy Conway
Nov. 5 at 7:30pm
Direction, Sound & Video Design: Rob Jones
Production Manager: Sarah Wilson
Photo: courtesy of the production
United Solo 2018
410 West 42nd Street
New York City
DANA ZHANG is a multimedia journalist versed in editorial, photography, and video editing. She writes about pop culture, the performing arts industry, and the human experience. Zhang graduated from New York University in 2018 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and interned at Newsweek Media for a year while in university. Zhang is also an avid gamer and dancer.