Genuine human connection is harder in the digital age. At least, that’s the point Dan Hoyle is trying to make in his one-man show “Each and Every Thing.” Within the show, he explores what it means to connect with people in a world characterized by increasing technological reliance.
“Each and Every Thing” originally premiered at The Marsh San Francisco in 2014 and is returning for the East Bay premiere of a newly updated version, which will open at the Marsh Arts Center in Berkeley on July 13. The new version expands upon the original work’s focus of interacting in a digital world and brings in the added complexity of recent events and their impacts. Specifically, the play includes material in response to President Donald Trump’s election in 2016.
“I updated the main two characters of the show and how their story played out in the last year since Trump’s election,” Hoyle said in an interview with The Daily Californian. “I wanted to follow these stories and update these characters because I felt like they had something important to say about what we’re living through.”
Initially, Hoyle had a slightly different focus in mind for this piece. He set out to explore what he saw as a decline in print newspapers and how that was affecting the country’s democracy. But then, he got to thinking about how everyone gets their news. Eventually, the show shifted to how individuals experience the world in the digital age, expanding its focus from the news to human interaction.
He was particularly interested in a possible decline in interaction as a result of the growth of technology, and this topic came to be the focus of the show.
“It’s one thing if you’re at home and you’re doing stuff on your computer, and then you go out and interact with the world. I think the shift happens when you go out into the world and you’re on your phone and then you go back home and then you’re social alone, online,” Hoyle said. “And I struggle right along with everyone, like am I taking too many photos instead of enjoying the moment? But the power of screens is so strong — it’s a daily battle for everyone.”
Recognizing his own growing struggle with technology, Hoyle participated in a digital detox retreat in 2013. In what he thinks back on as “both amazing and hilarious,” Hoyle recognizes the transitional period he happened to find himself in while partaking in the detox.
“There was a sort of awareness about what was on our screens and thinking of how that was impacting our lives was just sort of dawning. It was interesting to be at the beginning of that reconsideration of it. The heavy gaze, the amazement was just starting to show its other side,” Hoyle said. “People were beginning to realize that they were having fewer moments of deep, actual connection.”
Hoyle emphasizes the importance of interacting with others, outside of screens. More so, he even equates it to the well-being of the nation as a whole.
“I think it’s important, not only for our happiness, but for our democracy and for our sense of empathy,” Hoyle said. “And, really, our country being more than just a place that people live — something where people look out for each other.”
Connecting larger themes to individual character experiences is a structure Hoyle often uses for his solo shows. Each of his shows is founded on the extensive research and interviews he conducts before creating his characters. In what he calls “journalistic theater,” each piece takes about two years to fully develop into a complete story.
He draws on his interactions and interviews to bring to life these characters, many of whom are amalgams of people who spoke to him about similar experiences. While their words onstage are not verbatim quotations from his interview subjects, he strives to convey the genuine emotions of both the people he is drawing on and himself, imbuing his own voice into these characters.
“Mostly, I’m trying to recreate the emotional experience that I had for my audience. And reality is different from theater — theater is heightened, it’s condensed,” Hoyle said. “I try to use my skills and tools to give people that same intensity of the real world in the theater world.”
With that intensity, Hoyle hopes to pique curiosity and evoke critical thinking after watching “Each and Every Thing.” He wants to encourage people to not only take time for themselves away from technology, but to also realize just how vital genuinely relating to others really is.
“It’s important to know that the world is complex and has problems, but the experiences I’ve had of really connecting, deeply and in a wonderful way, with people of all walks of life is one of my favorite parts of being alive,” Hoyle said. “I want to share that with people so that they feel like they want to do that too.”