‘Timeless’ imagines a future in which humans choose not to age

This year’s Williams Reads book inspired 'Timeless,' a new play written by Jack Romans ’20. Shaheem Currinjee/Arts editor.
This year’s Williams Reads book inspired ‘Timeless,’ a new play written by Jack Romans ’20. Shaheen Currimjee/Arts editor.

Within the first hour of meeting Jack Romans ’20, I learned that he was an actor, a singer and a tap dancer. Having grown up with an obsession for magic and the spectacle of the stage, Romans decided to audition for school shows, which led him to audition for the local theater productions in his hometown. He loves theater because of the energy involved in being a performer and collaborator.

The College has allowed him to express his passion for the arts through various outlets, such as a Winter Study course focused on the Suzuki method of actor training and, of course, Cap & Bells. Now, Romans has channeled that artistic drive into directing his own original play, Timeless.

Romans spent a month working on the first rough draft of his play. Inspired by a conversation with entrymates about Environmental Fellow-in-Residence Elizabeth Kolbert’s The Sixth Extinction, Timeless is peppered with sci-fi concepts, such as multi-planetary beings and time-stopping medicine. The play prompts consideration of what it means to feel “complete” and how one should live life to the fullest.

Set in the near future, Timeless explores a world in which technology and medicine can halt the aging process entirely, allowing people to live youthful lives for as long as they please. The main character, Frank Byers, appears to be a man in his 30s but has been alive for just over a century. After seeing all there is to see, he finally decides to “depart.” Through the interactions between Byers and his family members, Timeless normalizes the conditions of its strange world.

Timeless raises questions of choice, urgency and power as it exposes the new tragedies of a world where life continues to have no limits,” Romans said. In this world, one can travel as much as one likes or go to college as many times as one wants. Through the different characters, we get a sense of the pros and cons of this type of life and whether it is even “life” as we know it. The harrowing final scene of the play existentially intimates at the idea that the cons may outweigh the pros.

The 70-minute play was performed through Cap & Bells last weekend. Romans recounts that one of the best parts of directing his own play was seeing the cast bring the characters to life. “It’s one thing to be happy with the story you made. It’s another thing entirely to see it gain depth and nuance once you hand it off,” Romans said.

So what are we to expect of Romans in the future? He would love to direct a comedy. “The College theater scene needs to see that again,” he said.

In the meantime, Romans will be on stage yet again in August: Osage County, taking place in late April.