FIU Theatre’s new play will help you find the Airness within yourself

Airness rehearsal | Image via FIU Theatre Instagram.

Nicole Rodil | Contributing Writer

FIU Theatre returns to the stage with a production that will rock everyone’s world. 

From Feb. 17 – 26, FIU Theatre will be performing Airness, the relatively new play written by Chelsea Marcantel and directed by FIU’s new theatre professor Justin Packard. 

When Nina enters an air guitar competition for the first time, she believes winning will be a breeze, until she befriends a group of charismatic and interesting nerds who all think they have what it takes to be the next big thing. She soon realizes that in the world of rock and roll it’s shred or be shred. This art form is about more than make-believe: it takes guts, raw joy, and liberation. 

 FIU Theatre invites you to join them in this strident and powerful story about competitive air guitar and rock and roll, with an underlying message about community and finding the airness within.

“When given the choice, you always have the ability to choose community and togetherness over isolation,” said director Justin Packard when asked what he hopes people take away from this piece. 

It’s a play that grapples with themes of solace and fellowship: topics that are relevant to many college students.

“You can share the experience together and you can get through the other side, both positive and negative, with the aid and support of other people,” said Packard.

When it comes to rehearsing for the piece, this sense of support and collaboration is just as important to the cast and crew. Within the department, rehearsal is held five days a week, from seven to ten nearly every night. 

After a day of classes, the students recharge with dinner and get ready to immerse themselves into their work, giving it their all as individuals and a team. 

“I’d like to believe that I’m hanging my hat on the idea of a collaborative democratic environment, where we treat the room as a laboratory,” said Packard. 

After calling New York home for the last 15 years, Packard moved down to Miami and joined the theatre department this past fall. When he arrived he was told he’d be directing Airness in the spring, and although he didn’t select it, he couldn’t have been happier with the choice. 

“I think the energy that the show has, the high octane feel of it, and what the community is going to get out of this is incredibly beneficial,” said Packard.

This isn’t Packard’s first rodeo: his theatre background is extensive, having taught and directed at other schools in New York, as well as being a performer himself. 

It’s evident when talking to the FIU Theatre faculty and students that community is at the heart of their work: they put themselves on the stage to be present and ditch their fear of judgment.

“There’s a safety net of like, you can do this,” student and actor Cristian Torres said. “We’re going to push you beyond what you think you’re capable of, and we’re going to support you when you need to be supported.” 

Among focusing on the technical aspects of what will make this show golden, such as learning air guitar, and perfecting their sound design, the focus on unity is what will drive Airness home for many viewers. 

“That warmth and that love definitely does bleed into the piece and that just makes a stronger piece overall,” commented student and sound designer Ciara Hannon. 

Opening night for Airness is February 17th at The Wertheim. For more information about tickets and showtimes, check out FIU Theatre’s website.