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Behind the scenes with ‘The Registry’

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Dr. Dayana Stetco’s upcoming installation, “The Registry,” combines two distinctive sides of life into a twisted reality.

“The Registry” consists of an art exhibit and a theatrical performance that concentrates on what could — and perhaps ultimately what would — happen if a fantastical authoritarian bureaucracy was in charge of the world’s romantic relationships.

“Like any bureaucracy here on Earth, the Registry Office is understaffed, underpaid and overwhelmingly tired,” said Stetco, who heads the English Department at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. “The wrong people end up with the wrong people because the Registry clerks make mistakes and have 1.5 billion unresolved love affair cases.”

The play presents the audience with a paradoxical exploration of the gray area between administrative musts and the notion of intimacy.

“It’s about this duality that exists when we realize that we resent bureaucracy and its institutions but can’t escape it because we also need it,” she explained.

In collaboration with the Milena Theatre Group, Stetco will present just the one performance of “The Registry” at the Acadiana Center for the Arts, on Saturday, January 6, at 7:30 pm. This is intended to help amplify her message.

As the curtain falls for the first and last time, every letter, stage prop and art piece will disappear, as if it never existed. This, Stetco said, would exaggerate the feeling of the impermanence of love.

For those interested in viewing the exhibition before the play’s one-time performance, the artwork will be on public display at ACA beginning Saturday, Dec. 9.

“The exhibit,” Stetco said, “displays art objects made from fragments of love letters, notes, romance novels and diary pages and reflects the illusions and disappointments of love internalized by the one in love.”

The largest piece in the collection is “Nora, The Human Love Letter,” a floor-to-ceiling silhouette of a woman whose garment is constructed from hundreds of “diary entries.” Other sculptures and items related to heartbreak donated by the public will also be exhibited.

Stetco and her group of doctoral students who form the cast, originally turned to the public in a quest for authentic stories of romance and heartbreak that would be used as research for the play. The website, “Soul Crush Archives,” allowed anyone who was interested in sharing his or her story to do so anonymously.

“I always work with my students on these productions,” she stated. “It’s a chance for the students who take my playwriting workshop to learn not only how to write a play but to see how a written script comes to life on stage.”

In the week leading up to the play, several local sponsors will also be participating by serving “The Registry”-themed cocktails and desserts until Jan. 6, when the menu items will also vanish.

Sponsors include Pamplona Tapas Bar, Carpe Diem! Gelato – Espresso Bar, Sophie P. Cakes.

“You know, what surprised me the most was that when I asked for love or heartbreak stories, 99.9 percent of the stories we got spoke of heartbreak,” Stetco recalled. “Unhappiness seems to be the emotion people need to talk about.”

“The Registry” art exhibit and theatrical performance are part of Stetco’s art residency with ACA.