“The More You Know,” an original musical created by Chloe EW Levine ’22 and Ian Chan ’23 that ran March 31-April 2 in the Loeb Ex, was written for a Harvard audience. Based on Levine’s own experience of attending a competitive New York high school and taking part in a quiz bowl, “The More You Know” is a story of self-esteem and discovery that may ring true for some Harvard students. .
“We are all complicit in being here in a system that devalues our humanity and teaches us that ‘all you are is what you did’. That your accomplishments and your resume are what give you value,” Levine said. “It’s not true, actually, and it’s something I believed in for much of my life and still struggle with now.”
The musical follows a group of four Quiz Bowl A-team students from Grayson High School as they prepare for college admissions and the national quiz bowl championships. As many students might remember, these characters are stressed to find an extracurricular program that sets them apart from the college admissions committee. After losing a contest, they are approached by The Literal Devil (Cailin A. Beirne ’24) and offered encyclopedic knowledge in exchange for doing “the devil’s will in the world”. What follows is a story about the price of linking self-worth to accomplishments and the will to do anything to win.
For Beirne, the play was an exciting opportunity to shape his original persona. “You can’t just go back to a reference and say, I’m just going to play her as that person. It’s fun because even to this day, we’re still making new character choices and trying things out,” she said Her all-knowing persona ended up having a “little soft spot” that she starred in.
Although Dvorak has performed virtual shows before during the pandemic, this was the first time he had done so on a physical stage. As with Beirne, the fact that he was directing an original show proved both a challenge and an opportunity. “There is a very strong sense of pressure that I was putting on to do the right thing for this great show that was created by people I look up to, and to do justice to a great work of art,” did he declare. At the same time, the experience was also liberating. “You are not constrained to a prior agreement which must take place. It’s a labor of love.
Seeing his passion project not only come to life, but sell the Loeb Experimental Theater in just 26 minutes, was a surreal moment for Levine and the end of a long and difficult journey. Due to the pandemic, Levine and Chang, who were in different countries, had to rely on texts and voice memos to shape the show for the two years it took to produce. They say it was worth it.
“There are so many moments where I’ve been moved and struck by the care everyone gives to this story. So many people are thrilled to tell this story and it means the world to me,” Levine said. Sometimes I have to do a double take and say to myself, ‘This thing that started from a sentence in a Google Doc for a final project now lives in this space and is going to impact people.’ It’s a huge responsibility, but it’s also something I’m really, really proud of.
There’s no denying that the passion and care that went into “The More You Know” made it unique. But for Dvorak, what makes him so special is his relevance. “I see myself in a lot of these characters, I see my friends in a lot of these characters, and I think watching this show can make you a better person,” Dvorak said. “You can step out of theater and think about how you live and work in a new way and approach it in a better, healthier way. As our characters come to that cathartic conclusion at the end of the show, I hope the public can too.