Shubhangi Kuchibhotla Talks About Online Dating in Arena Stage’s Right to Be Forgotten

Shubhangi Kuchibhotla, who graduated from the University of Maryland with a dual degree in BFA Acting and a BA in Business Technology Administration, has a passion for stories that should be shared. She lands that opportunity in her debut performance in Arena Stage’s Right to Be Forgotten. The premise of the show centers around the right to be forgotten law and whether or not U.S. citizens deserve the right to have information delisted from the Internet. Shubhangi has an impressive resume, having appeared in many productions in the Washington, D.C. area including White Snake as ensemble (Constellation Theatre); The Comedy of Errors as Foley Artist, Love’s Labour’s Lost as Maria and The Miser as Marianne (Annapolis Shakespeare Company); and Twelfth Night as Feste, The Mail Order Bride as June and The Amish Project as Velda (UMBC Theatre Department). Here she talks about appearing in a play with a message for our time.

Your character Sarita tries online dating in Right to Be Forgotten. Have you had any experience with online dating? If not, did you talk to friends who had tried it? Any stories you’d like to share? 
I personally have not tried online dating but I’ve had many many friends who have used dating apps. Their experiences are not far from Sarita’s experience. They always start great and end pretty tragically. Perhaps not as dramatic/tragic as Sarita’s date. My cast mate and I have a little joke before the show starts where she asks me where I’m going, that I text her when I get there, and that I should share my location with her. That is one rule of online date I’ve gathered: always text your friends you’re on a date and let them know where you are. 

We all make mistakes as teens. Why is it different now with the internet? 
We not only make mistakes as teens, some of us, actually most of us, continue to make mistakes as adults. The major difference is that now whatever gets said or done stays on the internet. The room for forgiveness or overcoming moments has gotten smaller because on the internet it technically never dies. With the internet we have been granted the gift of everlasting memory.

What advice would you give to a younger you about using the internet?Luckily I wasn’t that inappropriate with my internet use when I was younger. I look back at my old Facebook posts and do get embarrassed about my spelling mistakes or how many exclamation marks I used, but I feel as if it’s a rite of passage to be slightly embarrassing in your early/late teens. I think I might suggest to a younger Shubhangi that using song lyrics to mysteriously convey feelings towards crushes is an ineffective way to get their attention. 

Shubhangi Kuchibhotla (Sarita Imari) and John Austin (Derril Lark) Photo by Margot Schulman

After being in this play, what changes have you made about operating online? 
To be honest, I have not made any major changes to my internet usage but a huge awareness has been placed in my mind. What the internet is now is not at all what the internet used to be. Anything at any moment can go viral. It can reach millions of people if it just so happens to be “that post.” Whether “that post” is embarrassing, amazing, terrible, or great.

Did you learn anything about protecting your privacy online that you didn’t know before?
This play has solidified my current practice of not posting things I wouldn’t mind the whole world seeing. 

The young man in the play goes to great lengths to remove his internet missteps. Without producing any spoilers, do his methods work? 
Derril Lark goes through major trials and tribulations to get what he wants. What he wants is a method of moving forward or in other words a second chance and getting those links removed is the method he chooses. So does he get what he wants at the end of the play? You truly have to come see the show to find out. 

Why is this play so timely, particularly because it’s being performed in Washington, D.C.? 
This piece is timely particularly in Washington, D.C. because this where it all happens. Or this is the place where it has the potential to happen. The Capital is home to our political system and to do a piece that sheds a light on big tech, corporations acting in their best interest, the internet, AND humanity is a real gift because this is what we are all currently dealing with in one way or another. These topics are what our politicians are dealing with. D.C. is a great platform for the production to show its face for the first time. 

What do you hope the audience will take away after seeing Right to be Forgotten?
I am hoping this play reintroduces the idea of moving past simple terms of “good vs evil” and that most arguments deserve open hearts and open minds. I’m hoping they walk away with an insatiable appetite for discourse and conversation about what they just saw. I’m hoping they walk away being reminded of empathy/humanity and that authentic human connection is pretty powerful. 

TOP: John Austin (Derril Lark) and Shubhangi Kuchibhotla (Sarita Imari) in Right to be Forgotten running October 11 through November 10, 2019 at Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater. Photo by Margot Schulman. 

Shubhangi Kuchibhotla’s website

Right to Be Forgotten
Arena Stage
1101 Sixth Street, SW