Fake Nerd Girl is a one-woman show written and performed by Chloe Payne. This performance was put on by Hart House Theatre and Information Services at the University of Toronto to promote Cyber Security Awareness Month. The show is about an adolescent girl named Olive Fallowfield (Payne) who is into all the stereotypical nerdy things like Dungeons and Dragons, video games, and Star Trek. When Olive gets her photo taken at FanExpo and posted on a cosplay website, internet trolls start making fun of her and calling her a fake nerd girl. Deeply upset by this, Olive decides to stand up for herself and prove to herself and the internet that girls can be loud and proud nerds just as much as guys can.

Payne performed and wrote a multilayered character very well. Olive is someone who just wants to fit in with her peers and the only way she knows how to do that is through nerd culture. She was able to show the strength and determination of Dark Nerd (which Olive calls herself to get revenge on the internet trolls) as well as the vulnerability of being a young teenager and being rejected by your peers that you so badly want to fit in with. The whole play was only forty-five minutes long but in these forty-five minutes the audience was able to go on an emotional journey with Olive and feel her pain and feel her power.

In addition to Payne’s performance, she was assisted by a projector, a screen, and some shadow and puppet work done by Kaitlin Morrow. This was a great way to continue telling the story with nerdy, comic book doodles during costume changes and breaks without breaking the pace of the show. It also kept the show interesting, light, and funny, even during more serious moments.

Since this play was put on to promote Cyber Security Awareness month, it only makes sense that one of the themes that was touched upon was cyberbullying. When Olive’s picture gets put up on the cosplay website, the internet trolls start posting hundreds of hurtful comments. When these comments get under her skin, she starts to get vengeful. This is when Olive starts schooling her friends at Dungeons and Dragons, winning video games on teams with boys, and hacking into the cosplay website. All Olive wants is an apology, but the cyberbullying doesn’t stop. There are still hundreds of hurtful comments online. This just goes to show that even when you are hidden behind a screen, online comments affect people in a real-life way.

There was also a feminist theme to this show. Throughout the show, it was implied that it had been boys who were posting the hurtful comments and making Olive feel like she wasn’t allowed to participate in nerd culture. One of the things Olive likes to do is play video games, however, when she first enters multi-player mode, she enters a group with all guys who claim that she will hurt their kill streaks and game records, and ultimately make them lose the game. This was an unfair judgement for them to make because Olive was doing quite well in the game on her own. It was also a male photographer that posted the cosplay picture online, which spurred a lot of the drama in the show. However, at the end of the show, Olive standing up for herself online had gone viral, inspiring other nerd girls to continue to enjoy the things they love, and participate in nerd culture.

At its core, this show was about not being afraid to love the things you love just because someone else says you can’t. It was a comedic play with a serious message—things on the internet have a way of spiralling out of control and just because you’re hidden behind a screen online doesn’t make it okay to start spreading hurtful comments. After all, online comments have real world consequences.

Fake Nerd Girl ran at Hart House Theatre on October 23.