Universal Robots take over the world…on stage

Edward Willett @ 07-02-2009

Universal Robots poster Last year, as the self-appointed resident Futurismic SF theatre blogger, I posted about a revival of Karel Capek’s 1921 play R.U.R., which gave us the word “robot.” Now comes word that Manhattan Theatre Source is staging the world premiere of a new adaptation of R.U.R. called Universal Robots, set in an alternate 2009 in which humans have all been dead since 1971 and “Each year we gather together to tell the story that we never ever forget.” (Via SF Scope.)

Here’s the synopsis:

The Great War has just ended. The fledgling Republic of Czechoslovakia, under its first elected President, boasts a thriving artistic and intellectual community. At the center of that community is Karel Capek, a celebrated playwright and a passionate advocate for all his newborn nation can achieve. But the brave new world arrives faster than Karel could have ever expected when a young woman walks into his life with a strange mannequin in a wheelchair… a mannequin that gets up and moves all by itself.

Universal Robots offers a compelling, alternate history of the Twentieth Century, imagining the invention of the robot in 1921 and chronicling the shocking consequences of that invention right up to the present day.

Part science fiction thriller, part love story, part political allegory, part redemptive tragedy and a fast-paced entertainment throughout, Universal Robots departs significantly from Capek’s script, offering a meaty and riveting story of war, love, faith, art, and technology that culminates, in the words of NYTheatre’s Martin Denton, in an “edge-of-your-seat finish equal to the best story-telling of stage or screen.”

Universal Robots runs at Manhattan Theatre Source, 177 MacDougal Street (between Waverly Place and West 8th Street), New York, New York from February 12 to March 7, with performances Wednesday through Saturday at 7:30PM. Tickets are $18, and are available from theatermania.com or by calling 212-352-3101. You can see a gallery of images from the play here, and there’s even a Universal Robots blog with a Robot of the Day feature.

On Saturday, February 21, from 3 to 4 p.m. there will also be a Robots Panel Discussion during the afternoon, featuring Tammy Oler, Dr. Yann LeCun, Dr. Michael L. Littman, and Dan Paluska:

From Karel Capek’s 1921 play R.U.R. to the Terminator films and Battlestar Galactica, fears of a robot apocalypse have been pervasive in science fiction. Yet, we increasingly look to robotics and artificial intelligence to enrich our lives. Some scientists even suggest that we will have intimate relationships with robots in the near future. Will robots usher in a revolution or a cultural renaissance? Join us for a lively panel discussion on our evolving relationship to robots as well as our fears and desires in today’s wired world.

If anyone in the Futurismic community attends, post a comment to let us know what you think!

(Image: Universal Robots website.)

[tags]theatre,plays,robots,science fiction[/tags]


Stage adaptation of stories by Bradbury, Lem, Malzberg and Pronzini at NYC Fringe

Edward Willett @ 30-07-2008

 SoftRains

I’ve recently been falling down on my self-appointed task of keeping track of SF-related stage productions for you, but here’s a fresh one: There Will Come Soft Rains, a stage adaptation of several classic science fiction stories by Ray Bradbury, Stanislaw Lem, Barry N. Malzberg, and Bill Pronzini. (Via SF Scope.)

The 90-minute play will be presented as part of the 11th annual New York International Fringe Festival. From the press release:

To bring the stark, powerful imagery of these stories to the stage, director/adaptor Jon Levin (recently singled out by nytheatre.com for his “remarkable” puppet work) uses a combination of bunraku-inspired puppets, object manipulation, dance, live music and a versatile ensemble of performers.

The FringeNY site is more direct:

Stories by Ray Bradbury and others are told with actors, puppets, lightbulbs, bedsheets, live video and an upright bass.

Director/adaptor Levin says,  “There’s something inherently theatrical about a certain kind of science fiction. The stories are a reflection of our world, a way of seeing familiar things in a new light.”

Here’s a review of There Will Come Soft Rains when it was a work in progress at Oberlin College.

There Will Come Soft Rains runs at The New School for Drama Theater (151 Bank Street, between West and Washington Streets, New York, New York) on Friday, August 8 (10 p.m.), Wednesday, August 13 (7:30 p.m.), Sunday, August 17 (4:15 p.m.), Thursday, August 21 (5:15 p.m.) and Saturday, August 23 (7:30 p.m.). Tickets are $15 and are available by calling 866-468-7619 or visiting fringenyc.org.

(Image: There Will Come Soft Rains poster)

[tags]plays, theatre, science fiction, short stories[/tags]


Actors, scientists collaborate theatrically in Untitled Mars (This Title May Change)

Edward Willett @ 17-03-2008

mars sunset Here’s some science fictional theatre with a difference. Called Untitled Mars (This Title May Change), it’s a collaboration between Budapest’s Pont Muhley theatre ensemble and a team of research scientists who will be (literally) phoning in their performance, live via satellite from the Mars Desert Research Station in Utah. The production previews Tuesday, April 8, and opens Sunday, April 13, at Performance Space 122, 150 First Avenue at East 9th Street, New York. (Via Broadway World.)

Directed by Jay Scheib, it’s the first in a trilogy of live performance pieces collectively known as SimulatedCities/Simulated Systems. According to the press release:

Untitled Mars is a mind-bending excursion into an interplanetary future defined by Scheib’s signature multi-media aesthetic.  Rewriting fiction with reality, Untitled Mars caps a year of collaboration with an international team of Space industry visionaries, artists, and research scientists and students from Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Is it possible to live on Mars?  Just ask people who are selling real estate on the Red Planet.  Going to Mars with a one-way ticket was out of the question years ago but how far away from that idea are we today?  Mars Analog Research Stations are working hard to learn how to live and work on another planet.  Are you ready to pick up and leave?  Scheib’s creation will be able to give you an idea.

Meanwhile, the theatre’s own website describes it thusly:

Taking a cue from the space industry, Jay Scheib’s latest work pits hard Science against Philip K. Dick as interplanetary speculation runs amok, the indigenous population gets screwed, and a strange “anomalous” kid seems to hold all the answers.

Whereas Jay Scheib’s website says:

Would you go to Mars knowing that you wouldn’t be coming back? Ever. The proposed one-way mission to colonize Mars continues to gain momentum, since its suggestion by the legendary Joe Gavin, former director of the Apollo Lunar Module Program. Through a series of cinéma-vérité portraits and an intense physical performance style, Untitled Mars  puts the scientists who are working to make life on the Red Planet a reality, side by side, with some of the fictions that have captured our imagination for over a century. Science vs. Fiction in this new work for six performers and a simulated Martian environment–a story about moving society to Mars–and what happens when we succeed…

So what will you see if you go? Your guess is as good as mine. But it ought to be interesting!

(Image: Sunset on Mars, NASA/JPL/Texas A&M/Cornell)

[tags]science fiction,Mars,theatre,plays[/tags]


A stage version of The Time Machine

Edward Willett @ 25-01-2008

As the resident person-of-theatre here among the Futurismic bloggers, it behooves me to draw to your attention the first-ever stage version of H.G. Wells’s The Time Machine, which opened at the Women’s Club of Hollywood today for the first of 13 performances. (Via SF Signal.)

The novel has previously been adapted into two films, at least one television movie, and a number of comic books. It seems to be a real labor of love for Julian Bane, who is the producer, the lead actor, and the person who built the title prop and the sets. He also had a hand in the script with writer/director Phil Abatecola.

From Bane’s bio, elements of which will resonate with certain of us:

Born in Curitiba, Brazil in 1967, Julian Bane arrived in the United States at the age of 11. His love for the arts started at an early age: first with comics and drawing superheroes for his school paper to shooting Star Wars action figures and Styrofoam planets with a Super 8 camera, all the while building miniature sets and props. As a young man, Bane admired, leading characters in shows such as DOCTOR WHO and Star Trek. These characters later influenced Bane to become an actor.

“Their impact on my young mind was strong,” says Bane. “The DOCTOR and Captain Kirk were some of the best characters ever created.”

I’d love to know if it’s any good, so if a Futurismic reader happens to take it in…

(I’d also love to know why Bane put DOCTOR WHO in all capitals in his bio, but you can’t have everything.)

[tags]H.G. Wells,time machine,plays, theatre[/tags]