Riverland Theatre launches season with Rossum's Universal Robots

Release Date: September 25, 2017

Categories: Riverland News Area Media Stories Media Release

In 1921, Czech writer Karel Capek introduced the word "robot" to the world in the science fiction play Rossum's Universal Robots (R.U.R.). Almost 100 years later, as humans have become completely reliant on artificial intelligence, technology, and automation, this play rings more truthful than science fiction. In a factory that makes artificial people from synthetic organic matter, "robots" may be mistaken for humans and can think for themselves. You need to be powerful to control the robots, and the robots give you power...unless they turn on you. R.U.R. is rated PG.

The play is written by Karel Capek and adapted by Riverland theatre faculty member Susan V. Hansen, based on the translation by Paul Selver and Nigel Playfair, as well as the original Czech script. Hansen also directs the production.  The set and lighting designer is Mark Spitzer. The costumes are by Kaye Perry. The production is stage managed by Randy Forster.

R.U.R. features Ian Gearhart as Harry Domin, Hannah Bergene as Helena Glory, Charli Martin as Dr. Gall, Austin Hodnefield as Dr. Hallemeier, James Zschunke as Mr. Alquist, Erica Staat as Sulla/Robot Helena, Dathen Johnson as Marius/Robot Primus, Kylie Larson as Nan, Caoimhe Farrell as Radius, Carma Joy Pederson as Damon, Claire Olson as 1st Robot, Maurene Olson as 2nd Robot, Maria Cristina Aranda as 3rd Robot, and KariLynn Finley-Cook as 4th Robot.

 “Our dependence on artificial intelligence has been accelerating and the momentum behind that is to make human lives easier,” Hansen said. “Karel Capek wrote R.U.R. in 1920, before the computer age. He coined the word ‘Robot.’ His Robots were more human looking than machine. We have circled around now to creating amazing machines that we can make look human, or mammal, and they are being used now in production and military situations.”

“Every character has a strong objective,” said Hansen. “The conflicts in the play refer to ‘How far is too far?’ ‘Who is responsible?’ ‘What is the definition of human?’ ‘Why are we making them?’ "What happens when technology can adapt and becomes smarter and stronger than humans?’ ‘Where does God come into this?’ I incorporated Smart Home technology, video chats, GPS, and everyday technology that we take for granted now. I combined four characters into two and made one a female, because yes, women can be scientists too. I updated some outmoded societal norms from 1920. We are on the verge of a new world. Are we ready?”

R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots) will be performed Oct.  4-7 at 7 p.m. and Oct. 8 at 2 p.m. at the Frank W. Bridges Theatre on the Austin campus.

Individual tickets to R.U.R. are $13 and currently on sale at www.riverland.edu/tickets 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The online ticketing system allows customers to choose their seats and pay by Visa, MasterCard, American Express or Discover. Tickets may also be purchased at the Riverland Box Office, located in room E107 in the East Building of the Austin campus. Box office hours are Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and one hour before performances. Riverland students receive two free tickets to each performance with a valid student ID. Contact the box office at 507-433-0595 or by emailing boxoffice@riverland.edu.

Riverland Theatre strives to provide quality productions that are entertaining and challenging to both the audience and the artists.  Because we reach such a diverse audience, some audience members may find some subject matter, language, or situations objectionable. If you have concerns about a specific production, we encourage you to become familiar with the material before attending the performance.

Riverland’s Theatre Department is a high-energy performance-oriented program. Plays produced vary from classical tragedy to modern comedy and from full-scale large cast musicals in intimate small cast plays. Students are encouraged to get involved in all areas of theatre production including, but not limited to, acting, stage managing, set building and painting. Strong academic offerings provide challenges in and out of the classroom.