Saturday, April 21, 2012

"Blade Runner" on stage




Painting by Syd Mead

Note: this is the first in a pair of Blade Runner related posts this weekend.  No real scheme behind it.  That's just how it worked out.

On stage?  Well not the film Blade Runner per se, but definitely a theatrical production with heavy influences from movie.

My good friend Bernard Sell (and my co-author of Monsters, get it while it's hot) is a teacher at a high school.  He is also the director of that small school's theater.  This fall, he has selected the play Rossum's Universal Robots (R.U.R.) for the school production.  Bernard has also determined that he would like the play to have a certain Blade Runner bouquet to it and has asked if Armando and myself would like to come aboard as creative consultants.

Would I?  Oh boy!  Yes, yes, I know it's a high school theater production in a small town but this is for my friend, he's a hsien making a gutsy and artsy choice in rural community, and I can go all out on ideas for something that is near and dear to me.  What could be better?  Well of course money would be better but who has that these days?

Embarrassingly enough, I'm not all that familiar with R.U.R. other than it is a Czech play from 1921 that featured the first ever use of the word "robot."  Reading the play will be of immediate necessity to me but from what I've read online, the play is centered around a factory that produces humanoid robots.  These are not robots in the traditional, nuts and bolts sense.  They are basically synthetic people that are more like the Replicants of Blade Runner.  Like their film antecedents, these "robots" seem content existing in servitude to humans.  However that all changes and the robots revolt, seeking to completely wipe out all of humanity.  And there's no Magnus to save us.

What sort of inspirations might be drawn from Blade Runner for this play?  One thing that immediately comes to mind is airships.  I don't know what kind of budget Bernard is working with (I'm assuming it's modest at best) but a blimp-like structure passing over the stage might be a nice touch.  In much of fiction, airships are symbolic of future timelines.  Stands to reason, I suppose.  We're already deploying all manner of UAVs, including airships such as this one.   Airships are being strongly considered as a viable means to transport heavy cargo by air in an affordable manner.  For the purposes of the play, it might even be a funny in-joke to have the airship broadcast an ad for people to move to the "off-world colonies."  As a promotion for this production of R.U.R., I'd like to release a tiny, prop airship from the roof of the high school and let it drift out over town, blinking out the letters "R.U.R."  I'd also like to sit back and wait for all of the UFO reports to come in but that's really just a fringe benefit.  Again, how would we build these prop airships?  I'm not certain, but we might want to start here.

I'm also thinking of stealing a page from Syd Mead in terms of costuming.  In his sketchbook for the film, he said something to the effect that he wanted to avoid the common cliches of futuristic films in terms of how people dress.  Therefore, they went with a 1940s film noir look with dirty and coarse fabrics.  This added a sense of realism and kept things grounded.  I think doing the same for R.U.R. might be a good idea.  In addition to the realistic feel, it would also save cost on wardrobe and would harken back to the timeframe of the play's original production.

Obviously, this is all very much in its incipient stages.  I'll keep you posted as things develop.  Oh and one other thing, there needs to be a musical number of "Mr. Roboto."


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1 comment:

  1. On Facebook, Bernard said: "The airship is a great idea...with a little creativity, we might be able to rig something like that. As far as the costuming goes, I was thinking along the same lines with a noirish feel for the human characters. There's a place I can order Czech medical coats 5 for 20. As for the 'bots...I was thinking maybe work suits. Good ideas!"

    And we are underway, everyone.

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