Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Guardian Asks A Good Question

No, not that one. I think we've all had about enough of that one for a while. I mean this one.

Shouldn't there be more science fiction on stage?

...

Where new dramatic writing is concerned, however, science fiction is far thinner on the ground. A recurring joke in the sitcom Friends concerned Joey's occasional appearances in various awful off-Broadway productions; in one episode (The One With the Screamer), he concludes an emotionally wrought scene by climbing a ladder to a waiting mothership "to search for alternative fuels". Which is a roundabout way of saying that credibility may be more of an issue on stage than in other media. The fear of appearing silly is a real one.

Quite true. It's a very thin line to walk, but one I wish more playwrights would try. As has been well-established, I'm a bit of a sci-fi geek. Well, a lot of one. And I've even tried my hand at some sci-fi playwriting: one of the plays I wrote last year centers around time travel. It's thrilling, really, to use your theatrical imagination that way, to think outside of the box. If I learned anything from my many, many years of watching various flavors of Star Trek, science fiction can be an excellent way to talk about touchy subjects in a smart, subtle way. Or sometimes, maybe not so subtle. (It's got a "b" in it, Gene.)

But on stage...it's problematic, obviously. No special effects. It's hard to do the majestic sweep of galaxies in space in a 99-seat (name drop!) black box theatre. But there is a bit of an upside to the limitations. I've always been a fan of plays that have ghosts in them because of the delicious suspension of disbelief: we know there's a flesh-and-blood person there, but a good play, a good director, and a good actor can convince us otherwise. There's a power in that.

I agree wholeheartedly with Natasha at the Guardian: it's an untapped genre. Why not explore it? Any other genres you want to see on stage?

11 comments:

joshcon80 said...

Ahem. The Management's next show (opens April 29th!) is a 14 person science fiction dance party.

Also, Eliza Clark (who got snatched up by television, go figure) has some amazing unproduced sci-fi plays floating around including a really frightening once entitled "Recall."

99 said...

Now that is what I like to hear! Now we just need to get these plays out there!

You know, if I start a traditional theatre, I'm not having a culturally specific slot; I'm going to have style slots: a detective play, a ghost play, a sci fi play and a bodice-ripper ever season. Take that diversity!

Jamespeak said...

And hey. Mac Rogers' Universal Robots (a straight-up science fiction piece about robots taking over the world) is one of the best new plays written in the past, what? 10 years? 20?

99 said...

Good point! Agh! Can't see! Egg everywhere!

But, yes, they're out there. They should be more out there.

Maybe there should be a festival...hmm...

joshcon80 said...

Oh, also, I'm still trying to figure out a way to do a staged soap opera well.

99 said...

Ditto me and a live action sitcom. Starring Mia Barron. Because she is awesome.

Tony Adams said...

Umm, sci-fi theatre festival would = awesome.

(and I'm not really even a sci-fi nerd)

ukejackson said...

"Sex ! Drugs! & Ukuleles! " (now retitled "Ukulele Land" -- actually the restoration of my first choice for title) is a dystopian musical comedy set in 2097. We did it in Spring 2008 as a showcase.

Here's a link to a highlights video my neighbor made:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kXh4hpgw11U

devilvet said...

Hello we are the Mammals. http://themammals.blogspot.com

Sci-Fi it is right there

cgeye said...

I'm trying to figure it out, so it might take a while....

In fact, a black box theatre might *help*, if you use the perpective of radio theatre -- the actor must push the audience into that world by the force of belief, plus judicious use of lighting, costuming and sound.

And, fuck yes, I'd want style slots. Non-trad casting would take care of itself if you have genre diversity to play with and use as your unique marketing proposition.

Why cain't the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation (who's funding science-themed plays all over) loosen its corset and back a SF Festival with various rolling theatre productions? If it works for the National New Play Network, why not for this?

radiotheatre said...

RE:SCI FI THEATRE
RadioTheatre is now in its 6th year in NYC...39 shows, 13 NY Innovative Theatre Award Noms, 2 Wins-Best Music, Best Sound Design, a few hundred performances, etc...and about to go on tour...and all we produce is SCIENCE FICTION and HORROR...from our 2008 SCI FI FESTIVAL which ran 4 HG WELLS classics in rep at 59E59Theaters for 38 performances...to KING KONG, FRANKENSTEIN, DRACULA, etc. All original cinematic scripts expressly written for our kind of theatre. We are NYC's chief proponent of AUDIO ART live on stage...21st Century technology ...NOT, I repeat, NOT old time radio shows. We just ran our POE tribute all year...20 plays...to sold out audiences. FRANKENSTEIN just closed after a 4 month run. And plenty more to come. Probably we'll resurrect THE TIME MACHINE this Fall with a full orchestral score using software technology created solely for Hollywood...yet, we're the only company using it to score dramas live on stage. SO, we're not only performing SCI FI, we're actually using scientific technology to create a totally unique kind of theatre. Check us out...www.radiotheatrenyc.com