Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Sex with Robots Festival Explained

 "You can wait for someone to do your shit for you, or..."
 - Mariah MacCarthy
producer/playwright

The SEX WITH ROBOTS Festival, which opens November 5th, at the Secret Theater in Long Island City, was the brainbot of actor/playwright Danny Bowes and playwright Natalie Zutter.

"They started talking about doing a one-act play festival about sex with robots maybe a year or so ago," says playwright and festival co-producer, Mariah MacCarthy, "and then Danny approached me with it because I do plays that are often about sex. I responded to his first email with one word: "OBVIOUSLY."

Mariah MacCarthy
"Even before I met Mariah or saw any of her work," adds Bowes, "a collaborator on another project (which, go figure, was about sex) was like, 'We should see if Mariah MacCarthy's company wants to do this.' Circumstances were such that I never got around to mentioning that to her, because I didn't know her yet, but after seeing The Foreplay Play, I remembered that and was like, 'Ha, maybe I should have seen if Mariah wanted to do that other thing.' Which is why, when Natalie and I were G-chatting about robot sex, I said, 'Okay, now I should see if Mariah MacCarthy's company wants to do this.'

 Director Leta Tremblay, who just recently joined Caps Lock Theatre as its Producing Artist Director, had worked with MacCarthy before, co-producing her play Ampersand and recently directing MacCarthy's Mrs. Mayfield’s Fifth Grade Class of ’93 20-Year Reunion. 

"I saw Act I of the first ever staged performance of Ampersand in a blizzard," says Tremblay, "and I loved it, so of course I came back to see Act II in a sweltering heat wave many months later and I was hooked. I knew that I had to be a part of it and align myself with this writer/artist. It's one of the very few times that I've approached someone and said, 'this work is awesome, I want to do anything that I can to make it happen.'"

SO WHAT IS THE SEX WITH ROBOTS FESTIVAL ALL ABOUT?

Bowes and MacCarthy commissioned six playwrights (for a total of eight - including Bowes and MacCarthy) to write short plays based on the theme of sex with robots, with the idea that the writers would shed light on the state of humanity by exploring characters that would project their messy desires onto their mechanical lovers.

Mac Rogers
One of the playwrights, Mac Rogers, was in familiar territory.

"A few years ago, I wrote a big epic play on robots with some sex in there called Universal Robots," says Rogers. "I thought I'd said all I had to say about those as intertwining subjects. I just sat in front of the computer and froze for days, until I thought of an entirely new angle having to do with wealth and its ability to force fantasy into reality."

Rogers' play Sasha is about a man who has just come off an acrimonious divorce and is starting his new life by buying a Sasha,  the most advanced companion-robot on the market.
Leah Nanako Winkler

"I've been obsessed with robots in theater ever since I saw two plays at the Japan Society last February by Oriza Hirata, founder of the Seinendan Theater Company, in collaboration with Dr. Hiroshi Ishiguro, who is the Director of the Intelligent Robotics Laboratory at Osaka University," says playwright Leah Nanako Winkler. "My mind was blown when I discovered midway through the show that the 'actor' playing the android was an actual android, which got me wanting to explore the abuse that would entail if a robot was purchased by unhappy people. I think the outcome is dark but also hilarious."

"When we learned about this festival's theme," says playwright Richard Lovejoy who co-wrote Simon Says with playwright Eric John Meyer, "we thought about what it
Richard Lovejoy
would mean to engage in the ultimate act of intimacy and togetherness where only one of the parties involved has a "self" to contribute. The notion seemed both extremely narcissistic and extremely needy. We decided to explore that weird state of being and came up with this weird little play. Having been friends since college, it was also a treat to collaborate with each other on something as both writers and performers."

YEAH, BUT IS THERE SEX?

Yes, there's sex!  But the SEX WITH ROBOTS Festival makes love to your mind, as well as your eyeballs.

Natalie Zutter
A Real Boy, by playwright Natalie Zutter, is about a woman who argues with her sex robot Robert about whether or not he should be counted along with her human sex partners. Says Zutter, "Because this festival is all about redefining who (or what) we do it with, I wanted to explore something that humans already do: justify or compartmentalize who we have sex with, and what 'counts' as sex."

Danny Bowes' play, My Fantasy Sex Robot Came in the Mail Today, plays with a Hollywood stereotype as a seemingly unspectacular shlub blubbers his love to a spectacular woman... and then takes us somewhere we don't expect.

And then of course there's playwright J.Julian Christopher's play, Make Your Bed in Hell, which just sounds sexy! (Joking, but trust me, you don't want to miss it.) And in the interest of full-frontal disclosure, yours truly is one of the playwrights but I won't go on about my play except to say MacCarthy describes it as being the most "Vaginey and Bro-tastic of the evening," which I take as a compliment.

HOW ARE THEY DOING IT?

Well, that seems like a personal question, so I'll assume your talking about the producers doing what producers (and theater artists) do...PRODUCE!

Danny Bowes
"I do what I'm told, basically." says Bowes. "and that's not meant in a bad way at all."

"We send each other to-do lists," says MacCarthy. "It's sort of slapdash, who does what, but it's definitely tailored to what each of us has experience with."

"Mariah and I constantly have friendly disagreements but because we trust each other," adds Tremblay. "We don't take anything personally, and are willing to talk it out, it always turns out all right in the end. We've both learned how to produce by just doing it through trial and error, so we've already learned a lot of the tough knocks hard lessons and use our experience to our advantage."

Bowes, MacCarthy and Tremblay all came from multidisciplinary theater backgrounds, which is to say they've acted, written, danced, etc., so what brought them to producing when they could've just acted, written and danced?

"Impatience" says MacCarthy. "You can wait for someone to do your shit for you, or..." Not, presumably.

MacCarthy's play Just Right is about a not-too-healthy relationship that is over but rather than accept that and move on, technology is used to recreate it exactly as it was, "every last ugly aspect of it."

AND HOW DO THEY DO ALL OF IT AND NOT LOSE THEIR MINDS? (Do they have secret robots that help them and can I get one?)

"Lots of coffee," says Bowes "and a completely unrealistic sense of optimism about how many hours there are in a day."
Leta Tremblay

"I honestly don't know" adds MacCarthy. "I can barely see straight as I write this. I would like to have fewer things to do."

"Mariah and I were talking about this last night," says Tremblay. "We both used to have so much energy to do 500 things at once and live by the 'I'll sleep when I'm dead' mantra. Now a good nap goes a long way. But in all seriousness, I feel very grateful for all of the amazing artists that I've had the good fortune to work with thus far. We do this because we love it and it's collaborative and it's all part of moving forward in this crazy industry. We do the best we can every time."


Love your Robot
 The SEX WITH ROBOTS Festival opens Tuesday, Nov. 5th - Nov 10th at 8pm at The Secret Theatre, 4402 23rd Street, Long Island City. Tickets ($18) may be purchased online or by calling
1-800-838-3006; $15 student/senior tickets are also available.

Early Bird Discount tickets of only $10 available now thru Fri, Nov. 1st @ 11:59pm.

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