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Score and Tech Supreme in "Adding Machine: A Musical"

Monday, October 28, 2013

The contemporary Adding Machine: A Musical opens soon on Stage Too! in Murphy Hall, 1530 Naismith. Performances run Nov. 15-16 and 22-23 at 7:30 p.m. and Nov. 17 and 24 at 2:30 p.m.

Tickets for Adding Machine: A Musical are on sale now at KU ticket offices and online at KUTheatre.com. Tickets are also available by calling the University Theatre, (785) 864-3982, and the Lied Center at (785) 864-ARTS. Adding Machine: A Musical tickets are $18 for the public, $17 KU staff and senior citizens, and $10 for students and children 5-18.

Meet Mr. Zero. He’s worked 25 thankless years at the same accounting desk and has just been told he’s losing his job because a mechanical adding machine is taking his place. Well, Mr. Zero (Michael Wysong, Larned freshman) finally finds the nerve to do something about it—murder his boss.

Musically adapted from the original 1923 expressionist play by Elmer Rice, Adding Machine: A Musical is not your typical night of musical theatre. The ninety-minute roller coaster takes the audience through Mr. Zero’s trial, execution and excursion into the world of the afterlife.  Finally freed from the nagging Mrs. Zero (Elaina Smith, Olathe senior), Zero is met with one final chance for romance and redemption with his officemate Daisy Devore (Hailey Lapin, Overland Park senior). Themes of middle class morality, racism and dehumanization abound as Zero and Shrdlu (Cale Morrow, Dodge City freshman) attempt to make sense of the Elysian Fields. Darkly comic and heartbreakingly beautiful, this production features eclectic composition by Joshua Schmidt and a libretto by Jason Loewith and Joshua Schmidt.

Though Adding Machine: A Musical opened Off-Broadway in 2008, this is not the first time Zero’s antihero plight has graced the University Theatre stage. In 1995, the University Theatre produced Adding Machine, A Virtual Reality Project, an original staging of Elmer Rice’s play exploring new uses of virtual reality for theatre production and performance.

Mark Reaney, professor of theatre, was heavily involved in the conception of the 1995 production and created the Institute for the Exploration of Virtual Realities at the University of Kansas based off the success of Adding Machine, A Virtual Reality Project. Since then, innovations in technology only improve the technique of creating a digital landscape.

For Adding Machine: A Musical, Reaney said the majority of the stage lighting will incorporate VR thanks to highly advanced from computer-controlled data projectors. These projectors will integrate kinetic graphic images and animations. With VR, Reaney’s designs will illuminate the existing score and will be controlled in real-time in response to on-stage action.

“What keeps this work exciting is the fact the VR technology is not prerecorded, the computers are working live just like the actors,” Reaney said. “We live in a digital world and modern audiences must be spoken to with what they are most familiar with—innovative technology.”

For Reaney, the use of VR is an opportunity to research and create theatrical work completely unique to the University of Kansas. Part of this experimentation includes taking risks and making audacious choices.

“This is not your grandfather’s Adding Machine,” Reaney said. “A bold and ridiculous score calls for bold and experimental stagecraft.”

The original production opened Off-Broadway at the Minetta Lane Theatre on Feb. 25, 2008 and took home the Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Musical. Adding Machine: A Musical also won two Outer Critics Circle Awards for Outstanding New Off-Broadway Musical and Outstanding New Score along with nine Drama Desk Nominations. Time Out New York called Adding Machine: A Musical “The Best New Musical of 2008.”

Director Mechele Leon, associate professor of theatre, said the strength of Adding Machine: A Musical lies in how the challenging score sparks personal introspection. For Leon, the dark musical examines the cost of personal freedom in the 21st century.  

“The moment-to-moment story is compelling because Zero makes us think of where our own, individual morality is located,” Leon said. “Zero has to face so many obstacles, but at the end of the day we have to wonder if he has free will or if he is the victim of the harsh, prejudiced world around him.”

This University Theatre production includes an ensemble of nine performers playing more than 20 roles. Adding Machine: A Musical is directed by Mechele Leon, associate professor of theatre, with music direction by Ryan McCall, University Theatre accompanist. Jenifer Harmon, Kansas City, Mo. MFA student, is assistant directing and stage managing the production. Mark Reaney, professor of theatre, is the scenic and lighting designer and Rebecca Darmen,Atlanta M.F.A student, is the costume designer. Rana Esfandiary, Teran PhD student, is assisting with the creation of the Virtual Reality landscape.

Additional cast members include Blake Beardall, Overland Park sophomore as, Boss/Fixer/Charles; Jessica Brink, Wichita senior, as Alto Chorus/Mrs. Two/Betty/Matron; Nicole Burkhart, Lawrence junior, as Soprano Chorus/Mae/Prisoner’s Wife; Brody Horn, Columbus junior, as Bass Chorus/Mr. Two/Prison Guard; Kevin Smith, Hastings, Neb. masters student, as Tenor Chorus/Mr. One/Prisoner.

Adding Machine: A Musical includes offensive language and is not appropriate for younger audiences. Seating is limited for this production and advance reservations are strongly recommended.

For more information about VR use in Adding Machine: A Musical, visit http://www2.ku.edu/~ievr/adding/.

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