Sci-Fi Drama with Milwaukee Fringe Festival This Month
Walter M. Miller Jr. served in the Army Air Corps, flying many bombing missions over Italy. After the war he married, settled-down and started a quiet career as a science-fiction author. His most memorable work was the short novel A Canticle for Leibowitz, which rather concisely covered thousands of years on earth after a nuclear war. That book was originally published in 1960. Prior to that, the author had won a Nebula Award for a story that was published in a 1955 issue of Astounding Science Fiction magazine. THAT story was The Darfsteller. Set in a 21st century world, it tells the story of an out of work actor serving as a janitor for a theater that exclusively employs robotic actors who have been made to look human. When one of the robots breaks down, he must spring into action to save the show.
It’s kind of a fun premise. In the history of robot-based sci-fi, it’s a bit closer to Asimov’s early sci-fi robots than it is to the more existentially sophisticated robots of Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? or The Electric Ant. In the ’50s, sci-fi robots were more generally distinct from humans than they would become later-on. In the ‘60s, Dick envisioned a world in which androids were so human that they might not even know they were androids, which ushered-in a ’70s/’80s sci-fi obsession with artificial neural programming, direct neural-computer interface and cybernetic enhancement in which we were ALL becoming androids. A modern staged presentation of an award-winning '50s conception of androids should be kind of a fun and edifying look back at an early concerns of artifice and automation. Undoubtedly there are themes here which echo into the present. Even the earliest sci-fi has a resonance that goes far beyond yesterday's tomorrows.
KACM Theatrical Productions presents The Darfsteller at the Todd Wehr Theatre on Aug. 28 at 12:00 p.m. For ticket reservations, visit Milwaukee Fringe online.