Rossum’s Universal Robots (R.U.R.), the story that introduced the word “robot” to the world back in 1920 was faithfully reproduced by BC’s Performing Arts department via Zoom. The play was streamed on their Facebook page on Nov. 18, 19, and 20.
The play follows a plot about an island factory which produces robots. Since their creation, they have since become the biggest manual labor force in the world.
The factory is visited by Helena Glory, daughter of the president of the League of Humanity, a force that wishes to liberate the robots arguing that they are just like people. She fails to convince the factory management and is forced into a relationship with Harry Domin, the man running the factory. It continues ten years later with unrest growing among the robots and the consequences of their treatment.
Instead of a more traditional stage performance, the play was instead performed via Zoom webcams. While this setup removed one of the most important parts of a play performance, that being the movement, it did compensate by placing a larger emphasis on the actors’ faces allowing for the audience to feel much closer to the actors.
I enjoyed the performance and thought the transition to Zoom rather than a normal stage performance was an interesting first time experience for me. I enjoyed the new approach and it did allow for a different perspective, being able to always see and hear what’s going on, something that can be difficult to do based on where you’re sitting in an actual theatre.
The story was easy to follow, with each actor being easy to hear and ample usage of props and sound effects provided to help better convey what was lost in the transition to a virtual show.
Despite the limitations of the new medium, the team was able to deliver a solid performance of the age-old classic that has inspired the sci-fi genre since. While streaming it via Zoom does make some scenes a bit awkward, such as when a character passes a prop into the camera or is reacting by stretching their arm forward into the camera, it still left me with a memorable time.
The play was directed by Professor Kimberly Chin, with the main roles of Helena, Domin, and Alquist being played by Bianca Valenzuela, Daniel Lizarraga, and Hugo Maldonaldo Garcia respectively.
Supporting roles of other workers and robots were played by Cynthia Corrales, Katelyn Dominguez, Alex Singh, Amy Vasconcellos, Arnold Barroga, and Serena Ornelas.