Author: Jill Kimball

CU Theatre’s ‘The Adding Machine’ opens 2017-18 season

The century-old expressionist play is a cautionary tale about workplace automation.

The University of Colorado’s theatre division kicks off the 2017-18 season with “The Adding Machine,” a landmark of American expressionism. CU’s take on the timeless work runs Sept. 29 to Oct. 8 in the University Theatre.

Written in 1923 by Elmer Rice, “The Adding Machine” tells the cautionary tale of a glum accountant’s descent into oblivion when he discovers he’s been replaced by a machine. The man, named Mr. Zero, is forced to examine his dull life and its unclear purpose as he journeys from job to jail to the afterlife and back.

While theatre today usually relies on dialogue and interpersonal interactions to tell a character’s story, early 20th century expressionist playwrights, including Rice, approached things a bit differently.

“I’ve never directed an expressionist play before, so I’m excited to explore the way the play delves into characters’ inner lives using symbols and movement,” says Director Cecilia Pang.

Mr. Zero’s plain name, faceless employer and repressed desires, for example, serve as a symbol for increasing workplace automation. The 1920s were an era of increasing automation—think Henry Ford’s early car assembly lines—and many, including Elmer Rice, worried that impersonal workplace culture would seep into the rest of our lives.

“It’s definitely about the mechanization of society,” says Marla Schulz, the production’s movement director. “We lose jobs when we start integrating technology into our lives, and we lose humanity as well. We stop thinking about the people who are needed to create things, and we risk losing our sense of self.”

It’s a timeless topic that’s been on our minds since the early 1800s, says Pang.

“Machine automation as a replacement for human workers, which started in the Industrial Revolution, is more prevalent than ever today in all industries,” she says. “It’s been predicted that machines and AI will eliminate 6 percent of the jobs in the U.S. in the next five years.”

Despite this grim prognosis, Pang believes audiences will walk away from a performance of “The Adding Machine” filled with hope and inspired to do more with their lives.

“What this play really teaches us,” she says, “is that destiny lies in our own hands.”

Upcoming theatre events View all events

Almost, Maine

Loading
Feb 7-10, 2019

Almost, Maine

A play by John Cariani
Tickets $16

On a cold, clear night in the fictional town of Almost, Maine, residents find themselves falling in and out of love in strange and unexpected ways. Th...

The Voice of the Prairie

Loading
Feb 14-17, 2019

The Voice of the Prairie

A play by John Olive
Free reserved tickets

What happens when a naive farmer meets a profit-seeking scammer during the rise of commercial radio? Follow the life experiences of David Quinn as he ...

Title TBA

Loading
Feb 22-Mar 3, 2019

Title TBA

Title announcement Jan. 1, 2019
Starting at $24

In this Tony Award-winning work from Music Theatre International, the most memorable, iconic characters of children’s literature playfully come ...

Poltergeist

Loading
Mar 7-10, 2019

Poltergeist

A new play by Alika Magas
Free reserved tickets

In the 2017-2018 New Play Festival Winner "Poltergeist," playwright Alika Magas explores love, grief and what it's like to date the dead. Meet Henry. ...

Falstaff in Love

Loading
Mar 14-17, 2019

Falstaff in Love

A new play by Scott Kaiser
Starting at $16

Follow the hilarious origin story of Jack Falstaff—described by Orson Welles as “Shakespeare’s greatest creation”—and di...

Fourth Annual New Play Festival

Loading
Free and open to the public

Come see how the next generation of theatre artists views and imagines the world we live in. Each of these exciting, peer-reviewed new plays will rece...