PCA Students to Perform 'The Adding Machine'
By Ashley Richardson '15
Beginning Wednesday, Nov. 5, St. Lawrence University’s Department of Performance and Communication Arts will present Elmer Rice's “The Adding Machine” for its Fall 2014 Mainstage Production.
Directed by Visiting Assistant Professor Sebastian Trainor, the experimental 1923 stage play was a key player in defining the genre of American Expressionism in theater production. He explained that choosing this play allows students to experiment with an important text in the history of American drama.
“American expressionism is a very entertaining, now passé piece of theater history that involves making the scenery, props and the physical stage reflect the inner emotional state of a character,” Trainor said. “For instance, if a character is in a bad mood, there will be a violent thunderstorm that begins on stage, but when a character is in a good mood, the sun will shine and all the other characters on stage will begin to waltz around.”
"The Adding Machine," which utilizes overhead projectors and a revolving stage, will be performed by St. Lawrence students from Nov. 5 to 8 starting at 8 p.m. in the Gulick Theatre. The performance is free and open to the general public. No tickets or reservations are required.
In the story, the central figure of Mr. Zero goes to his job as an accountant, a daily routine that has remained the same for 25 years. On the day of the twenty-fifth anniversary of his employment, he is fired and replaced by a mechanical adding machine. Traumatized, Mr. Zero murders his boss, surrenders to the police, is tried and executed, is resurrected, explores the afterlife, rejects true love, chooses to spend eternity operating a new super-hyper adding machine, and is eventually recycled as cosmic raw material.
“It is a comedy,” Trainor said. He explained that, driven to an extremity, Mr. Zero’s decision to murder his boss is not only the one decision in the character’s life where he doesn’t automatically do what he’s supposed to, but, by going against the rules, Mr. Zero is finally awarded a free pass to heaven.
“The audience can expect to be puzzled, but in a quaint and entertaining way, or at least I hope," Trainor said, "because the Freudian inspired psychology of the characters is not going to make any sense."
While the play may seem out-of-date and highly theatrical by today’s standards, it was cutting edge technique when performed in 1923.
“I don’t think it will be difficult for this generation to be entertained by the play,” Trainor said. “The story is about is self actualization and the responsibility of shaping ones own life and ones own choices.”
For more information, call 315-229-5166 or visit the Department of Performance and Communication Arts.