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the hot air balloon. But Ada became a powerful idea. She was a real woman, she had children, she struggled with all the gender expectations of Victorian society. She was a genius, a mathematician, and absolutely visionary.
SB: We’re being very transparent about the fact that this is a band in 2012 telling the story. That frame is important to the show in terms of how it functions. It’s definitely not conventional, but it’s also accessible. Ultimately it’s a story about the power of the imagination and how that can bring people together to transcend the drudgery of everyday life.
CA: A lot of times in high art, or conceptual art experimenting with musical theater, there’s a sense of irony and making-fun-of the form. FUTURITY, however, is a totally earnest musical, and that’s what it shares with a lot of traditional musical theater. We’re really singing these songs from our hearts; we are just approaching it without traditional musical theater aesthetics.
AD: There are parallels between the role the Industrial Revolution plays in FUTURITY and the role technology plays in our lives today.
THE LISPS, CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: SAMMY TUNIS, CÉSAR ALVAREZ, LORENZO WOLFF, AND ERIC FARBER
2011/2012 SEASON americanrepertorytheater.org
knowledgeable. And this is a dialogue worth having.
SB: And that’s another reason the Civil War fascinates us. There was a huge technological leap forward during the war; it revolutionized how war was fought. It mechanized and changed the scale of operations.
“Ultimately it’s a story about the power of the imagination and how that can bring people together to transcend the drudgery of everyday life.”
CA: We look at it as this old-fashioned piece of history, but they were dealing with the same stuff we’re dealing with. The show is about the Civil War, but that’s a facade. It’s really about now, and us.
AD: Why did you want to stage this show at OBERON?
SB: It enables us to create an immersive experience. The steam brain that’s part of the story becomes alive and animated and part of the show. When that happens, it feels like it’s taking up the entire space.
MR: At a club like OBERON, there’s a whole different metabolism than there is with a traditional stage. You can’t avoid it; everything happens right around you. And that’s what’s exciting about the cabaret. It changes the way you metabolize the play, as
opposed to sitting and facing something.
SB: It’s not a coincidence that this musical has come together at this moment. It comes from the idea of looking back at history through a contemporary lens. We’re all trying to figure out how to deal with technology and how it’s changing our lives.
CA: It’s absolutely contemporary, because it’s about artificial intelligence and the power of technology to bring out the best and the worst in humans. Technology is a physical manifestation of the imagination. Music is technology. Language is technology. Julian’s a utopian. He feels like technology will save everything. And Ada wants to believe that too, but she’s a little more
CA: We’re thrilled to come to the A.R.T. It’s so exciting to be in an intellectually activated community. The A.R.T. has made space for us in a way that’s unbelievable. There’s no other regional theater in the country where I would rather be doing this. I think people are going to come to this show and get that feeling of joy. It’s so exuberant.
Annie DiMario is a second-year dramaturgy student at the A.R.T./Moscow Art Theater School Institute for Advanced Theater Training at Harvard University.
CÉSAR’S READING LIST FUTURITY defies the traditional boundaries of theater. It blurs the lines between fact and fiction, past and future, and play and concert. Below, César Alvarez (lead singer of The Lisps and Julian in FUTURITY) shares some of the reading that inspired this one-of-a-kind Civil War sci-fi musical.
NON-FICTION • Ada, the Enchantress of Numbers: Prophet of the Computer Age by Betty A. Toole
• The Bride of Science: Romance, Reason, and Byron’s Daughter by Benjamin Woolley
• The Singularity is Near by Ray Kurzweil
• Charles Dickens in Cyberspace: The Afterlife of the Nineteenth Century in Postmodern Culture by Jay Clayton
FICTION • The Difference Engine by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling
• The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane
• Frankenstein by Mary Shelley • The March by E.L. Doctorow • Neuromancer by William Gibson • Kindred by Octavia Butler • Accelerando by Charles Stross • Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
• The Time Machine by H.G. Wells • Arcadia by Tom Stoppard
FILM • The Civil War (Ken Burns) • The Threepenny Opera • Brazil • Glory • The Red Badge of Courage • Tommy
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