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Virtual “Rossum’s Universal Robots” Opens Thursday At PJC

The Paris Junior College Drama Department will open the free drama “Robert’s Universal Robots” or “RUR” on a virtual stage this Thursday. The play will be performed live on Zoom Nov. 12-14 at 7:30 pm and at 2:30 pm on Nov. 15.

Everyone knows the word “robot,” but not everyone knows it was first introduced to the world in the 1920 science fiction play “RUR” by the Czech writer Karel Čapek, which premiered in 1921. The play begins in a factory that makes artificial people, called roboti (robots), from synthetic organic matter.

As the robots develop into beings closer to humans, conflict grows. The play explores the themes of anger and hatred, class conflict, duty and responsibility, the human condition, and individuals versus machines.

According to PJC Drama Instructor and play director Will Walker, putting on a virtual performance comes with challenges. In addition to face-to-face rehearsals, three Zoom rehearsals have to work on simple things such as an actor on one screen handing an object to another screen actor.

“We’re trying to make it as real as possible to our audience,” Walker said. “That’s been a huge challenge.”

Students have also risen to the challenge.

“Working on ‘RUR’ was an amazing experience,” said Maddy Stuckey, a freshman from Anderson, Texas attending PJC on a drama scholarship. “Showing me a new world of acting with peers and friends, and giving me lots of deep thoughts as well as memories I won’t soon forget.”

The “RUR” cast includes Alquist: Andy Johnson; Helena: Madeline Stuckey; Primus: Hunter Anderson; Nana: Jodi O’Connell; Dr. Gall: Lisa Martin; Robot Helena: Annabel Doss; Fabry: Jimmie Sanders; Marius: Kaleb Speakman; Sulla: Juli Salter; Radius: David Forward; Busman: Ivey Barr; Hallemeier: Courtney Hampton Reed; 1st Robot: Robyn Huizinga; 2nd Robot: Brenna Mills; and 3rd Robot: Sarah Rodriguez.

The “RUR” crew includes Stage Manager Kayla Freelen and Background Designer Connor Kirkley.

We cap each performance at 100 attendees to manage Zoom’s online “waiting room” before the show starts. For questions, email pjcdrama@parisjc.edu. To register to attend the digital performance, go to https://parisjc.zoom.us/meeting/register/tJMsce6gqz8oH9xsRXWUxxWGwDsgxigDIZvx.

Robot Helena looks through a journal as Robot Marius looks on after the robot revolution in which most humans have been eliminated.
Working on the “R.U.R” production and other projects from a stagecraft class are, from left, Annabel Doss, Kayla Freelen, David Forward, Maddy Stuckey, PJC Drama Instructor Will Walker, Kaleb Speakman, Connor Kirkley, Hunter Anderson, and Brandon McCormick.