Anyone hanging out at the Sagg Main Beach over the last few weeks may have seen a man in silver Spandex with a box for a head running around. He is Technology, and he is going to die.
The inspiration for Technology was born in “The Murderer”—a short story written in 1953 by Ray Bradbury in which a man called “the Murderer” is institutionalized for killing the technology in his daily life. In the original story, Mr. Bradbury depicts a not-so-distant future where everyone is “in touch” all the time, constantly listening to radios, talking on phones, using computers or communicating in some other way.
The original short story is an eerily accurate depiction of what the smartphone- and internet-driven world is like today. That relevance to the present is why local artists Tucker Marder and Christian Scheider have adapted “The Murderer” story for the stage in an original production, which will take place at The Old Whalers’ Church in Sag Harbor from Friday, August 23, to Sunday, August 25.
“When we were writing this, Tucker and I, we did a very liberal adaptation. We wanted an honest debate, because nobody would deny the power and function and sometimes miraculousness of technological advancement,” Mr. Scheider said while sitting in a pew at the church where the play will be held.
What he and his co-producer would like to do is make people think about the importance of technology in their lives, but also question the speed at which technology changes, and how overwhelming it can be in day-to-day living.
“Bradbury wrote a story that we made a play out of that just really, more than the specific pieces themselves, questions the race to embrace technology without any particular vetting process … the speed, rate and scale of it all becomes so overpowering that sometimes we feel like if we don’t adopt the latest thing, or idea, not just ourselves might be left behind,” Mr. Scheider continued.
The two young playwrights—Mr. Scheider is 23, Mr. Marder 24—met in high school where they were classmates at the Ross School in East Hampton. They want not only to encourage a debate about the balance of the usefulness of technology, but also for audience members to take a moment to stop and think the next time their cell phone rings.
Making people question their actions is one of the biggest motivators for Mr. Marder, he said.
“That was the thing I thought of the other day, to have that moment of choice. A moment of self-reflection in terms of this decision I’m about to make,” he said. “Am I the master in this decision I’m about to make? Do I have to answer the phone? Do I have to update my computer? Do I have to do all these things? And what are the consequences, are the consequences that bad if I don’t do it? What is your quality of life like in relationship to technology?”
These are the questions Mr. Marder asks himself, as well as what he plans to pose to his audience.
“Just think about that for a second, a moment’s hesitation,” he continued.
The whole premise of the play, according to the producers, is that people have a choice, they don’t have to check their Facebook all the time, or look at their phones, or check their emails. However, Mr. Scheider does not want the timelessness of the original story to be lost by being pigeonholed to the present.
“What we like about the show is that it’s not about a generation, that’s what was so genius about Bradbury, was that this is something from 1953 that had a revival in 1980, and is having all new relevance in 2013,” Mr. Scheider said. “Anytime the bell of relevance chimes, you get excited. You think ‘oh this isn’t a waste of time, this is something that I’m living with,’ and that’s exciting.”
Even the Sag Harbor-based venue, the Old Whalers’ Church, built in 1884 in the Egyptian Revival style, speaks to the irony of starting a discussion about technology in such a historic place, according to Mr. Scheider.
“What could be less technological than people gathering in a wooden building built in the 1800s, and using our bodies and our voices,” he asked.
While discussing the ups and downs of progress in the old church, Mr. Scheider’s “auntie” (who is not really a relative, but close family friend), actress Mercedes Ruehl, stopped by with her nephew, John, to see if anyone wanted Tex-Mex. Even the seasoned actress was impressed by the grandeur of the old space.
“You’re going to do it right here on the altar?” Ms. Ruehl asked Mr. Scheider.
“Yes, it’s a modern day sermon,” he coolly replied.
That is exactly what the play is about: a team of people—including an orchestra, members of the Choral Society of the Hamptons and the Old Whalers’ Church bell choir, puppets, actors and a behind-the-scenes crew—preaching about an issue that effects everyone in modern-day society.
One of the most unique parts about this adaptation is the fact Mr. Marder and Mr. Scheider have chosen to make technology a real character played by a human. Mr. Marder said they based Technology on a mythical trickster type, similar to the Greek god Dionysus.
“He’s simultaneously in control of the narrative in a way, but also goofy, very funny and clumsy,” Mr. Marder said. “Technology embodies that dynamic of being sleek and the new sexy thing but also at the same time, your computer crashes.”
Mr. Scheider agreed, adding that he believes everyone can relate to the disappointment of technology letting them down.
“Or how many times your plan has relied on technology only to be foiled because it doesn’t function. And we wanted it to personify that, this destructive quality of kind of like ‘got ya,’” Mr. Scheider added.
Just then, Technology arrived at the church. He had his own thoughts to add about his importance to mankind.
“Man came into the world unarmed, he had no fangs or great strength of muscle. To survive he needed technology,” Technology proclaimed in a very matter-of-fact way. “There are those that would complain that I do too much, that my service is too great. There are holding cells for those people.”
“The Murderer” will be performed at The Old Whalers’ Church in Sag Harbor on Friday, August 23; Saturday, August 24; and Sunday, August 25, at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $15 and are available at tuckermarder.com/themurderer, or by calling 680-7677, and also can be purchased at the door.