“Uncanny Valley” to take the stage

Ryan Archibald examines what it means to be human in "Uncanny Valley." This production by Relative Theatrics opens Thursday, Feb. 16 at the Gryphon Theater. (Photo by McKenna Lipson)

“Uncanny Valley,” a Relative Theatrics production examining humanity’s relationship with technology and how that affects everyday life, opens tonight at the Gryphon Theater.

Planning for “Uncanny Valley” began over a year ago, when Anne Mason, producing artistic director of Relative Theatrics, selected it as part of their current season.

“I read ‘Uncanny Valley’ and thought it was a really interesting play because you don’t always get to see science fiction and tech and stories about artificial intelligence on stage,” Mason said.

After getting director James Hockenberry on board and casting the show, Hockenberry began the rehearsal process.

“We began rehearsing on Jan. 15, and have been going 5 days a week since,” Hockenberry said.

“Uncanny Valley” is a play about a scientist named Claire, who works in the artificial intelligence field. Claire and Julian, the product of her artificial consciousness work, spend much of the play discovering the true meaning of humanity. They also consider how the world and people’s interpersonal relationships will change with the normalization of artificial intelligence.

“You could very easily say that ‘Uncanny Valley’ is a story about artificial intelligence, but I think more so it is a play about what it means to be human,” Mason said. “Particularly what it means to be human in an increasingly technological world.”

Hockenberry said this production is one he hopes will be particularly thought provoking for audience members. The setting of the play is designed to reflect this.

“Watching ‘Uncanny Valley’ allows people to tackle and work through tricky real world, current day, issues and problems through the lens of a world we’re not quite at yet,” Hockenberry said. “Which I think lets people really dig into these issues without feeling the burden of immediacy.”

Mason agreed, saying that “Uncanny Valley” examines human connection in a unique way.

“It gives you a chance to look at the ways in which you interact with other people and with the world and the qualities of interaction that make life and relationships worthwhile,” Mason said.

A great deal of time, dedication and effort went in to getting “Uncanny Valley” stage-ready.

“Seeing everyone commit so fully and reap the rewards of all that hard work has been really rewarding,” Hockenberry said. “Rehearsals, while taxing on our daily routines, have been filled with a lot of laughter and insight, and have been a real joy.”

Mason and Hockenberry both said they hope to see many members of the UW community at performances of “Uncanny Valley.”

“The university is such an important part of Laramie, but Laramie has a great deal to contribute to the university lifestyle and experience as well,” Hockenberry said. “’Uncanny Valley’ is just one part of that, but a great one in my humble estimation.”

“Uncanny Valley” opens at the Gryphon Theatre on Thursday, Feb. 16. All performances are at 7:30 p.m. and all are followed by a discussion with the actors and design team.

“I think this show is for anyone looking for a thoughtful, unique experience, for something outside the beaten path of mass media and that is both topical and slightly fantastical,” Hockenberry said. “This play, like any other, is about our human relationships, hopes, desires and the obstacles in our way.”

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