You probably know that Karel Čapek's 1920 Czech play R.U.R. gave the world the word "robot." It's what the second "R" stands for -- the long version of the title is "Rossum's Universal Robots." And for nearly a hundred years, the play has been considered a classic, translated into every major language on the face of the planet.
So why have modern productions of R.U.R. have become few and far between? Well, as the years have gone by, directors and producers have come to find the expressionist style of the script to be a turnoff. They don't like the two-dimensional characters and exaggerated action. To make matters worse, they are often further distanced from the work by the awkwardly-formal language of the most literal English translations.
So in my adaptation of Čapek's masterpiece I have tried to bring the play's characters and language into a more modern vernacular than in the literal translations. And I've tried to be as faithful as possible to Karel Čapek's intentions while updating the details of the ethical issues raised, and -- above all -- approaching the story as a more realistic piece of science fiction with more fully-rounded characters.
This new adaptation was first produced at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, with a rotating set, video projections, and a score of original electronic music. The production was enthusiastically praised by the reviewer assigned by the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival.
Much of the success of the first production was due to the original music and sound effects by Dr. Michael Angell, the scenery and lighting designed by Kelly Allison, and the costumes designed by Kimberly Schnormeier. But many who were familiar with other English translations of the play felt it was the script that made the show work, and some even predicted the new adaptation could become the definitive American performance text of Čapek's play.