Sci-Fi on the Stage in Hollywood: Sci-Fest LA 2015
Science Fiction is not one of the genres generally thought of as lending itself to live theater. This is no doubt because of the widespread belief that Sci-Fi is space operas, full of special effects and expensive to produce even on film or television. The 2015 installment of Sci-Fest LA shows this theory to be ridiculous. A century’s worth of short plays could be found in this unique Hollywood festival. Although of varying degrees of quality, the overall effect is strong.
I attended Program B, which had two standout plays to conclude the evening. The first was Efficiency, believed to be the oldest modern science fiction play. Among the critics praising the play when it was originally produced in New York in 1917 was Theodore Roosevelt; the festival organizers found the former president’s letter in an old bound copy of the play. A three-man cast performs a simple story: a ruthless dictator demands that a scientist turn a horribly wounded soldier into a modern killing machine. The play has echoes not only of the wanton destruction of World War I (then still raging and in which the United States had just entered) but more modern Sci-Fi like James Cameron’s Terminator movies.
The other excellent play of this program could not be more different from Efficiency. Moby Alpha is a hilarious spoof of Moby-Dick set in outer space. An Ahab-like captain takes his spaceship to the edge of destruction. While it sounds deadly serious, the two-man comedy act of Chuck Armstrong and Charlie Stockman inhabit a cast of characters in highly entertaining fashion.
Sci-Fest Co-Founder and Co-Producer David Dean Bottrell said that it was a happy challenge to find short Sci-Fi plays for each year’s festival. About 350 plays were submitted for the 2015 festival, of which 10 were produced. Among the writers submitting this year were horror writer Clive Barker, whose story The Departed was part of Program A. A second festival is also in the works for London.
To anyone who “trivializes Sci-Fi as a genre,” Bottrell declares, “science fiction in any form merely takes us to a place where we can consider our collective future. When faced with some outside threat, how are we as humans going to respond?”
The next Sci-Fest LA is planned for spring 2016. This is the second year of this science fiction one-act play festival. For more information on submissions go to sci-fest.com.
– Louis Burklow (aka, Hollywood Country Boy), Senior Staff Writer, Phoenix Genesis
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