This weekend, “Property Rites”, a studio theater production, will explore ideas of humanity through both human and machine characters. The show, which runs on Friday and Saturday beginning at 7 p.m., revolves around a single character, Kyle Macmanus, who has purchased a large unit of six life-like machine figures.
Kyle does not take care of his machines and as a result, they malfunction by starting to come to life and breaking free from their confines. All the while, Kyle is trying to sell his machines to different prospective buyers.
“It’s a comment on what you can consider human,” said director of the show sophomore Kelsey Ingle. “We’re discussing humanity through theater.”
The six machine characters start as machines and acquire human aspects while the human characters have a few traces of machine in them. During the performance, the machines are dressed in silver, but they have aspects of red about them to portray their human entities while the humans have traces of silver in their costumes to represent their mechanical qualities.
“It’s seeped in symbolism,” said Ingle.
Throughout the show, the machines and humans struggle to decide how the machines could be treated and at what point throwing them out becomes more like killing them. Ingle said some of the machines make it through to the end of the show, but not all come out unscathed.
“I personally have not read a more climactic ending,” said Ingle. “I want the audience to come away from this show with a dialogue about what is human.”
The discussion which looms throughout the show focuses on what it means to be human, what the good and bad parts of that experience are. Ingle hopes the audience can empathize with both the human and machine characters in the show.
Ingle said the show has been interpreted in many ways, including through the lens of women’s rights as a discussion on abortion and at which point a fetus becomes human.
This show has also been a personal exploration for Ingle because she has always had a fear of mannequins and dummies.
“They really creep me out,” said Ingle. “It strikes a chord in me and I’m confronting it in this play.”
The cast completed several exercises in order to understand their characters. Professor Lindsey Sneider worked with the machine figures on honing their melodrama so they could become machines instead of people.
“Melodrama is taking your emotions and putting them on the outside,” said Ingle, as opposed to finding the emotions for acting from the inside out.
Sophomore D’Angelo Smith also did movement work with the machine figures in order to help them move more mechanically.
“We tried to find motions that were indicative of machines,” said Ingle.
A unique aspect of the show is the music which goes along with spoken word sections of the show. A friend of Ingle’s, Sarah MacDougall composed original music for the production which will be played on the piano.
Ingle said the stage has been set as a warehouse and the studio lobby will be decorated with mannequins and other displays in order to set a tone for the production.
“I think the audience will get something out of this show,” said Ingle.