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Author Topic: Are there any steampunk plays?  (Read 7704 times)
Regina de Winter
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« on: May 09, 2010, 06:52:59 pm »

I'm a member of an Am Dram group and we are talking about what to put on next season.  This got me thinking... are there any steampunk stage plays around? either that or how could I SP Oscar Wilde or maybe the rocky horror picture show.

Apparantly its time we tried something different, so the possibilities could be endless. hehehe.  Any ideas or pointers would  great.
Thanks
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« Reply #1 on: May 09, 2010, 07:35:40 pm »

I believe there is a "Pirates of Penzance" play on right now in Manchester. There might be thread somewhere about it. Just my idea, but perhaps there is a "Round the World in 80 Days" play, one could take that and easily steampunk it!
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« Reply #2 on: May 09, 2010, 09:02:46 pm »

A local theater is putting on a production of 20,000 leagues under the sea, so that's a quasi-stemapunk idea for you there.
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« Reply #3 on: May 09, 2010, 09:42:52 pm »

Isn´t the play The 7 Percent Solution a bit steampunky?
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« Reply #4 on: May 09, 2010, 10:07:33 pm »

There was a Steampunk Twelfth Night:

http://www.kylecassidy.com/pix/2010/twelfth-web-gallery/noflash/content/index.html

http://www.thenerdsignal.net/?p=486
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« Reply #5 on: May 10, 2010, 03:49:08 am »

OOh! I was only just thinking about this one.

It seems to me that there is a great deal of literature which could easily be adapted for an SP stage. The key is not in finding plays which are themselves "in the genre", but which can be staged with appropriate costuming, setting, adjusted language and so forth.

I was just wondering if anybody had considered staging "The Machine Stops." A dystopian technological future written from an Edwardian perspective - complete with airships. What, I ask, could be more steampunk than that?
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« Reply #6 on: May 10, 2010, 06:26:07 pm »

Thanks for all the ideas, and the EM Forster story looks like it could be fun to try & stage.  Smiley
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« Reply #7 on: May 10, 2010, 06:46:21 pm »

How about a Murder On The Orient Express style thing, set on an airship?
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« Reply #8 on: May 11, 2010, 12:25:02 am »

How about a Murder On The Orient Express style thing, set on an airship?

No offense here, but how exactly would that work?

The the mystery in Murder on the Orient Express is that the murderer could only be one of the passengers in a particular carriage, since no one entered or left it and the train was stuck in a snowdrift, meaning that they would be able to tell if anyone had left it. The failed plan was to make it look like the murderer had boarded the train at one station disguised as a conductor, moved through the carriage disguised as a passenger then left the train at the next station, again disguised as a conductor, but the train never arrived at the 2nd station.
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« Reply #9 on: May 11, 2010, 01:31:07 am »

I was just wondering if anybody had considered staging "The Machine Stops." A dystopian technological future written from an Edwardian perspective - complete with airships. What, I ask, could be more steampunk than that?


Very prescient in many ways, too. If it was to be staged as a play and the audience weren't aware it was based on the E M Forster story I suspect they would think it was a comment on modern society's increasing dependance on technology done up in a steampunk wrapper.
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« Reply #10 on: May 11, 2010, 07:27:01 am »

Rossums Universal Robots, the play which premiered in 1921 by Karel Capek. It should be possible to steampunk it.
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« Reply #11 on: May 12, 2010, 07:30:27 am »

The first thing this made me think of was Dean Venture in drag...ha!  I'm pretty sure Dean is a total steampunk.
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« Reply #12 on: May 14, 2010, 08:49:58 am »

I'd check out "On The Verge" by Eric Overmyer.  Its an adventure comedy a la Monty Python which involves three female Victorian explorers out to explore "Terra Incognita" and along the way have an encounter with a yeti, gorge troll, a dirigible pilot and a psychic, as well as plenty of others as they journey through time and space.  They end up in a lounge in the 1940s by the end of it, its rather amusing.  its about one of the steamiest plays in terms of its subject matter and sci-fi elements.  In terms of design, I've got a scenic design kicking around that involves three massive interconnected cogs that make all of the scene changes... 
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« Reply #13 on: May 14, 2010, 09:19:58 am »

And chaps, I don't want to rain on anyones parade, but I think some due consideration needs to be taken before you can truly 'steampunk' a play.  Slapping goggles on a costume and covering the set in brass, cogs and leavers doesn't constitute steampunk; it constitutes a gimmick, a selling point, a marketing ploy with no real thought given to the artistic credibility of why said production is steampunk.  Now plays that have to deal with technology, with the conflicts of of power structures, with mankind trying to better itself despite all adversaries, those to me can become a steampunk play.  Why?  Because Steampunk is more than just an aesthetic.  If it was just an aesthetic, then why put it on stage, because it says nothing.  Unless the symbols that are put on stage have inherent meaning behind them, and that meaning can fit into a steampunk frame, then please, for credibilities sake, don't do it.

For example, I mentioned above "On the Verge" by Eric Overmyer.  It doesn't take much, IMO, for this play to become a "steampunk" play; it deals with three very strong independent women in an age where women were still considered second class citizens, and in many ways that is a very punk attitude to take.  It deals with the theme of adventure and expanding ones horizons, which I think we can all agree is part of what makes steampunk so attractive; the idea that there is something out there to be explored and if we only could hop in our dirigible we could find it.  It also deals with time-travel, which is something that the steampunk universe on a whole has dealt with since Wells wrote "The Time Machine", and with that it deals with a perception of the future, that it is a great place because of what we are doing today.  In terms of the scenic design, I suggested three rotating cogs that could move around in a circular fashion with various set pieces on them.  Why this choice?  Because to me, whenever the adventuresses are traveling, its a representation of a passage of time, and passing of time is a key theme in this play.  How better than to represent the passing of time than with a set that mimics a the cogs of a clock?  It is both a symbol the audience can understand and its suitably theatric, as the movement of the cogs can change the configuration of the set to represent any number of locales.

I"m writing all of this for this point; if you are going to do something with a play just to do it, and not because it is theatric or enhances the drama of the play, then don't do it.  If you are doing steampunk for steampunks sake, then I think you are making a mockery out of the art form.  Its no better than Hot Topic selling mass produced steamy gear.

I know some of what i have said might sound harsh, but I am a firm believer in the Theatre of Steampunk and what it teaches.  I wrote a post earlier in the year entitled "Towards a Steampunk Theatre" where I postulated much of the same as above.  If we can have good steampunk music, good steampunk visual art and good steampunk literature, then why can't we have good steampunk theatre?

Cheers,

Gallows.

P.S.  Just to give you some of my credentials, I have a BA in Theatre Performance and am working towards an MFA in Scenic Design.  I have also worked professionally on many shows as either a scenic designer or properties designer.
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« Reply #14 on: May 14, 2010, 12:32:06 pm »

Just to throw in my own unimportant two pence in, but I would love to see how The Importance of Being Earnest could be steampunked.

On saying that, has anyone seen the film of Dorian Gray - very aesthetically beautiful.
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« Reply #15 on: October 01, 2012, 11:41:30 pm »

I escaped to the theater this past weekend to see  Of Mice and Men which had unusually good casting.  This got me to wondering if there were any specifically Steampunk plays? 

On the Verge
sounds very interesting. 

On The Verge


I saw a locally written production of Pieces of 8 in 1989 which was a good play with excellent music.  Although pirates were not in fashion then and it does not look like it was ever presented outside of Juneau the writer is still active in the local theater community (we have about 3 1/2 companies in town) so I am trying to catch him to see about a copy of the unique dirge/reggae music.  It could definitely be steamed. 

I have listened to a few SP audio dramas but are there any other SP specific plays for the stage?  It seems like a shame that no one is taking advantage of all of the wonderful SP costumes, props, and characters yet. 

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« Reply #16 on: October 06, 2012, 11:26:01 am »

I'd like to find out if there are any specific "steampunk" plays, too - besides existing plays that have been modified.

I've co-written little plays for fundraisers with a friend, and I'm interested in the theatre - I study English, and plays are probably my favourite written medium. If steampunk plays don't exist yet, maybe I'll have to think one up myself!
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« Reply #17 on: October 07, 2012, 08:21:12 am »

I'd like to find out if there are any specific "steampunk" plays, too - besides existing plays that have been modified.

I've co-written little plays for fundraisers with a friend, and I'm interested in the theatre - I study English, and plays are probably my favourite written medium. If steampunk plays don't exist yet, maybe I'll have to think one up myself!


It seems like the time is right for some good SP plays.

The Ruby 9 radio plays are off to a good start:  
Ruby 9, Episode 1, "Frank Talk With A Frankie"


Steampunk Radio - Rain, Steam and Speed

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« Reply #18 on: October 07, 2012, 08:30:09 am »

There's a radio comedy I know of that's set in the Victorian era, "The Penny Dreadfuls Present...", also known as "The Brothers Faversham", but I'm not sure if you can class it as steampunk. The eponymous brothers all have different personalities and adventures, such as the explorer Leonidas, so maybe some episodes would fit the bill more than others.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Penny_Dreadfuls_Present...
« Last Edit: October 07, 2012, 08:43:22 am by Clockwork Bookworm » Logged
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« Reply #19 on: October 07, 2012, 08:34:33 am »

I've seen a few stage productions which call themselves Steampunk. The plays were mostly very amateur, relying more on effects than script or acting, I'm afraid. The Forster story would be a great startpoint for stage adaptation.

I would suggest anyone trying to stage a Steampunk play needs to be aware that their props / effects will never look convincing, so it's important that the script / characters / plot all have to carry the audience along.
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« Reply #20 on: October 07, 2012, 11:10:47 pm »

We (Kansas State Theatre) put on The Adding Machine last semester. It's about a man being replaced by a giant adding machine, his job and world is slowly being taken over by machines. It's a very odd play, he dies, goes to purgatory, then is sent back to earth, really weird stuff, but we did a steampunk theme to it. There were a few giant gears, giant type writer keys on the walls, and the costumes for the women at least were very steampunk IMO. They had corsets and Victorian boots, with bird cages on their head, from small to large, depending on how important that character was (there's a distinct hierarchy with the women). But, it's worth a shot, though the cast is pretty large 

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« Reply #21 on: October 08, 2012, 02:25:22 am »

I've seen a few stage productions which call themselves Steampunk. The plays were mostly very amateur, relying more on effects than script or acting, I'm afraid. The Forster story would be a great startpoint for stage adaptation.

I would suggest anyone trying to stage a Steampunk play needs to be aware that their props / effects will never look convincing, so it's important that the script / characters / plot all have to carry the audience along.




I would think that a SP play would be a wonderful opportunity to cut loose with Tesla coils, Jacob's ladders, fog machines, prop guns, back lighting, shadow plays, strobes, and all sort of over the top toys.  A school should be able to draft the Physics Club and go to town.  Still lots of work for a good fight choreographer too.  I also agree with you that a good script is what makes a play. 

A lot of the subtle baubles (cameos, gears, cravat pins) that we are so proud of would just be too small to be seen on stage but not bad for mingling with the patrons afterwards. 

We have about 4 1/2 theater companies in Juneau (which is not too bad for a landlocked town of 31K) and they have always tried to vary their plays as much as possible.  It might not be impossible to persuade them to put on a SP play if they had a good enough script to read.

Delireus - since I shall probably never have a chance to see The Adding Machine - would you mind sharing how it ended? 
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« Reply #22 on: October 08, 2012, 10:35:46 am »

Steampunk plays, eh? Hmmmm..

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« Reply #23 on: October 08, 2012, 02:14:16 pm »

The National Theatre adapted Philip Pullman's 'His Dark Materials' trilogy for the stage.  The script is on Amazon (http://www.amazon.co.uk/His-Dark-Materials-Play-Books/dp/1854598317).  But it would be an ambitious play to put on, I think.  The National Theatre used puppets for daemons.  If I remember correctly, the zeppelins were off stage.  It was a long play; you had to come on successive days to see it all.
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« Reply #24 on: October 08, 2012, 04:00:58 pm »

I guess it depends on what you think a steampunk play would look like. And, if you did decide what that was, how many other people would agree with you?

If a steampunk play is one set in Victorian England but with a plot that involves anachronistic elements, then 'War of the Worlds', '20,000 Leagues Under the Sea', 'The First Men In the Moon' and 'The Time Machine' would all be steampunk plays.

However, I suspect you are talking about a play that could be adapted to include steampunk motifs and tropes. Colchester Mercury Theatre seems to have had a bit of a soft spot for this in that their 'Tango' version of 'Romeo and Juliet' and the Gari Jones directed 'The Rivals' both had steampunk clothing or feel and aesthetic but remained true to the text of the original. I agree with lady Chrystal thatyou do need to start with a solid, quality play that would be enhanced by the inclusion of steampunk, rather than hope the 'steampunk' label will make it so. Have a look at the steaming of Gilbert and Sullivan as suggested hereabouts too.

 
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