Listen: Geek-Speak And Metaphysics Meet In Boise Contemporary Theater's New Play

Dec 26, 2013

Boise playwrights Matthew Cameron Clark and Dwayne Blackaller have a little more than three months to curtain on their latest work-in-progress.  The Uncanny Valley, mixes science fiction with Idaho's landscape.

Co-writer Blackaller says most people will likely think the title refers to where it takes place, a valley in Idaho's Sawtooth Mountains. But it’s actually a reference to the themes in the play, not the setting.

You can listen to Blackaller explain what the title means by clicking on the audio player.

The Uncanny Valley is set to open at Boise Contemporary Theater in April. We’re following Clark and Blackaller as they work toward that deadline.

Boise actor Stitch Marker will play an automaton in The Uncanny Valley. He's seen here in BCT's 2011 production of Shipwrecked! in which he played several characters including a dog.
Credit Andy Lawless / Boise Contemporary Theater

A lot has changed already since the two first started this script earlier this year. That includes the name. The original working title was Automaton in Autumn. But Blackaller says the phrase "the uncanny valley" captured the things they were trying to explore.

It's a term used in robotics and refers to the place on a graph where people's emotional response drops off dramatically towards non-living things. As robots become increasingly human-like people can have great empathy for them. (Remember the Furby toy?) But when a robot's appearance becomes nearly human people become revolted by them.

A robot that looks human, an automaton, is one of the characters in this play and his/its presence is used as a springboard to explore the idea of authenticity, one of the central themes of the play.

"There's a question about reality and who's human even among the human beings," Blackaller says. "How human are you and why do we feel revulsion towards one another?"

Copyright 2013 Boise State Public Radio