Robots are coming to Michigan Tech in the radio drama R.U.R


The Rosza Performing Arts Center. Photograph by Tim Peters

Laurel Schmidt

The MTU Visual and Performing Arts Department just wrapped up auditions for the upcoming performance of Rossum’s Universal Robots (R.U.R.). This radio drama is part of a semester-long series at Michigan Technological University called ROBOT101, celebrating 101 years of robots. The events presented are aimed at exploring different perspectives on robots and how they can help us learn what it means to be human. 

“Science fiction can reveal truths about ourselves and our society,” said Holly Adams, the director of Rossum’s Universal Robots. Adams is an audiobook narrator, voice actor, screen actor, and circus performer from Ithaca, New York. They have worked with the department over the past several years, helping to educate students in the audio drama class. 

When asked why they wanted to direct this piece, Adams responded, “[This show] speaks to my sense of using art as a means of unpacking our shared histories, questioning our actions, and starting important conversations.” 

Chirstopher Plummer is a distinguished professor in the Visual and Performing Arts Department at Michigan Technological University. He is the other head creative on this project and is leading the sound design students. Their task is to create the soundscape that will immerse the audience into the world of R.U.R. That will be accomplished using a mix of audio effects and live foley. 

Written by Karel Capek in Czechoslovakia in 1921, this radio drama is the first recorded use of the word robot as we use it today. It stems from the Czech word for forced labor and is used to describe the synthetic humanoid beings which are manufactured by the Rossum Factory in the story. 

The fifteen-person cast along with many crew members both onstage and off will introduce audiences to the world of Rossum’s Universal Robots starting on Friday, Oct. 14 at 7:30 p.m. at McArdle Theater. This performance will also be streamed on Michigan Tech’s Visual and Performing Arts website.