Hannah Everett, left, and Drew Carlson co-star in Artisanal Intelligence, at the Havana Theatre Jan. 14-18. (photo from Spec Theatre)
Drew Carlson and Jewish community member Hannah Everett are reprising their roles in Artisanal Intelligence, which again plays at the Havana Theatre, Jan. 14-18.
Written by Jewish community member Ira Cooper, the show had a limited two-show run this past July at the Havana; both of those performances sold out. It also traveled to a few Fringe festivals, garnering positive reviews.
Carlson plays Barry, a hipster customer-service robot who is filled with esoteric knowledge and mad skills. Everett plays Jane, the entrepreneur who created Barry.
“The content will be the same, aside from a few tweaks and tightens,” Cooper told the Independent about how the January production differs from the summer show. “One of the songs, ‘No Off-Switch for Love,’ will be fully orchestrated, as opposed to the passable version of it that I created on GarageBand with digital instrumentation, so that is exciting and new. I am hoping it will fill out the song more, give it its deserved panache, and get people dancing in and out of their seats. It’s a Boney M.-inspired funk track, so I am really happy that it will finally be given the backtrack it has always longed for.”
The idea for Artisanal Intelligence took a couple of years to develop.
“In 2017, I went to live in China for a year to teach at a Canadian high school abroad,” said Cooper, who teaches the younger grades English and drama at King David High School. “My partner stayed in Canada and so I was there, in a new city, in a massive apartment, concocting, creating and percolating thoughts, ideas, words and scribbles to fill a void. Artisanal Intelligence was my attempt to write an accessible Fringe show…. Hipsterism just has so much great material to rib and, being that I would self-identify as a ‘hipster,’ I needn’t go too far to do my research. And robots. And AI. All are distinct and widely known, relevant, partaken in and discussed topics, so it seemed like an easy fit with my own personal playwriting aspirations this time around.
“I do not remember much about the writing process for the initial drafts. Knowing myself, it was probably over a three- or four-week period. Then drafts. Collaboration is integral to everything I and Spec Theatre do, so, early on in the process, I had people reading the script and giving me notes. Then it was sitting down with the director, Bronwen Marsden, for more edits. Then with the actors. Then with my partner, who is also the artistic designer for Spec, Ruby Arnold. The more feedback the better. The end result is a deeply heart-filled joint-effort, which we are all proud of and which we all had a part in molding, from the very words on the page outwards.”
Cooper said Artisanal Intelligence lampoons and lambasts hipster culture, as opposed to critiquing it.
“The show uses a lot of recognizable hipster motifs, tropes and allusions, but the audience is consistently in on the joke,” he said. “The show is a discussion on identity, self-perseverance, self-reliance and the impending (or not) robot apocalypse, but in a soft and humorous way.
“I think the show actually exemplifies why culture can be important, how it can bind us to something bigger than ourselves. We are constantly looking for the ‘bigger than ourselves’ entities. And so, with the culture references, the clearly identifiable razzing and fun that takes place in the 55 minutes of Artisanal Intelligence, the audience, who get what the show is alluding to, are part of each joke’s equation – that knowledge links culture, the audience and the performers.”
The performances at the Havana in January will be relaxed, said Cooper, which means “the houselights will never fully dim and people are free, if they need or want, to get up, stretch, move, go for a walk, etc. We want theatre to be accessible to everyone and we respect, acknowledge and cherish the diversity of our audiences. Also, if you’re an artist of any kind, Spec Theatre is always looking to collaborate, to make unique, experimental, new things. Reach out!”
For tickets to Artisanal Intelligence, go to spectheatre.com.