Science fiction theatre as an aspect of digital participatory culture
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Within the past fifteen years, US theatre has begun to experience a resurgence of both science fiction and fantasy inspired material. While dramatic performances within the science fiction genre had a small advent in the 1920s with pieces such as Karel Čapek’s Rossum’s Universal Robots and George Bernard Shaw’s Back to Methuselah, they were quickly replaced with radio drama, TV programing, and the publication of the popular pulp magazine, Amazing Stories. This study will track the recent re-emergence of the science fiction drama as a phenomenon in response to the advent of digital culture and participatory technology—namely the smartphone. I will analyze the smartphone as an instrument of encouragement for the participatory relationship between users and their media—the theatre included. I will argue that this participatory influence on science fiction drama stems from the digital media gaming community, which contemporary dramatic science fiction material models itself after. To do this, I will analyze a number of participatory inclusive performances and texts such as The Honeycomb Trilogy, FightQuest, and Messina3004, all with varying levels of user/audience involvement. This study intends to analyze the aspects of traditional theatre being challenged and transcended by the emergence of digital technologies, and suggests that science fiction, gaming-based “geek” theatre is at the helm of this movement towards blending live and digital performance.