Welcome to our Featured Play Spotlight. Virtual Family by Christian Kiley examines our relationship with and dependence on technology.
Who needs to go outside when you’ve got a screen to show you what outside should look like? Who needs to do chores when laundry can be folded at the push of a button? And who needs a real family, anyway? Isn’t it better to talk through text messages and receive preprogrammed communications from your parents? Sure it is.
Live safe and sound in the Virtual Family, a soothing world where complete dependence on technology is the name of the game. When technology takes away all your ills, conflicts, and concerns, you become a happier human being. Right?
Virtual Family has three endings to choose from.
Why did we publish this play?
If you’re a fan of Black Mirror, this is the play for you. Virtual Family explores the potential of our future relationship with technology. We love plays that take place in a completely different world. It’s not the present, it’s the possible. In the theatre, you can create any place, any time, and have your characters be anything. As long as you explain the rules of the world, your audience will be engaged.
This play is all about future technology and isolation from the “outside world.” It would make perfect sense to stage this play on a virtual platform!
1. Why did you write this play?
It was over ten years ago but I think it had to do with my genuine fear that technology was becoming a bigger and bigger part of our lives. I still remember, as a kid, having to actually stand up and walk to the television to change the channels and hearing the click, click, click of the dial. To that younger version of myself, a cell phone would basically be a PAD. I continue to be fascinated by technology and the benefits and challenges that it presents to human beings.
2. Describe the theme in one or two sentences.
Virtual Family investigates the potential dependence human beings have on technology. Can something with such upside potential, actually cause more harm than good?
3. What’s the most important visual for you in this play?
The way the actors playing the PADs interact with the human characters. There are great opportunities for dynamic interaction. One moment that comes to mind is when PAD and PAD 2 “Initiate sleep sequence.” And the PADs try to get the children ready for bed like a parent (but a robot-parent).
4. If you could give one piece of advice for those producing the play, what would it be?
Experiment with physicality. It might be easy to become complacent with the blocking. Push the limits and give the PADs power to create a world that would be hard to leave (that is the dilemma at the end (with three possible endings for the cast to choose from). Creating a world that is inviting and ultimately hard to walk away from is essential.
5. Why is this play great for student performers?
This is a very relevant issue for current student-artists. Young Theatre artists are actually taking time and investing in moments of sans technology connection. I strongly believe that they can lead the way in illustrating that people don’t need to be reliant on technology.
6. Do you have any advice for people looking to perform this play online or socially distanced?
Virtual Family would be fun and engaging to produce via video conference in that it would really play up the isolation that can be caused by technology. It brings a whole new meaning to “going outside” and this is very relatable, particularly with the circumstances of the play as it relates to social distancing and quarantine.