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A brave newt world

Your rating: None Average: 4.3 (3 votes)

War With the Newts is a theatrical adaptation of the satirical novel by Karel Čapek, who is known for popularizing the word "robot" through his play R.U.R. It was adapted by Professor Natsu Onoda Power and performed at Georgetown University.

The play consists of a series of vignettes depicting the events surrounding the uplifting of a species of hyper-intelligent newts. When they are first discovered, they are seen as an able-bodied workforce, but gradually they begin to see how they are being enslaved by humans, and rise up in revolution. The newts were portrayed by actors wearing kigurumi newt suits and fingerless arm-gloves, and they frequently stole the show from the human actors. I had the opportunity to see the play in its world premiere run at Georgetown University. For a new play, this had a remarkable level of polish, while at the same time being eclectic, energetic and engaging.

The eclecticism of the play comes through the variety of vignette styles used. The play begins with the narrator introducing the setting and explaining the importance of cross-species understanding by showing these performances to a combined human-newt audience (he is a newt). The first scene consists of basic historical storytelling, but rapidly evolves to use a variety of perspectives. In particular, two heavily choreographed dance numbers involving the newts making first contact and being used as slave labor provide an interesting narrative break from more literal storytelling. Other fun moments include the following: a musical adaptation portraying the "J.D. Salamander" book about interactions between a famous talking salamander and a zookeeper (musical accompaniment provided by "Newtie and the Blowfish"), a puppet show about the newts' contact with popular culture, and an exclusive interview with a human who was involved in the newt slave trade (originally heard on "Newt Public Radio").

The play even spoofs Georgetown's theater season title "Making New Worlds" as "Making Newt Worlds." This is a must-see for fans of animal-related wordplay.

The energy of the play comes from the actors and the technology utilized. All of the actors had immense energy portraying their newt and human characters. The play frequently had musical interludes that brought the energy up, and the lengthy choreographed scenes were brightened through catchy music and visual effects provided by the Gonda's screen background interface. The puzzle-piece screen setup as the backdrop was utilized to great effect throughout all the scenes. In particular, a business-room scene with a dopey overproduced PowerPoint presentation provided a perfect level of exaggeration for the frequent absurdity of business logic at the expense of common sense morality. There seemed to be a constant push and pull of the technology and the actors, each trying to wrest control of the audience's attention, which makes for an experience that truly deserves multiple views to capture all the subtleties that you missed in your first viewing.

The portrayal of the newts and their struggle for identity provided the emotional grist of the performance and some of the most engaging scenes. In particular, the vignette "Andy and the Zookeeper" begins with a newt learning to read by reading to her zookeeper "10 signs of a good workplace" rather than about the Europe economic crisis. At the end, as she is on her deathbed, he reads back to her "10 ways to declutter your house" rather than news about the impending newt revolution. They discover the importance of their connection, but it is all too late to change the world in which they live. The zookeeper is later seen holding the one meaningful thing left for him in the world: Andy's exhibit sign.

The most intriguing element of the show consists of the dark truth running as an undercurrent throughout the entire performance. While the scenes depict the interactions between humans and newts, all of the actors consistently wear the fingerless arm-gloves of the newt color pattern, regardless of role. The actors on stage are, at their core, newts portraying newts, but also newts portraying humans. There is no space left for humans in this created cultural sphere, which begs this question: how accurate is this historical retrospective when the history has been written by the victors? And what does that say about our own human historical retrospectives?

This play tells you (repeatedly), if you remember nothing else, to remember this: A newt is a salamander, but not all salamanders are newts. A small piece of information, sure, but the crucial first step towards cross-species understanding.

Comments

Your rating: None

I read the book a while ago but never got round to reviewing it. The play sounds a really fun and relevant update!

~ Huskyteer

Your rating: None

Not a comment about the review so much as a comment about reviews. When a book or movie is reviewed we know it's possible for anyone to see that. When someone does a con report then it also has a wide audience and can probably be generalised for more other furry cons. Being retrospective it necessarily has to be unless someone has a Tardis or DeLorean in the garage. But when it comes to a play, does a review really benefit Flayrah's audience? Unless one is the direct vicinity of the play you have no opportunity to see it. People won't fly across the country or from another country to see a play (I know one fur who did that for The Lion King but he's odd). Plays are also seldom recorded for others to see after the fact and, even when they are, watching a play is a totally different experience than watching a video and they don't carry over well.

"If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind."
~John Stuart Mill~

Your rating: None

"Flayrah's audience" is worldwide, and not limited to furries. We are frequently featured in search engines for reviewed works, and especially those which might not attract attention from other reviewers.

Besides, a play might not be the only reason for someone to fly across the country - but a well-reviewed play at a particular furry convention might well tip the balance towards that one.

Your rating: None

Plus a popular and really well-reviewed play might be performed elsewhere. How many cities across America has Thornton Wilder's "Our Town" appeared in, often in a school production? Several of Ray Bradbury's short stories have been adapted into short plays with minimal casts and sets. Karel Capek's "R.U.R." in which the word "robot" was invented, originated as a play that has been performed around the world. (His name is pronounced "Chapek", but I can't get one of those Czech upside-down v marks over the C.) A review can help someone in another city decide whether a play might be worth seeing if it's performed in his or her city.

If we extend this to operas, I see that the grand opera of Roald Dahl's "Fantastic Mr. Fox" with music by Tobias Picker is being performed this decade; Pittsburgh in 2011 and San Antonio in 2014. I hope that my review of the 1998 premiere performance in Los Angeles is still being read.

Fred Patten

Your rating: None

Also, also, I spent last week panicking because I had no new content for like a week. Then I finally get a story ... and am reminded how weird furries are.

Seriously, what kind of reader asks for less content?

Your rating: None

The kind of reader who is particular about what they read? If a news source is full of things you don't like (or just don't care about), that may cause you to stop reading it, even if there are a few things you do like.

Your rating: None

Well, I don't think we need to worry about Rakuen.

Your rating: None

Worry about me?

I didn't ask for less content. I do think we need more content similar to [adjective][species] though and most news sites, newspapers etc also have a section for more introspective discussions. That's not the point now though, I've actually had an idea for one of those since EF and will try write it when I'm home for the holidays.

I was just wondering at what point something remains relevant and whether it might be good to use reviews not only to review but as a springboard to a wider discussion. I recall when I was reading a collection of Christopher Hitchens' essays that many were reviews of books but often spent very little time on the content of the book itself but expanding on the themes of the book and where it might have gone wrong or did something right. At times I think he strayed too far from the book itself but that's a different issue. (Order now to get the whole set.)

"If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind."
~John Stuart Mill~

Your rating: None

I do think we need more content similar to [adjective][species]

This is the worst thing you've ever said, Rakuen.

I don't know if we can be frenemies anymore.

Your rating: None

Though less flippantly, I don't know if we need to be [adjective][species] when [adjective][species] does a better job at "being [adjectice][species]" than we could.

The three frequently updated furry "news" sites (I'm counting us, [a][s] and Patch) each have different ideologies about what we're supposed to be doing; I think that helps everyone out, both readers and writers. Possibly a "well-informed" furry should be vaguely aware of all three's articles (and hence the footer at the bottom our page), but if you prefer [a][s]'s style, there's nothing wrong with reading/writing for [a][s]. As for you personally, if you decide you wanted to write more along the lines of [a][s], and wanted an experience more along that line, well, you are allowed to write for them, if they'll take you. You didn't sign an exclusive contract with us. (Of course, if you decided to submit them here, I mean, this subthread started with me worrying about lack of content, so of course we'd run it.) Vice versa, I doubt they would take it as a betrayal if you decided to write for both of us. Which is also a good point to make; you're not actually going to get much done with comments. Whatever direction you want to take anything in, you should probably be a bit more active with the actual content you produce.

However, I'm not entirely sure what this has to do with plays?

Your rating: None

I should probably let Patch speak for himself, but I'm pretty sure that he is open to guest submittals for Dogpatch Press from other people than myself.

Fred Patten

Your rating: None

I've considered submitting there but I prefer Flayrah (I did publish a piece on their sex blog but that seems to be dead anyway. I just hope that piece doesn't get lost.) I'm also not saying Flayrah should be [a][s], I just want to see it as a furry-focussed online magazine. That's what it got an award for after all.

Yes I know I should produce more content however I just haven't had the time or energy. That's got to do with doing a PhD and my particular supervisor. I even closed down my personal blog a few months ago and I'd been posting there for three years almost weekly (closer to monthly for the last year though).

"If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind."
~John Stuart Mill~

Your rating: None

It actually sounds like you're just frustrated about stuff; you're also not under a contract to produce content, and you've got a valid excuse why you're not.

Your rating: None

Hey, speak of the devil, looks like you've got an opportunity for a short, easy article!

Your rating: None

You mean recent [a][s] developments?

"If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind."
~John Stuart Mill~

Your rating: None

Yes.

I mean, I'm not, like, "assigning" it; once again, no obligation.

I'm just saying it could be a nice, quick article if you're feeling nostalgic.

Your rating: None

Well with regard to Makyo, I don't really know anything about her or her involvement. So, apart from the newsbyte, I can't really say more.

I could write about freedom of speech, safe spaces and the like but I don't think it's particularly relevant to the furry fandom. It's a topic I used to cover in my blog quite often but that's kept seperate from my furry stuff.

"If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind."
~John Stuart Mill~

Your rating: None

Yeah, there's apparently rumors that this about the trigger warning article causing this (though, I mean, realistically, jm's been in charge since almost the beginning and this is just making it formal). May not be as simple as I thought.

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About the author

A C. Fox (AC_Fox)read storiescontact (login required)

an IT consultant and Arctic Fox from Reston, VA, USA, interested in anything art

A C. Fox can most often be found on twitter as @heyacfox. He does not know what the C in his name stands or yet. Some potential options: Caucasian, Chinese, Computer, Consultant, Company, Compassionate, Confused, Congested, Concealed, Conciliatory, Catholic, Candid, Campy, Creative, Cultural, Cautious.