COPA show ‘Adding Machine’ poses challenge for students, contains controversial material

Written By Jordyn Hronec, Editor-Elect

This season at the Pittsburgh Playhouse, Point Park University is set to put on a production of “Adding Machine,” a musical that is requiring the production team to take extra care due to controversial themes and lines, which include sentiments such as racism and misogyny.

Tlaloc Rivas, a guest to Point Park, is the director of the show. He stated that in order to put on the show, which will be on stage from December 6-16th, he has a plan titled “Action Plan for Traumatic Content.”

“The majority of the creative team are women and people of color,” Rivas said. “Throughout the process we are going to be prepared to talk about our own backgrounds and our own experiences with racism and sexism. We are going to confront these issues in a safe space, and we are going to promote a regiment of self-care…students may raise issues, and we will be more than happy to talk about them.”

According to the Artistic Director of the Conservatory of Performing Arts (COPA),  Steven Breese, who was hired after the Playhouse season was announced, putting on the show will have several educational benefits for students.

“In doing this show, students will take on something that is so challenging, both as a vocalist and as an actor,” Breese said. “It will also give them exposure to an important show in theatrical history, and they will learn how to deal with the controversial aspects of the play.”

“Adding Machine” was written as a play by Elmer Rice in 1923. It was adapted into a musical in the early 2000s. The play is set in the 1920s, and tells the story of the anti-hero named “Mr. Zero.”

“It’s not a play you would imagine as a musical,” Breese said. “It’s very dark and very difficult. And when they made it a musical, they didn’t make it any less difficult or easier to digest, and the music is challenging.”

The cast and crew of COPA’s production is set to include students of different races, genders and backgrounds. The show itself, however, includes lines and slurs that reflect sentiments of racism, sexism and anti-semitism.

The show’s stage manager, MacKenzy Clyne, a senior stage management major at Point Park, stated that she is working closely with Rivas and the rest of the cast and crew to put on the show and handle the controversial content sensitively.

“I think as the person that’s supposed to set the tone of the show, with such a diverse cast and such a tense show, it’s my job to support everyone and make sure that no one feels judged for being in the show because there are moments that can make people uncomfortable,” Clyne said. “I want everyone in the cast to be able to come to a consensus that we can all put on a show that we’re proud of.”

Clyne said that the “infamous party scene” is the part of the play where much of the controversial sentiments are expressed. She also said that per Rivas’ “Action Plan,” rehearsals will be “very methodical” in how the sensitive content is handled.

“The cast doesn’t start rehearsal for another month, but we want to emphasize to students that we are not shying away from these themes,” Rivas said. “We can’t alter or excise text or music from the show due to legal reasons, so we want to make sure that we are doing our due diligence to prepare the students and the audience for the content.”

Breese believes that although the play may make audiences uncomfortable, it still provides valuable commentary.

“This play tends to stay with people for quite some time,” Breese said.